“Saturday Night Live” (SNL) premiered it’s 46th season impeccably timed to feature Hurricane Biden V. Trump as it’s cold open. The show’s first live broadcast, after a 6-month break spurred on by COVID-19, did not fail to amuse. Alec Baldwin reprised his role as Donald Trump while the wacky Jim Carrey starred as Joe Biden during the skit. From Baldwin’s constant interruptions and Carrey’s depiction of what can only be interpreted as Biden’s internal struggle to keep composure, the performance certainly captured the disaster of the first Presidential Debate between Biden and Trump.
“Now let’s get this show on the road and off the rails,” Baldwin said.
A statement that Trump should have opened with in order to warn viewers of the tragedy that was about to take place, and a quote from Baldwin with a hilarious sense of irony.
Faithful to the source material, Baldwin continued to clash with both Carrey and Beck Bennet, who played hapless moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. Carrey breathed life into what can be considered the inner thoughts of Biden during the debate as he was nagged by Trump.
“Don’t let your inner Whitey Bulger come out,” Biden told himself, “just flash that smile they taught you in anger management.”
Carrey failed to effectively land the now-iconic line “will you shut up man”, which was followed by ingenuine applause. The delivery felt very forced, and unnatural compared to the rest of the performance.
As the two men continued to butt heads, Bennett, in response to Baldwin’s blustering, dropped a line that flawlessly describes Wallace’s performance as a moderator in a nutshell.
“Mr. President, if you keep interrupting this debate, I’ll do absolutely nothing about it,” Bennett said.
Unfortunately, the sketch failed to move past Trump’s interruptions during the debate, and Biden’s forced smiles and head shakes, showing that the writers were uncertain on how the act should continue beyond those two tropes. However, in SNL fashion, the act decided to go beyond just the two Presidential candidates and satire allies from both campaigns.
Carrey added a comical bit where he listened to a meditation tape of Harry Styles describing a beach scene in a soothing tone. In contrast, Baldwin whips his own meditation tape which features Cecily Strong as Kimberly Guilfoyle shouting Trump propaganda parodying Guilfoyle’s speech from the national convention. Strong’s boisterous approach towards her role makes it difficult to distinguish Guilfoyle herself from the actress.
“For freedom and liberty and the American dream,” Strong screamed, “The best is yet to come.”
The bit ended with Strong screaming in a manner that can only be interpreted as a deranged warcry, lampooning Guilfoyle’s blaring tone. Both Strong and Guilfoyle’s speech personifies the act of writing a speech with caps-lock on.
SNL’s sendup of the debate also featured Maya Rudolph playing Senator Kamala Harris as a mother chastising her two sons after disrupting their little playground brawl. Rudolph commanded Baldwin to apologize to Carrey and even told them both that she had PB&J sandwiches paired with apple slices ready for them after the debate. Rudolph’s brief appearance as an admonishing motherly Harris gives a sense of comical ridiculousness that a world amidst a pandemic would greatly find comfort in.
“Now where the hell is my martini,” Rudolph exclaimed as she exited.
Something that probably entered the mind of many viewers who sat through the entirety of last Tuesday’s debate.
Baldwin’s performance as Trump brought back all of his hilarious tropes, from the classic constant pouted mouth to the slight slurring in his speech mocking Trump’s own voice. Carrey as Biden was a spectacle to watch with his performance featuring an amazing range of facial expressions and signature body tics present in his other characters. Rudolph’s own portrayal of Harris feels way more charismatic than the Senator herself, almost to the point Rudolph herself could step into the running mate’s shoes.
SNL’s cold open return to live TV shows that they still maintain the same strengths and weaknesses when performing political satire. The performance could have been improved if the writers chose to spare room to attack Trump’s ‘arguments’ from the original debate rather than focusing on mocking their mannerisms. SNL only delves into the superficial layer when it comes to politics while excelling at writing sketches with their own original spin, that succeeds at bringing out laughs.