SNL’s Final Insult to Trump: A ‘Macho Man’ Piano Performance
The post-election cold open teasingly replicated Kate McKinnon’s “Hallelujah” moment as Hillary Clinton. Is it the last we’ll see of Alec Baldwin’s polarizing Trump impression?
This might have to be fact-checked, but we can say with pretty solid confidence that this is the first time a new episode of Saturday Night Live has aired within 12 hours of the presidential election being called. Oh, and barely two hours after the president-elect’s victory speech wrapped. (And after a football-game delay.)
The episode didn’t, as seemingly everyone on Twitter predicted Saturday, open with Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump sitting down at a piano to sing “Hallelujah,” replicating Kate McKinnon’s elegy after portraying Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.
Instead, in a bit of a troll to everyone’s cynical predictions, Baldwin’s Trump sat down at the piano to play a slowed-down version of “Macho Man” by the Village People, one of his favorite campaign songs and the subject of much ridicule.
He chose the song to “to remind you who I really am,” he said as he walked to the piano. “I’m not going to say goodbye, America,” he said at the end. “I’m just going to say, ‘See you in court!’”
With Biden now the president-elect, is that Baldwin’s SNL sign-off? A version of a bit that most of Twitter predicted and that, at best, infantilized the petulant president and, at worst, let the dangerous threats and lies of just the past week—let alone the last four years—off the hook with nothing more than a song and a smirk? It would make for a pretty lame and meek farewell.
Baldwin’s Trump wasn’t the only SNL celebrity guest to appear. The cold open launched with a spoof of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (Beck Bennett) and John King (Mikey Day) exhausted from covering the results for days, King’s fingers worked down to nubs from the touch screen. Blitzer finally projects Biden as the winner, admitting that he’s going to break neutrality while doing it. “God damn that feels good!” he said, high-fiving King.
Then he throws to Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden, trotting out just as the real president-elect did just hours before to deliver his victory speech: “Can you believe it? I honestly kind of can’t. It’s been so long since something good happened.” He’s never felt more alive, he said, “which is ironic because I’m not that alive.”
To perhaps even louder cheers, he welcomed Maya Rudolph’s Kamala Harris, the yells of approval escalating as she repeated Harris’ gratitude for being the “first female, first Black, first Indian-American, first biracial” vice president. (Props to the costume department for replicating Harris’ white suit so quickly.)
Then teeing up the most moving segment of Harris’ speech, she addressed all the young Black and brown girls and skewered the celebratory national mood of the day: “The reason your mom is laughing so much tonight is because she’s drunk, and the reason she’s crying is because she’s drunk. Your mom is going to switch from laughing to crying to dancing pretty much all night.”
But, Blitzer interjected, “People don’t want to just see Joe and Kamala happy, they want to see the president sad.” And that’s when Baldwin and the Trump routine came out—and maybe for the last time.
The Trump speech was a rudimentary greatest hits of his talking points this last week—confused messaging about whether stopping the vote count would be good or bad, his leads dwindling as mail-in ballots were counted, fraud, stolen, etc.—and then a solid gag in which press secretary Kayleigh McEnany (played by Chloe Fineman) came out with a map that was supposed to show Trump’s “red wave” but was actually a map of the current COVID-19 cases.
Then Baldwin took the keys.
This is an unprecedented sixth consecutive week producing a new live episode—typically two or three episodes a month is the norm—and, courting the superstitious among its historians, a revisiting of the host that was booked for what one can assume was supposed to be a celebratory post-2016 election episode, with Dave Chappelle back to preside.
The cold open came late to an impatient non-sports crowd. They had all tuned in at 11:29 pm to watch SNL only to see football instead. Then came the announcer’s advisory that the episode would start 30 minutes after the game wrapped. The full local news would air first. (As if we all haven’t watched enough news this week.) More confusing: It started airing almost 20 minutes earlier in New York markets than the rest of the country, which was still stuck with the news.
Once the cold open wrapped, the question turned to whether “Macho Man” would truly be Baldwin’s last go at Trump.
The actor’s Trump impersonation has quickly devolved from Emmy-winning catharsis to culturally maligned, and he’s gone on record saying how aware he is of the reception his SNL take gets and that he is more than ready to hang up the red hat and urine-colored wig.
There’s no official word on whether this is the end; it would be naive to think that the current POTUS would suddenly be disappearing from the cultural conversation that SNL pokes at. But that hasn’t stopped some of the performance’s detractors from fantasizing over never having to see Jack Donaghy round his lips into a sphincter ever again, effectively burning the orange makeup in effigy and casting it out to sea.
The reviews for Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden take haven’t been great either, with my colleague Marlow Stern ruling “his bouncing-off-the-walls Fire Marshall Bill shtick is the polar opposite of Biden’s sleep-inducing hebetude” and pleading to “bring back Jason Sudeikis already!” Maya Rudolph’s Kamala Harris, on the other hand, is widely adored.
So take it for what you will that the end of the cold open had Carrey’s Biden and Rudolph’s Harris plastering an “L” on their foreheads and taunting Baldwin’s Trump as a loser.
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