SNL with Donald Trump Postscript

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There were several successful sketches on the latest episode of SNL (read my review here), but it is hard to embrace them, as they came at the expense of giving Donald Trump a platform. Considering that much of the episode played off of his personality and controversy, I am torn, as the good bits may have never even been pitched in the first place if he had not been there. Could the best moments have happened in any other episode? Here is a rundown of the top sketches, listed in order from most reliant to least reliant on Trump’s presence.

1. Weekend Update – Update was probably written independently of Trump’s direct influence, though he did figure in the material. That would have likely been the case anyway, as a matter of the political news cycle, but Trump actually being there probably did light a fire under Michael Che.
2. Toots – The fact that such a non-Top 40 band as Toots and the Maytals was the musical guest the last time Trump hosted was mostly a matter of bizarre randomness. Kenan appearing as Toots was not about Trump so much as it was about something that Trump happened to be present at. This bit could have been utilized in 2 weeks when Matthew McConaughey host if the Maytals had been on when he last hosted in 2003.
3. Drunk Uncle – Bobby Moynihan’s signature character still could have been introduced as “Trump’s #1 Fan” on any other episode.
4. Ex-Porn Stars – The low-rent co-opting of luxury in these sketches works insofar as the brand being advertised isn’t actually present, so Trump’s appearance actually didn’t really make sense.
5. Mr. Crocker – The head of Startraxxx Productions felt like a role designed for Kyle Mooney. It had a blowhard quality that fit Trump, but it needed someone weirder to really work.
6. Hotline Bling – The joke of awkward middle-aged men dancing alongside Drake worked without Trump showing up – he was just slotted in that so that he’d have something to do.

SNL November 7, 2015 Recap: Donald Trump/Sia

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SNL: Sia, Kate McKinnon (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

It is hard to recommend this episode. Some of it was well-written, but Trump’s presence soured just about everything.

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in November 2015.

Donald Trump might be a bigot, or he might just be shamelessly aping the rhetoric of bigots to win over their support. Which is worse? Either way, one would assume he is a terrible fit to host a comedy show that many believe has the responsibility of holding the powerful accountable. Thus, the petitions to reverse the Trump booking or calls to disrupt the episode have made for one of the most controversial episodes in decades before it has even aired. In a way, Trump’s appearance actually turning out to be a funny episode would be troublesome, because of the fear that it could legitimize a rather objectionable person. Politics (or cynically misshapen facsimile of politics) aside, Trump is also a terrible actor. That issue can be overcome with strong writing, which this episode features plenty of, but it is hard to fully embrace it when Trump’s mere presence is so hard to digest.

Democratic Candidates Forum – The latest not-really-a-debate in the 2016 election cycle is used as fodder for a not-really-a-fully-formed-sketch. While it lacks in the inspired premise department, it does allow Kate McKinnon and Larry David plenty of room to mess around with their already beloved Hillary and Bernie impressions. They both find new notes in their expected beats. This is not an all-time high, but there is plenty left worth exploring in these roles. Structurally, good on this sketch for keeping up with the gag of uncomfortable close-ups of black people. B

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