Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon were together again for the Saturday Night Live cold open on Nov. 19, but not for their usual pairing as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Now, Baldwin is playing a US president-elect Trump, and McKinnon was at his side as his supposedly long-suffering campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.
Baldwin went for laughs with his studied impression, once again nailing the voice, the hand gestures, and the facial contortions, while McKinnon played a Conway struggling to reconcile what her efforts have wrought.
There were a handful of yuks, mostly as Baldwin’s Trump panicked over the realization that people were actually depending on the promises he made while on the campaign trail. When a Google search and a query of Siri leave him no clearer on what ISIS is or how to kill it, he employs a mantra to calm himself: “Big, beautiful boobs and buildings; big, beautiful boobs and buildings; big, beautiful boobs and buildings.”
There was a moderately funny bit involving former SNL cast member Jason Sudeikis, reviving his brilliant Mitt Romney impression. A long, awkward handshake between the two men yielded no offers of a cabinet position, but an admission from both sides that “this isn’t going to work.”
And there was a timely mention in an exchange with a fictional Mike Pence about an actual thing that happened this week when America’s next vice president went to see the Broadway show Hamilton.
But on the whole, the skit struggled to make much of an impact. The problem was not that it’s too soon to laugh; while Saturday Night Live steered last week’s cold open away from straightforward comedy, subsequent skits during that episode proved that even progressive America was ready to see the humor in its reaction to the election results.
The challenge this time was to make America see the humor in Trump’s reaction to the election results. That’s a tougher sell, and jokes about Trump capitulating to the complexities of policymaking (Baldwin’s Trump wants to scrap his plans for deporting immigrants, canceling Obamacare, and prosecuting Clinton) felt vaguely rooted in fact but also tone deaf to the hardline direction his incoming administration already seems to be taking.
The sharper skit was the one that followed host Kristen Wiig’s apolitical, Thanksgiving-themed monologue. A fake commercial for “The Bubble” (“a planned community of like-minded free thinkers—and no one else”) was a terrific sendup of young urban liberals who feel ready to divorce themselves from the other America. Offering diversity, safe spaces, and one-bedroom apartments starting at $1.9 million, The Bubble is the perfect place to enjoy the Huffington Post and a glass of raw milk without any Trump transition team microaggressions to harsh your progressive mellow.
As has become custom, Trump himself critiqued the comedy. (Reminder: he hosted the show in November 2015.)