Saturday, November 14, 2015

SNL 41.4 Review - Donald Trump, Sia

Original Airdate - 11/7/15

Saturday Night Live has always been willing to be controversial.  They have always been willing to be a political platform.  They have always been willing to allow political candidates to make cameos on their show in the middle of campaigns, including Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton several times (including this year already).  They also have always been willing to allow political figures to host the show during a down time, including Ralph Nader in the show's earlier years, as well as John McCain and Al Gore after each lost presidential bids.  This week brought about a first in SNL history.  Lorne Michaels brought in a presidential candidate in the middle of a campaign to host the show.  This was not just your typical presidential candidate; it was Donald Trump, possibly the most polarizing presidential candidate in quite some time.  Trump has hosted before, but the circumstances are much different this time.  I was curious to see how far the writers were going to be willing to go with one of the best sources of material this year on set.  The good thing is they really didn't hold back.  The bad thing is Donald Trump isn't very funny.

Cold Opening

With SNL's last episode, they discovered a gold mine of comedy by bringing in Larry David to play Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.  They have decided to cash in on this as much as possible.  This week was a Democratic forum involving McKinnon's Hilary and David's Sanders.  This hasn't stopped being funny yet, and I hope it never does.


What do you do for a presidential candidate that is a walking punchline to a joke?  Mimic him.  Taran Killam has put together a pretty good Donald Trump impression, but the best one is done by sophomore SNL announcer and longtime castmember Darrell Hammond.  So which one should they use?  Both!  It was actually scary to see just how much of a caricature Trump is when you see him next to impressions.  Add in Larry David's paid outburst at the end, and they successfully addressed almost every elephant in the room.

Weekend Update

Of all the places to have fun at the host's expense, Weekend Update would be the place.  Along with another one of Leslie Jones's rants, this Update was stolen by the by the first appearance in awhile by everyone's favorite Drunk Uncle.  This time, Drunk Uncle was very happy as the inebriated, racist, nostalgic, blubbering idiot is the biggest supporter of Mr. Trump.  While Trump made his appearance on the show to help promote his presidential campaign, he seemed to be okay with them ripping his political stances.  I guess if you are as controversial as Trump, you embrace all attention, positive or negative.

Best Sketch

As far as the sketches went, there was very little worth remembering.  Many of the sketches fell flat as the writers struggled with how to incorporate Trump into comedy without him just being himself.  Usually I write about the funniest sketch of the episode, but this one was the most interesting.  They gave a snapshot of the White House in 2018 with President Donald Trump.  I am not really sure what the purpose of this sketch was as they claimed everything Trump said he would do as president came true.  Trump had to think this would help his candidacy for president, but instead his actual policy stances became the punchlines of the sketch as you could hear the whole audience realize just how unrealistic his ideas are.  The sketch also made fun of his wife and how ridiculous it would be to have her as First Lady, as Cecily Strong's impression became a focal point.  The most telling point of the sketch was when Trump's actual daughter made a cameo.  Usually, cameos are met with applause and fanfare as the crowd realizes who just stepped on stage (see Larry David above).  When Ivanka Trump stepped on stage, she had a very intentional pause of applause, but there was nothing.  The crowd was silent.  The SNL crowd is never silent.  A sketch meant to have some fun at Trump's expense forced the audience to stop and reflect on just how silly a Trump presidency could be.  This parody just looked a little too much like a reality to get the laughs and may have single-handedly forced this hosting gig to backfire.

Worst Sketch

After having some fun letting Donald be Donald, they decided to test out his acting chops in the second half of the episode.  The result was some of the least inspiring sketches in some time.  Some worked okay, like when Trump was a sleezy record producer (again, a little too close to home).  The worst of these was a night club band doing their band introductions, and one member of the band was upset by his spotlight-hogging companions.  This jealous band member was Trump, who played the laser harp.  Yep, that was the premise, and yep, it was as bad as it sounds.  It could have been okay if Trump could actually act.  Instead, his acting made it even worse.

Dark Horse Sketch

I can't believe Donald let this sketch run during his episode.  I know he is priding himself as being a non-politician, but at some point you have to show you have some sort of moral compass and integrity.  On the other hand, I'm glad it ran because it was the best sketch of the night outside of the cold opening.  These sketches are always funny, but when the porn stars come out to make a campaign commercial for Donald Tramp, I can't imagine ever topping that.  Also, we had yet another Trump impression, this time from Bobby Moynihan.

This is an episode that really fell flat for the majority of the time.  It just wasn't funny.  Add in the odd musical performances of Sia, and I really don't know what to do with this episode.  However, that does not change the fact that this was a very important episode.  A presidential candidate, in the middle of his campaign, hosted Saturday Night Live.  I really don't know how I feel about this.  I guess only time will tell how America feels about this.  I will say the most interesting part of the episode was that something meant to promote his presidency really might have had the opposite effect.  It wasn't funny, but it sure was interesting and groundbreaking.


View the full episode here:

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