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Donald Trump Hosts Awkward SNL

Submitted by on November 8, 2015 – 12:02 pmNo Comment
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Satire is based on the audience knowing that the performer does not actually mean the things they are saying – that views are exaggerated to the extreme for the sake of parody. Last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live fell flat on it’s face largely because host Donald Trump is incapable of such self-parody, as his real-life public persona long ago made any and all absurd things coming out of his mouth entirely plausible. Drained of this driving force and surrounded by the controversy of Trump’s political views, the episode limped along with blown cues, poor timing, and a mostly eerily silent audience.

“Many of the greats have hosted this show – like me, in 2004,” Trump opened with in his monologue. The audience laughed a bit, knowing this was supposed to be a joke about Trump’s self-aggrandizement, but also knowing it is something Trump could easily say in complete sincerity. And the tone was set for the night.

“A lot of people say to me, ‘Donald, you’re the most amazing guy,’” he continued, once again only half-joking. ”‘You’re brilliant, you’re handsome, you’re rich, you have everything going, the world is waiting for you to be president, so why are you hosting Saturday Night Live? Why?’ And the answer is, I have really nothing better to do,”  This drew even fewer laughs.

The next sketch was a well-conceived parody of a Trump administration two years into a Utopian future, where Trump has made good on every single one of his promises. But once more, the lack of irony sapped it of much potential. Trump jokes that everything is just “magic” with him, but that’s not far at all from what he has proposed so far in the campaign.

By comparison, when Hillary Clinton appeared on the show several weeks ago and delivered a ribbing about not supporting gay marriage earlier, the joke had real teeth. It’s a legitimate criticism, and the candidate had to stand there on camera and take it (or rather, watch herself as played by Kate MacKinnon take it).

Even poor Ivanka Trump looked bad on this show. She entered in a surprise cameo to complete silence, instead of the usual applause that greets an unexpected guest. Though this might have been in part because she was shown in the frame too early, spoiling the surprise.

This kind of technical inconsistency seemed to plague much of the episode. The Italian restaurant sketch drew some decent giggles, but dragged as actors waited for onscreen graphics to pop up to deliver the punchlines. And somehow, Colin Jost and Michael Che seemed to botch the opening of “Weekend Update.” Maybe everyone just… phoned it in a bit for this one? I wouldn’t blame them.

But SNL is a workhorse, and even in such a difficult week as this one, there are some bright spots. The cold open mined the bottomless well of Hillary’s awkwardness and Bernie Sanders‘ anger for more laughs. Drunk Uncle made an entirely appropriate return to “Update” to talk about Trump. And the women of SNL produced a music video about living (slightly) on the wild side that, while not as laugh-out-loud funny as their shorts about returning home for the holidays, was a decent addition the to comedy of First World Anarchists.

Possibly the best sketch of the night was a digital short comparing Drake‘s “Hotline Bling” video to dad dancing. Timely, accurate, well produced, and slightly unpredictable (not to mention apolitical), it was a refreshing change for the episode. Is it any coincidence it also included Trump’s best performance? Not as himself, but as an un-self-aware accountant dancing and singing along to the song. Please, no one tell him that letting down his guard actually makes him look human and is funny.

Did you have any favorite sketches? Let us know in the comments below.

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