November 8, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Donald Trump


Whether it was appropriate in the first place (other than for ratings, obviously) for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE to turn over 90 minutes of its hugely valuable, non-news airtime to Donald Trump, who already gets more media attention than any other candidate, is debatable.  But SNL certainly didn’t bolster its brand by failing to challenge Trump in any way, offering political gags that were weak even by the show’s recently mealy-mouthed standards.  (Hillary Clinton, in her brief turn a few weeks ago, coped with more sharp lines in her single sketch than Trump faced all night.)  It was a sad evening for a show that was once cutting edge before it became an institution.

It wasn’t a great night for comedy, either.  Although Trump is certainly a performer, he’s far from an actor, and while he was willing to appear goofy if asked, he was unable to land a punchline.  He seemed most comfortable, perhaps predictably, in his monologue, where he was surrounded by images of himself, as Taran Killam and Darrell Hammond did their Trumps alongside him.  And you have to give him credit for not standing in the way of the night’s final sketch, a variation on the ex-pornstars commercials with Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer, this time promoting “Donald Tramp” and featuring Bobby Moynihan as “Ronald McDonald McTrump,” who kept wondering when it was time to say “It’s huuuuuuge,” and whose films included “Fist Nixon”–even though Trump’s only part in the sketch was to appear at the end and swear his campaign hadn’t authorized it in any way.

The rest was blandness.  The post-monologue piece gave us an idealized version of the paradise on Earth the US would be by 2018 if Trump was elected, complete with a cameo by his real-life daughter Ivanka.  It was meant to be hyperbolic, but if could still give one the creeps.  An inexplicable late bit played on the fact that back when he last hosted in 2004, his musical guest was Toots and the Maytals (with Kenan Thompson as Toots).  Trump only appeared in the opening seconds of a sketch that hit on his fondness for sending rude tweets by having him “live-tweet” it in progress, which might have been funny if the mock-tweets had been clever, and if the “actors” in the sketch had been able to respond to the tweets instead of just worrying that he was saying mean things about them.

His non-Trump moments were very brief:  a few seconds of silly dancing in a pre-tape parody of Drake’s recent Hotline Bling video, another few seconds as a sleazy music producer at the tail end of a very bad pre-tape that was built on suburban dad Beck Bennett wanting to have a music career despite having no talent, and a longer but weak piece where he played a laser harp player in a band who was bitter that he didn’t get more time for his solo.

The closest thing to a genuine political sketch all night was the cold open–but it was about the Democratic candidates.  At least it included both Kate McKinnon’s expertly stylized Hillary and the return of Larry David as Bernie Sanders.  An overlong music video parody hit the same joke over and over, that the women singing “Bad Girls” were at most mildly misbehaving (by not throwing out the garbage when asked, for example).  Weekend Update had a welcome appearance by Leslie Jones (dear God, SNL, couldn’t you have given us just a few minutes of Donald Trump facing off against Leslie Jones?), and a less welcome one from Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle.  Even on Update, the hardest anyone went after Trump was a quick mention of his birth certificate accusations against Obama.

Well, at least that’s over.  Next week, SNL returns to comedy with host Elizabeth Banks and musical guest Disclosure.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."