SNL Ranked: Now Donald Trump Has Become Death, Destroyer of Comedy
SNL’s decision to have Donald Trump host this week’s episode has definitely stirred some pots, inspiring many to mock the venerated series and some to march down to 30 Rock in protest, while others have chosen to simply ignore this week’s show, as if we can will it into non-existence. Is it as bad as we feared? Almost. Is it hilariously awful? Nope. It’s just…not good.
I’ve thought a lot about where I stand on the matter, and I’m decidedly against it. But this is the show, and this is my job, and I will assess this week’s episode just like any other.
The Apprentice aside, Trump isn’t a professional entertainer. He’s a shrewd, rich, racist clown whose absurd opinions have made him into a joke. His ridiculous comments are entertaining in a morbid sense, but that doesn’t make him an entertainer. SNL is seizing an opportunity to bank on how Trump is perceived by a vast majority: we laugh at him not because he’s funny, but because the beliefs he espouses are so baffling that it’s hard to believe anyone could think this way, especially in 2015 — much less that someone like Trump could run for President.
And yet, here I am joining the conversation about it. So SNL has won, and their attempt to bank on controversy has succeeded because it’s been a huge topic in the press and on social media all week, and as they say, there’s no such thing as bad press. Anyway, let’s get to ranking these episodes from best to...whatever happened with that “musical introduction” bit.
Bad Girls (Bryant, McKinnon, Jones, Zamata, Bayer, Strong, Rudnitsky, Davidson, Mooney, Moynihan, Bennett)
SNL’s bad girls are back to relieve us from tonight’s painful episode, like a soothing intermission — complete with MIA‘s “Bad Girls” and some actual, you know, comedy. You know how you do something that’s not like, egregious, but also not generally acceptable behavior, and your girlfriend goes, “Oh my god you’re so BAD!”? Yeah, this is that. An entire video short dedicated to the upright, responsible women who treat using a free water cup to sneak some lemonade at a restaurant like they just pulled off a major heist.
Mr. Crocker (Davidson, Bennett, Bryant, Bayer, Trump)
A white bread suburban dad tortures his family and his daughter’s boyfriend to his covers of pop songs recorded in one of those strip mall recording booths. Finally, a sketch figures out how to utilize Trump’s delusional and sleazy demeanor. It’s clearly a Bennett (and probably Mooney) joint, and it figures that this would be the sketch that knows what to do with such a difficult, humorless host.
Unfortunately it looks like they couldn’t get the music rights cleared for this one, so it’s not available online. It exist now only in my memory.
Weekend Update (Che, Jost, Jones, Moynihan)
Giving us a Leslie Jones appearance at the Update desk is, as usual, a gift. But it’s especially appreciated this week. Jones brings an energy that — aside from the Bad Girls short — has been sorely lacking. I’m also glad that the eggplant emoji is apparently the universal emoji for penis and I’ve been doing it right all along. Che’s deadpan “that was about gender roles” offers a great punctuation to Jones’ bit, too.
AND an appearance from the long-absent Drunk Uncle! To be honest, Riblet may have surpassed Drunk Uncle as the funnier of Moynihan’s Update characters, but I’ll still happily take it. The great thing about this is that Drunk Uncle really is Trump’s target demographic — this absurd caricature of middle-aged, blue collar, good ol’ white America not only serves as a reminder that Trump and his supporters are nuts, but it also proves that SNL isn’t being entirely passive about this week’s host. Drunk Uncle may be as close to damning as we’ll get, but again, I’ll take it.
Porn Stars (Strong, Bayer, Moynihan, Trump)
It’s unfortunate that the return of two of my most favorite characters has to be in this episode, but it makes sense. It’s also really, really interesting the way the former porn stars and Drunk Uncle both offer inherently absurd caricatures, each rooted in a specific, familiar reality — but both of these bits serve as something resembling a statement about the kind of person Trump is and the kind of people who support him. By the way, Moynihan does a better Trump than Killam.
Hotline Bling Parody (Pharoah, Bennett, Killam, Moynihan, Short, Trump)
Drake dances like your dad. Even with Martin Short’s Ed Grimley making an appearance, in a much better or even more consistent week, this would probably fall somewhere in the middle, which is still better than most of the nonsense this week. Mostly it’s inoffensive, cute and — thankfully — brief. Which is way more than I can say for the majority of this week’s sketches.
MSNBC Forum Cold Open (Strong, Thompson, Killam, McKinnon, David)
“But first we have to eat our vegetables.” Cecily Strong’s Rachel Maddow is a delight, but not nearly as enjoyable as McKinnon’s wacky take on Hillary Clinton. It’s almost like Clinton via Molly Shannon’s Sally O’Malley. And that’s not nearly as wonderful as Larry David returning as Bernie Sanders. There’s a running joke about black audience members I wish they’d stuck to, especially since this sketch goes on forever.
Donald Trump Monologue (Trump, Bryant, Killam, Hammond)
Okay, this is really happening. Rosie O’Donnell jokes, feigned self-awareness, Larry David heckling, and a trio of Trumps with Killam and Darrell Hammond — it’s all fine. Just fine. At least we got a patented Larry David shrug out of the deal, and a reminder that Sia is performing and will hopefully help us get through this.
White House 2018 (Trump, Moynihan, Strong, Thompson, Zamata, Mooney, Rudnitsky, Ivanka Trump, Bennett)
In a world…where Trump is President…things are going…surprisingly well. Except this sketch is not going well. At all. It all feels very safe and kind-spirited and boring, and the “reveal” that the whole thing is a campaign ad rings hollow. The only thing more stiff than Trump is his daughter Ivanka, who appears and reads lines as if she’s a robot. Strong’s Melania Trump is the most energetic this sketch gets, and not even she can save it. The self-aware racism? Terrible. And a little offensive. Listen, comedy shouldn’t always be safe, but having Trump joke about his own racism feels too permissive.
Rock Band (Thompson, Bryant, Pharoah, Strong, McKinnon, Bennett, Moynihan)
Trump is seriously just playing himself in every sketch. Even in a costume and with a fictional name, he’s just being himself. This sketch about a corny and over-eager, outdated bar band is promising in theory, but it’s mostly aimless and Trump sucks any hope for a punchline right out of it.
Live Tweeting (Strong, Killam, Trump, McKinnon, Bayer, Thompson, Jones)
This is bad. This is so bad. Trump’s “live tweets” of the sketch he couldn’t be in because he was too lazy appear on screen and they are not funny. His introduction is not funny. The fake sketch isn’t even trying to be funny because the live tweets are supposed to serve as the punchlines. None of this is good.
Toots Intro (Trump, Strong, Thompson)
Uh, I have no idea what is happening anymore. Please let this end soon.