Since becoming president, Donald Trump’s phone calls with world leaders have drawn considerable media coverage and scrutiny. But for the writers of Saturday Night Live, the calls have become fodder for a razor-sharp sketch that pokes fun at the American president and his administration.
During the cold open this weekend, Alec Baldwin, who plays Trump, sits in the Oval Office speaking with Steve Bannon, his chief strategist. After complaining that he was “tired and cranky” and feeling like “I could freak out on somebody,” Bannon suggests calling Australia. And as with previous shows, Bannon was presented in a cloaked skeleton as the grim reaper. Baldwin also makes equally unsatisfactory calls to Mexico’s president and Germany’s chancellor.
But the show’s climax moment came when the Bannon character tells Baldwin to “call some random little country and show them who is boss.” After calling Zimbabwe’s president, played by Kenan Thompson, Baldwin says, “Zimbabwe, there’s a new sheriff in town.”
Of course, in real life, president Robert Mugabe has been the “sheriff” in his own country since 1980. At 92 years of age, he has the distinction of being the world’s oldest president and is one of Africa’s longest-standing leaders. During his tenure, the country has faced serious economic challenges, with currency collapses that have seen Zimbabweans sleep outside banks at night just to access their cash. Mugabe’s government has cracked down on and arrested those protesting the deteriorating situation across the country.
But during the 2016 US elections, Mugabe appeared to root for a Trump presidency. During a meet with US officials, he reportedly said that once Trump was president, “you’ll wish you’d been friendlier to me.” The United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2001 for its increasing assault on human rights and the rule of law.
In the skit, after confirming that the caller was Baldwin, Thompson acting as Mugabe asks, “You think you are a real dictator?” Comedians like Trevor Noah have in past compared Trump to African strongmen, calling him “America’s first African president.”
Thompson continued: “I will rip out your spine and drink from your skull. You cannot even walk down stairs, you little white b—. Don’t you ever call Zimbabwe again.”