You missed SNL’s attempt to rescue its ratings nosedive by bringing out Alec Baldwin to play Donald Trump, didn’t you? At least with Sarah Palin, we had Tina Fey. It was a perfect storm of impression and political satire.
Last night’s SNL premiere was billed as an event. A cold opening promising the biting satire of years past.
It’ll get a chuckle, and that’s the problem with SNL’s political satire. The 2016 election has gone so far off the rails, parodies on network television are tamer than the actual event it’s trying to mock.
Thankfully, we have John Oliver and Samantha Bee. But damn if this election wasn’t tailored made for John Stewart and Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert. Not the CBS version.
What is funny is watching the mini meltdowns of Trump supporters suddenly realizing Alec Baldwin is a liberal. I’d say they are trolling, but it’s reached a point where we have to take the comments at face value.
And SNL has roasted Hillary. They have for months and did it in the sketch with the robot references and how she’s scripted. The writers are hemmed in by Donald Trump being more outrageous than they are.
Besides, Jimmy Fallon gave him a hair rub and SNL gave him a hosting slot last season. The clarion call will be it’s liberal bias at SNL. Two thoughts. One, it’s a comedy show. Two, no shit. If Youtube commenters think calling out liberal bias in an SNL skit is an insult, you haven’t been watching – ratings decline, etc. That’s why NBC trotted out Baldwin to grimace for nine minutes, and the network thanks you for the bump in ratings.
What is real is the sketch isn’t funny. Call it peak politics. Peak Trump. Peak Hillary. But damn. We all knew the election was a joke, but at least we could laugh at the absurdity of it all. Now, the laughter is gone. Whether that’s an SNL misfire or complete oversaturation, we all look at the videos and shrug now.
It’s bad when a cold opening of SNL’s season premiere only elicits a chuckle here and there. It’s supposed to be biting in its satire. Not little jabs at Hillary and listening to Alec Baldwin’s Trump say China over and over again. We got it. He repeats himself. A lot.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are Missed
While Jon Stewart leaned left, we could always count on razor sharp satire and Colbert’s over-the-top fake Fox News parody. It would have been fun to watch Colbert’s take on the internal struggles at Fox as half the anchors are essentially Trump surrogates and the others keep the lights on for the ‘News’ section.
Stewart blistering Trump and Clinton on their seemingly endless scandals and Colbert mopping it up by listening to his gut and giving us The Word.
Political Satire Exits Stage Left
How do you handle political comedy when the candidates themselves are a mockery of the system? Clinton with her baggage and whatever the hell Trump is. At first, I thought risky business move. Then he won the nomination despite overtly trying to self-sabotage. And now? Hate to be a tinfoil hat person, but damn if his meltdowns don’t smack of a long con by the Clinton camp.
Sure, the networks have Seth Meyers, an SNL alum, who goes out of his way to take down Trump during his nightly show. But that’s not what we want in satire. We want the hits to come in from all directions. Both candidates.
The monologues are spot on, but they come off as ready made Clinton ads. Say what you will about Stewart and Colbert in their prime. Whatever leanings they had politically, it was the process they took on.
Poking fun at Hillary being robotic is old hat. Donald Trump jokes lack punch because he tweets something following it that’s even more absurd.
Fixing Political Comedy
It boils down to the rehashes of Donald Trump being Donald Trump are no longer funny. We’ve seen it before. At this point, the satire is him acting calm for longer than 20 minutes. For Clinton, the scripted jokes are well known.
What made 2008 and 2012 great were the unknowns. We didn’t have three decades of jokes being rehashed.
The fix for political comedy is what comes next. Does Hillary win and we watch conservative media meltdown every day? Or does Donald Trump win and we take prop bets on MSNBC going full Jim Jones live on set? CNN? I’m waiting for Anthony Bourdain to eat a cricket. And Wolf Blitzer to be my personal walking timezone. Appreciate knowing the time in Tehran, Wolf.
It was a solid effort by SNL. But the bottom line is the comedy is gone from this election. Sad, but the reality was the public would hit peak politics, and the spectacle would be over. One more month and it’s done. We get a new president, and we’re a month closer to Rogue One. See? The glass is always half full. Even if it was made in China.