A look back at one of the wackiest, most resonant SNL seasons ever
Saturday Night Live has never shied away from political commentary, but it took on new urgency this year — not just because the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, is a former SNL host, but because he also obsessively watched and tweeted about the show’s parodies of him. But there was more to 2017 than just Trump, of course. There was a cultural reckoning with sexual harassment, a very strange Oscar season involving La La Land, and one very ill-considered Pepsi commercial, among other things. SNL commented on them all, and now EW has rounded up 11 of our favorite sketches from this year. Enjoy!
Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump impression has been an uneven ride during the first year of this new presidency. The show had clearly been banking on four-to-eight years of deploying Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton to parody presidential politics, while Baldwin was a starry cameo for the debate sketches in the home stretch of 2016. He wasn’t built to last, and too often the humor of his cold opens could be reductive or superficial (Putin! Russia! Aaaah! Wash, rinse, repeat). But this sketch actually had a bite: Placed in a town hall with his own supporters, Baldwin’s Trump failed catastrophically to provide any actual answers to their problems. One man, for instance, got laid off from a coal-mining plant and wants good jobs for him and his friends. Trump’s solution? “I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure you people work in coal for the rest of your lives.” And yet, his supporters still love him. —Christian Holub
If only the writer/director of the tone-deaf Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial had run his concept by a friend or two before they got to shooting it. That’s more or less the premise of this sketch. It’s very quickly obvious to the writer (played by Beck Bennett) that his ridiculous notion that sharing a Pepsi can cure hatred and bigoted behavior is not going to fly (“I stop the police from shooting black people by handing them a Pepsi,” says Cecily Strong as Jenner. “I know, it’s cute, right?”), only it’s too late to stop the shoot. It’s sad for everyone involved in and offended by the ad, but great for the SNL cast who (deservedly) got to rip it to shreds for comic effect. Pepsi, for those who think dumb? —Ruth Kinane
What if you too could be as complicit in the decisions of President Trump with just one spritz of perfume? Don’t all rush out at once to buy this fragrance, because fortunately, this is just a fake ad. Back in March, Scarlett Johansson posed as President Trump’s favorite daughter and took aim at Ivanka for calling herself a feminist. As the sketch points out, “like, how?” can she even begin to believe she’s any of those things when she’s deeply cocooned in the current White House, an administration not exactly known for supporting women? —R.K.
Sean Spicer Press Conference
There were plenty of high points to Melissa McCarthy’s short but glorious run as former Press Secretary Sean Spicer (see: riding a motorized podium through the streets of New York City). The most memorable, though, has to be her surprise debut, with her transformation being so impressive that there’s a noticeable delay in the raucous response from the audience. Like the real version, McCarthy’s “Spicey” was no friend of the press, soon proving this by attacking the reporters with insults, water guns, and the briefing room podium. The sketch also has the benefit of a Kate McKinnon cameo as Betsy DeVos, Spicer using ridiculous props to give a statement, and declaring, “And live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” One problem: This was in the middle of the show. Awkward… someone might want to go hide
in among the bushes. —Derek Lawrence
La La Land Interrogation
Have you ever had a movie take that your friends are outraged by? (I will defend Collateral Beauty until my last dying breath). Well, at least you were never arrested for it! In this January sketch, Aziz Ansari, who delivered a powerful post-Trump inauguration monologue earlier in the show, had no such luck. After surveillance of a recent date caught him suggesting that the Oscar-
winning nominated La La Land “kind of dragged in the middle,” he’s interrogated by Cecily Strong and Beck Bennett’s detectives. His claims of too many montages and not enough black people (“Last time I checked, John Legend was black,” argues Strong), as well as the admission that he fell asleep, only further enrage them. Thankfully for Ansari’s character, the cops get a new perp in the form of Kenan Thompson’s Westworld hater. I can’t even imagine what they’d do to an anti-Game of Thrones truther. —D.L.
There’s one grievous offense within James Cameron’s “giant international blockbuster,” set to spawn four sequels (and now, apparently, featuring a Disney princess), that Ryan Gosling doesn’t want us to ever forget: the font used in its logo. “Papyrus,” which takes the name of the typeface, is one of SNL’s best digital shorts of the year, a hilariously bleak take on one man’s inability to let go of one graphic designer’s very poor decision. The original premise — which struck a chord for many — yields increasingly heightened comedy: Best is when Gosling’s character learns that several Avatar sequels are on the way, and somehow, “Papyrus” remains the font of choice for the franchise. (Cue screaming and table-flipping.) You know a sketch has landed when the creator of the font you’re satirizing has to come out and defend himself. —David Canfield
Look, we all love Batman. He’s the greatest superhero ever. However, I think we can all admit that there’s something problematic about his modus operandi. His crusade against crime is kind of one-sided. He spends more time breaking the jaws of impoverished minorities instead of, I don’t know, going after the one percenters who create more heinous crimes against the community. This excellent sketch featuring Chance the Rapper tackles aspects of superheroism we take for granted as a several black Gothamites (Chance, Leslie Jones, Kenan Thompson, and Chris Redd) visit Wayne Manor for a Thanksgiving charity event and voice their complaints about how Batman’s vigilanteism (a.k.a. hanging black people from gargoyles in their underwear) affects the black community. With its clever outsider’s perspective on Batman and superheroism in general, “Wayne Thanksgiving” proves the value of having diverse voices on NBC’s long-running series. —Chancellor Agard
Kate McKinnon’s impression of Trump’s advisor was the star of many sketches, and it was hard to choose one. Ultimately, it came down to SNL‘s timely take on IT in “Kellywise” and this Chicago send-up, which, in the end, felt more inspired because it wasn’t trying to capitalize on a hit movie and, more importantly, marked a turn in the show’s approach to Conway. Up until this point, SNL had portrayed Conway as someone who felt guilty working for Trump, but here, it makes the case that Conway is simply a fame monster. And the song “Roxie” was the perfect way to get that point across. Watching the number again, you can tell that this was some theatre nerd on the SNL staff’s passion project; from the detailed recreation of the number from the movie, to the perfectly altered lyrics (“When they google just a ‘K’/My name will come up before Kanye” and “And when the world goes up in flames/at least for now they knew my name”). —C.A.
Welcome to Hell
How fitting that this razor-sharp bubblegum pop parody would arrive at the end of the year. Anyone paying attention to the headlines in 2017 knows that sexual misconduct has been an exhaustingly dominant topic: Some of the most powerful, iconic, and successful names around have been taken down as stories of abuse and assault have, at long last, resonated in the culture. “Welcome to Hell” puts the new environment into bracing perspective: As host Saoirse Ronan and a group of female SNL cast members remind us through song, this behavior may be finally getting attention, but it’s been around for a long, long time. (“Oh, this been the damn world,” Cecily Strong says at one point.) The bright tone of the video is perfectly at odds with its disturbing subject, and its message is potent — these are some wise, funny words to live by as we head into 2018. —D.C.
Trump’s rhetoric is so far removed from the professed morals of the “family values” Republican Party that an idea has arisen throughout this year that some “good” Republicans will rise up and oppose their own president for the good of the country. But although some Republicans have occasionally moved against Trump (most famously when Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain voted against the White House’s much-desired Obamacare repeal), in the end their resistance hasn’t meant much (those same three Senators all voted in favor of the Republican tax bill, which will likely lead to massive cuts for Medicare and other social programs if it becomes law). SNL parodied this brilliantly with a fake movie trailer about a mythical “good Republican” — so mythical, in fact, that they’ve left the name of this savior blank. TBD. —C.H.
In the Melissa McCarthy-hosted outing from last May, SNL gave us this ad for the Amazon Echo Silver: “The only smart speaker device designed specifically to be used by the greatest generation,” a.k.a. senior citizens. Unlike the normal Alexa-enabled device, it responds to any name that’s remotely close to Alexa, has no problem repeating itself, and even comes with an “uh-huh” function for when users start rambling on. —C.A.
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