We didn’t have to wait long to see how “Saturday Night Live” would embrace a new president-elect or how Alec Baldwin would do the embracing. One second in, the answer: With fake hair swept back and real lip thrust forward, Baldwin returned Saturday with his first post-election impression, which was still etched in acid, still uncluttered with subtleties.
Not long to find out either how cast member Kate McKinnon would find her way forward in a post-election world without Hillary Clinton to reliably depend upon. For Saturday’s cold open, she rebooted her other singular impression of the 2016 election: Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.
Trump/Baldwin: “Kellyanne, what are people saying about my Cabinet appointments? Do they love them?”
Conway/McKinnon: (Reading a tweet — what else?): “ ‘They are great for our nation and the future of our children.’ ”
Trump/Baldwin: “Tremendous. Who sent that?”
Conway/McKinnon: “David Duke ... ”
And so, if there were any lingering questions about how “SNL” would pursue a President Trump as opposed to a Candidate Trump, at least some were answered last night. No prisoners will be taken, no quarter given. This six-minute open found just about every obvious target — the “secret plan” to defeat ISIS, the “wall,” job creation, Mitt Romney, Cabinet selection; even Mike Pence’s “Hamilton” moment. It was brutal — the portrait of a bombastic bumbler without a clue or a plan or even enough tech savvy to tell the difference between an iPhone or a BlackBerry. (“... Siri, how do I defeat ISIS? Oh, it’s a BlackBerry ...”)
Other “SNL” presidents over the years usually knew where the jugular was but found other ways to soften the portrait or find something counterintuitive in it — Phil Hartman’s Ronald Reagan, for example, as the ruthless taskmaster who never slept and who had such a mastery of details that he even spoke flawless Arabic (or gibberish that passed for Arabic). There’s nothing soft or surprising with Trump/Baldwin.
Trump later tweeted, “I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show - nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?”
Those other “parts” likely included “Weekend Update,” which found the rest of the targets the cold open didn’t have time to get around to. Pete Davidson: “He’ll reduce crime in their real estate business by no longer working in the real estate business.” Or Colin Jost on those Cabinet picks: “He’s picking people who just make him look good, like ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ Yeah, people think he’s a great businessman. He is, compared to Bret Michaels and Lou Ferrigno.”
Last week’s edition was a funeral. Last night’s was the celebration. Whatever other setbacks this election outcome may represent for “SNL,” at least there will be material, some of which will pretty much write itself.
Baldwin’s Trump, meanwhile, now becomes pop culture’s pre-eminent comic doppelgänger of the incoming president. There may be better impressions out there, but given this stage — and the actor representing the president-elect — none are as remotely influential. For a new president who just won a historic election and is now navigating the unexpected consequences of victory, that could be among the least welcome of those.
On Sunday morning, Baldwin also had the last word (at least for now). Responding to Trump’s earlier criticism, he tweeted: “Equal time? Election is over. There is no more equal time. Now u try 2 b Pres + ppl respond. That’s pretty much it.”
A couple of hours later, this followed: “You know what I would do if I were Prez? I’d be focused on how to improve the lives of AS MANY AMERICANS AS POSSIBLE.”