Last Saturday night, a comedy cabal assembled in NBCs Studio 8H for SNLs Season 44 finale. It opened in a dreadfully familiar place: the Oval Office. There, President Donald J. Trump (Alec Baldwin, all violent spasms) crowed with self-satisfied delight, for he was on cruise control to a 2020 win and theres nothing the Democrats in Congress can do about it.
With that, Trump and his loyal confederates broke into a parody version of Queens Dont Stop Me Now.
Hes a loose cannon rippin up the laws of society, belted Aidy Bryants Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But they call him Mr. Bad Advice, cause he listens to Fox News guys, chimed in Cecily Strongs Melania Trump, prompting Beck Bennetts Mike Pence to add, I want to make a super-straight man out of you!
The aural waterboarding didnt stop there. Kenan Thompsons Clarence Thomas riffed on abortion; Trumps large adult sons (Mikey Day and Alex Moffat) whined; a ghoulish Wilbur Ross, played by Kate McKinnon, broke into a guitar solo; and De Niros Bob Mueller gave steely stare. Guys, its been fun, Trump concluded. I dont know whats next for me, but I wouldnt be Donald Trump if I didnt say, tune in next season to see who lives and who dies.
Even the most zealous of Resistance keyboard warriors could see that this partisan song-and-dance routine was shambolic and lazy; the most eye roll-worthy tribute to Queen this side of Bohemian Rhapsody, and a prime example of the shows biggest failing its past two seasons. To wit, if Saturday Night Live wants to be great again it has to start ignoring Trumpand they can begin with kicking Baldwins uninspired impression to the curb.
In his dozens of appearances on SNL, Baldwins Trump send-up has really only been effective once: creeping up on McKinnons Hillary during a presidential debate. It fails on both a technical and conceptual level, capturing neither Trumps weirdo mannerisms (Darrell Hammond nailed it) nor his damaged-guy essence (Taran Killam came close). Its a defanged caricature, perhaps owing to Lorne Michaels decades-long deferential relationship to the real-life Trumpa man he once called a moderate candidate, and who directed Killam to not vilify him and find a way in that makes him likable.
If that werent enough, the sketch shows Trump skits have devolved into a form of comedy stenography, its orange antagonist regurgitating his looniest boasts near-verbatimproclamations that have already been atomized by late-night comedy hosts when Saturday rolls around.
Much of this has to do with SNLs shameless pursuit of ratings (this is, after all, the show that had Trump host in November 2015, and allowed a MAGA hat-wearing Kanye West to deliver a wacky pro-Trump rant in its Season 44 premiere). With 11 million-plus viewers, Season 42 of the seriesbeginning in the final months of the 2016 election and ending four months into the Trump presidencyattracted its highest ratings in 22 years. So Lorne Michaels and Co., it seems, have decided to ride that ratings wave, comedic quality be damned. And though the shows ratings have dipped the past two seasons, theyre still considerably higher than before Baldwin donned the yellow wig and orange make-up.
Baldwins Trump made seven appearances in SNLs 44th season. Were any of those sketches the least bit memorable? They werent even among the best political sketches of the season, which included Matt Damons fratty, belligerent turn as then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Bill Haders Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) losing his marbles during the Michael Cohen hearing.
SNL was at its best this season when it steered clear of politicsan area of fatigue if there ever was oneand focused on incisive cultural commentary and mining the weekly hosts talents. Oddball pals Pete Davidson and John Mulaney teaming up to deconstruct Clint Eastwoods batshit-crazy-sounding film The Mule was comedy gold (these two need a weekly segment, or their own comedy series). Or how about Adam Drivers elderly oil baron berating a classroom full of kids in Career Day? Those Oscar Host Auditions, featuring Aidy Bryants bang-on Hannah Gadsby impersonation? John Mulaneys ambitious musical skit Bodega Bathroom? Adam Sandlers tearjerker of a tribute to Chris Farley? The shows always soared when it combines good-natured humor and warmth, and there is none to be found when it comes to the Trump and his cronies.
So Saturday Night Live, its time to retire Baldwins Trump. Instead of channeling your creative energies into satirizing the day-to-day lunacy of this administration, maybe try to give viewers a respite from it. And for the love of god, get rid of Trumps large adult sons. Those two miss the mark even more than daddy.