This week, amid new revelations in the ongoing Trump-Russia saga—a real-life espionage thriller linking a tiny-handed reality show tycoon, a diminutive Russian dictator, and alleged “golden shower” kompromat—came the news that actor Alec Baldwin is considering stepping down as Saturday Night Live’s Donald Trump.
“His policies aside, which you can hate, I thought he would have just relaxed. The maliciousness of this White House has people worried,” Baldwin told Extra. “That’s why I’m not going to do it much longer, the impersonation. I don’t know how much more people can take it.”
He added, “Trump just overwhelmingly lacks any sportsmanship, he remains bitter and angry, and you just want to look at him and go, ‘You won!’”
Baldwin, the Emmy-winning 30 Rock actor, is an SNL legend, having hosted a record 17 times. And his high-profile Trump impression has not only helped boost the late-night sketch program’s ratings to a 22-year high of 10.6 million viewers, but also managed to get under President Trump’s considerably thin skin, with Trump calling the parody skits “a complete hit job,” and his Press Secretary Sean Spicer whining that, “Alec has gone from funny to mean, and that’s unfortunate. SNL used to be really funny. There’s a streak of meanness now that they’ve crossed over to mean.” A newspaper in the Dominican Republic even confused Baldwin’s Trump with the real thing.
According to reports, Baldwin was only set to play the bloviating billionaire until the election, and has donned the cotton candy-like coif five times since, so it stands to reason that upcoming film or television projects—as well as penning his satirical Trump book—will soon occupy the actor’s Saturday nights. So who should play President Trump next? There have always been, in this writer’s estimation, problems with Baldwin’s Trump impersonation. For starters, it’s not very good. While he has the stiff posture down pat, his nightmare-inducing pout, which once earned Trump a Razzie award for Worst Supporting Actor, pales in comparison to Taran Killam’s, while his version of the real estate mogul’s nasally voice and erratic delivery is a far cry from Darrell Hammond’s.
The optics are a problem, too. If imitation is truly the highest form of flattery, then having Baldwin, an SNL god most famous for playing an endearingly ironic CEO caricature on 30 Rock (whose sexist, prejudiced tendencies bore more than a few similarities to Donald), portray Trump is not just an honor, but contributes to the perception of Baldwin’s Trump as lovable buffoon; an incorrigible man-child in an ill-fitting suit. Tina Fey elevated her Sarah Palin to scathing satire by exposing the Wasillan’s ignorance and silliness, transforming her into a cutesy cartoon character. Trump already is a cartoon character, so Baldwin’s face-contorting routine, all surface gusto, does not suffice. It fails to mine the depths of Trump, shine a light on his most glaring insecurities, and reduce him to a punchline.
Baldwin also possesses several of the attributes people find odious in Trump. He is a hot-tempered New Yorker with a secret recording scandal of his own who was booted from his short-lived MSNBC talk show for unleashing a homophobic rant against a paparazzo. It should be noted, however, that Baldwin’s transgressions pale in comparison to Trump’s, who, among other things, stands accused of sexual assault or harassment by up to a dozen women.
I recently attempted to inveigle SNL into casting Rosie O’Donnell as Trump. It would undoubtedly upset him the most, given their storied history combined with Trump’s disdain for gender-swapped roles. Yes, in addition to being one of the first snowflakes to cry foul at the all-women Ghostbusters remake, the president was reportedly upset by Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer. Because she’s a woman.
“More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him,” reported Politico, which added that the “unflattering send-up by a female comedian” did not bode well for Spicer’s “longevity in the grueling, high-profile job.”
But Kate McKinnon must play Donald Trump on SNL. It is the only choice. McKinnon is a master of mimicry, nailing everyone from Justin Bieber to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so you know she’s got the goods. Though her riff on Jeff Sessions isn’t cutting it, transforming a feared prosecutor accused of racist practices into a gentle, imbecilic Southerner, McKinnon could effectively deconstruct Trump’s strongman façade, stressing his cycles of timidity and overcompensation.
Plus, allowing the comedienne most famous for playing Hillary to have a go at Trump would be an act of poetic justice.