"Saturday Night Live" earned both bouquets and brickbats this weekend after it aired a filmed sketch in which the Islamic extremist faction ISIS was used as a punch line.
In a parody of a heart-tugging Toyota commercial in which a father drops off his Army-bound daughter at the airport, cast-member Taran Killam as Dad pulls up the curb with host Dakota Johnson. After an emotional goodbye, Dad looks up at the sound of a car horn and tells her, "Looks like your ride's here" -- as a white pickup truck with armed jihadists pulls up.
"You be careful, OK?" says Dad. His daughter smiles and assures him, "Dad -- it's just ISIS." As she climbs into the truck, Dad's eyes meet those of a jihadist, played by featured player Kyle Mooney. "Take care of her," Dad says. The jihadist nods and replies respectfully, "Death to America." The pickup takes off, guns ablaze, and a female narrator says, "ISIS. We'll take it from here, Dad."
Though poking fun at America's enemies on-screen has been a staple of humor since silent-movie days, the sketch engendered social-media criticism from those finding it in poor taste. Conversely, others found it trenchant, with comedian Arsenio Hall tweeting it was "hilarious."
Killam responded on Sunday, tweeting, "Proud of this. Freedom to mock is our greatest weapon." Seemingly acknowledging concern over what steps critics might take, he added, "Thanks to the writers who asked not to be mentioned by name."
The show also briefly reunited Johnson's parents, actors and former spouses Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, who sat in the audience and became part of the opening monologue. "We were just afraid you were going to be naked," Don Johnson told his daughter, alluding to the racy scenes in her film, "Fifty Shades of Grey."
The episode earned a 1.9 Nielsen rating for adults 18-49, down from the 2.1 of its most recent new episode, the Jan. 31 show hosted by J.K. Simmons.