Two days after Donald J. Trump was indicted in New York, marking the first time that a U.S. president, sitting or former, has faced criminal charges, “Saturday Night Live” envisioned Trump going to unusual lengths to pay for his legal defense by selling his own album of musical covers.
“S.N.L.” also used its Weekend Update news segment to lampoon Trump’s legal predicament, as well as the reactions of his political supporters and rivals.
This week’s broadcast, which was hosted by Quinta Brunson and featured the musical guest Lil Yachty, began with the show’s resident Trump impersonator, James Austin Johnson, addressing the audience directly.
“Well, folks, it happened,” Johnson said as Trump. “I got indicted. Or as I spell it, indicated. Frankly, it’s time that I come clean. Admit that I broke the law and go quietly to prison.”
He quickly added: “April Fool’s! That was a prank. I was doing a Jim from ‘Office.’”
Johnson went on to pitch a satirical album titled “Now That’s What I Call My Legal Defense Fund,” purporting to offer his versions of hit pop songs.
“I didn’t even sleep with Stormy Daniels, but in many ways I did,” Johnson said. “And isn’t it ironic that the first time I actually pay someone, they try to send me to jail?” He then sang a few bars of “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette.
Later in the show, on Weekend Update, the anchor Colin Jost began the segment by announcing what he said was “great news for conservatives: New York Is finally cracking down on crime.”
He continued, “Former President Donald Trump was indicted for his role in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. And the trial will be like a Stormy Daniels movie, because I’m deeply ashamed at how excited I am to watch it.”
Given the unprecedented nature of the news events, there’s no exact blueprint for “S.N.L.” to follow here. The show made its debut a year after Nixon’s resignation, and in the time since, it has variously capitalized on or discounted other executive controversies depending on how near to airtime they occurred, as well as other factors in the cultural mix.
In a Jan. 9, 1999, broadcast that aired a couple of weeks after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Clinton, “S.N.L.” opened with a sketch that lampooned two Republican lawmakers who lost their posts during Clinton’s deepening sex scandal.
In the sketch, Bob Livingston (Will Ferrell) and Newt Gingrich (Chris Parnell) meet at a bar and commiserate. “He lies about it, under oath,” Parnell laments. “Then we prosecute him and he’s still in the White House and we lose our jobs.”
On that show’s Weekend Update, then-anchor Colin Quinn joked that Clinton should attend his own impeachment trial projecting confidence, “with a big-haired, tube-topped Ponderosa waitress with a Marlboro menthol hanging out of her mouth, just like, ‘Hey, what’s up, boys? Heard you talking about me. You don’t take me down — I take you down.’”
Two decades later, in the first “S.N.L.” broadcast that followed the House’s vote to impeach President Trump for the first time, the show was more focused on the return of Eddie Murphy, a cast alumnus who had returned to host.
That episode, on Dec. 21, 2019, opened with a parody of a Democratic presidential debate. On Weekend Update, Colin Jost delivered a somewhat time-sensitive joke about then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to not transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“Now we’re all in this weird limbo where no one knows exactly what’s going on,” Jost said. “There’s this cast of wild characters making fools of themselves, and everyone is thinking, please God, just let this end. So basically, it’s ‘Cats.’” (Again, it was 2019.)
Both the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the House vote to impeach Trump for the second time took place during an “S.N.L.” hiatus. When the show returned on Jan. 30 of that year, Jost remarked on how distant these events already seemed in topical-comedy time.
“Well, guys, a lot has happened since our last show,” he said on Weekend Update. “Some of it was good. The inauguration, that was nice. Christmas, I liked Christmas, and hey, now the terrorist watch list includes white people. So yay for diversity. Yay for diversity, it’s important to see yourself represented.”
In this week’s opening sketch, Johnson sang duets with Don King (Kenan Thompson), Afroman (Devon Walker) and Donald Trump Jr. (Mikey Day). He went on to tell the audience, “Folks, if they can come for me, they can come for you too. Or in the case of Jan. 6, they can come for you and not for me. I like that one a little bit better.”
Opening monologue of the week
Brunson, the creator and star of “Abbott Elementary,” used her first-ever “S.N.L.” monologue to take some apt potshots at “Friends” (“Instead of being about a group of friends, it’s about a group of teachers,” she said. “And instead of New York, it’s in Philadelphia. And instead of not having Black people, it does.”)
Though Brunson lamented the fact that she’s now expected to solve any problems that come up in public schools, she also praised real-life teachers including her mother with a video assist from “my friend Barack,” also known as former President Obama.
Fake commercial of the week
At a time when true-crime documentaries about cults are providing the foundation of nearly every streaming TV library, “S.N.L.” added its own entry to this seemingly limitless trend.
This fake filmed ad for a would-be Netflix mini-series chronicles another arcane American institution that demands total loyalty from its participants: being a bridesmaid. The ritual is described by talking heads played by Brunson, Heidi Gardner, Ego Nwodim and Sarah Sherman, who looks especially horrified as she recounts how a single text from a maid of honor — ending with a sparkle emoji — was enough to compel her to sell her car.
Weekend Update jokes of the week
After rebounding from an April Fool’s prank in which Che had told the “S.N.L.” studio audience not to laugh at Jost’s jokes, the anchors continued to riff on the political response to a shooting attack at a Christian elementary school in Nashville.
In the wake of the Nashville shooting, President Biden once again called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban. Or, hear me out, Stop-and-Frisk for whites.
Congressman Andy Ogles, who represents the district where the Nashville shooting took place, is being criticized for a Christmas card where he and his family are holding assault rifles. OK, even putting aside mass shooting, who are you psychos sending these cards to? If I received that in the mail, I would move. All that card tells you is, “I’m armed, I have terrible judgment and I know where you live.”
Weekend Update desk character of the week
Following the news that the principal of a charter school in Florida was forced to resign after students there were shown Michelangelo’s David during a lesson on Renaissance art, Michael Longfellow could have responded in any number of ways.
He could have appeared on Weekend Update playing an aggrieved parent or a student from the school. But instead, he chose to play David — not the biblical figure but the statue itself, for which Longfellow proudly went bare-chested with his face and body painted a marbly white. We applaud his commitment to the bit and we hope the coloring washes off in the shower.
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