When Saturday Night Live aired its last episode of 2018, the government was still open. Just over a month later, America is in day 29 of the longest government shutdown in its history—with no end in sight.
The first new SNL of 2019 opened with a very special “government shutdown edition” of Deal or No Deal. “Let’s bring out the guy who said he would own the shutdown,” Kenan Thompson’s Steve Harvey, filling in for Howie Mandel, began. “He’s the president, and we’ve both got neckties long enough that they could get caught in a Roomba.”
Alright, now earlier today you went on the TV and you told the American people that you want to make a deal,” the host added. “So we decided to do this in the only format that you can understand: a TV game show with women holding briefcases.”
Alec Baldwin’s President Trump described his new offer to Democrats by saying, “I want $5 billion for big border wall, and in exchange I’ll extend DACA, and I’ll release the kids from cages so they can be free-range kids.”
From there, a succession of Democratic lawmakers appeared to propose various counteroffers. First up, Kate McKinnon’s “drunk on her own power” Nancy Pelosi offered Trump “$1 billion and you say, ‘Nancy’s my mommy.’” After that, Chuck Schumer first offered him “whatever you want,” but when Pelosi scolded him he switched it to “$15 and a pastrami on rye.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, tried to hide behind his silver briefcase.
“OK, deal or no deal, Mr. President?” Harvey asked Trump. “And remember, any time you choose no deal, a half a million federal employees work another day without getting paid.”
The cold open also featured Melissa Villaseñor as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—Trump mistook her for Cardi B. “That’s OK, Steve,” she replied. “Trump and the GOP are just terrified of me because I’m under 100 and I understand how to use Instagram.”
And then there was the return of Pete Davidson, who made his first appearance in a live sketch since posting a troubling message on social media last month. Davidson played a Clemson football player who offered Trump a White Castle “hamberder” in exchange for the end of the shutdown.
“Oh, Steve, I haven’t eaten a hamberder in almost 15 minutes,” Trump said. “I’m gonna make that deal!”