One of the biggest worries going into the Donald Trump-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live was just how funny the show could be when it was likely hamstrung by how much fun it could poke at both its host and his field of fellow Republican presidential candidates. That worry manifested itself not just in the night’s lack of strong material, but also in the clear lack of energy or thought put into that material.
Yes, there were some spectacularly unfunny sketches peppered throughout the night. But more than that, the majority of the night’s content just seemed to lack effort. Some were based around barely there ideas, while others were poorly executed ones that may have, with a little more work, actually had some substance (the band sketch could have been a metaphor for the presidential election, had any effort been put into writing it). And others were simply… there.
At least the night started off with the return of Larry David as Bernie Sanders. This marks two episodes in a row that David appeared in the cold open (Will he keep recurring so long as Sanders is in the race?), and combined with Kate McKinnon’s always stellar Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Forum sketch started the night out on a decent if overly long note.
Then came Trump’s monologue, which brought out the most predictable but still enjoyable sight gag of the night, with the show’s host standing next to Taran Killam as Trump and Darrell Hammond as Trump. But David stuck around for the monologue as well, crying out “Trump’s a racist” from the side of the stage because, as he explains, he was offered $5,000 to do it. (The moment, of course, is not about David really going rogue but instead an addressing of the real-life protesters outside 30 Rock so the show could move on from the worry of actual hecklers.)
The less said, however, about the sketch that followed (focusing on a would-be wondrous Trump presidency in 2018), the better. The politics of the sketch aside, the lack of jokes, Trump fumbling through his lines, and Ivanka Trump walking out to no applause but expecting something says just about everything you need to know about how it played out. The meta sketch about Trump live-tweeting the sketch and the cast members also noticeably suffered, not just failing to do the bare minimum and match Trump’s on-screen Twitter profile to his real life one but for being awkwardly unfunny to watch.
But with the night’s least encouraging sketches out of the way, here are three more, aside from the opening, to watch:
So, “Bad Girls” doesn’t live up to the “Back Home Ballers” or “Dongs All Over the World” pre-recorded sketches, but at the very least Aidy Bryant is an absolute and consistent joy to watch in it. Your mileage on how funny you find each punchline will vary, but there are few other sketches that will include Kate McKinnon excitedly deciding to use a sock instead of toilet paper while in the bathroom.
SNL saved all of its jokes for other Republican candidates (and its real jokes about Trump) for Weekend Update. But the segment also included two of the night’s best moments. Leslie Jones appears to presumably talk about gender roles, but spends most of it describing how unmanly it is for men to text with emojis and the word “yay.” Then, Drunk Uncle stops by to describe just how happy he is to have a presidential candidate in Trump who is so much like him. (They both like White Russians, after all.) Also, Colin Jost’s self-deprecating dig about the New York Mets losing may be his best joke ever on the show.
Hammond wasn’t the only guest to bring back an SNL character. Martin Short appeared in the “Hotling Bling” as Ed Grimley while Jay Pharoah’s Drake defended his dance moves because of all the dads, teachers, and other older white men dancing just like him. The sketch also included the night’s best use of Trump, having him dance and sing as a tax guy grooving to the track.
Both of Sia’s performances took a minimal approach to the stage design, Sia herself and another performer the only real focus of both songs. But her second outing takes the slight edge for both her accompaniment commitment to the role, and the pre-song bit with Kenan Thompson as Trump’s previous musical guest from his hosting stint in 2004, Toots and the Maytals.