When you look at the celebrities that showrunner Lorne Michaels has selected to host “Saturday Night Live” in the past, it becomes painfully obvious that comedic skill is far from a deciding factor. From Paris Hilton to Michael Phelps, the show has aired many horrifically unfunny episodes over the years because its host was ill equipped to deliver laughs.
But ratings are king, so “SNL” continues to make hosting choices with viewership in mind. Last weekend, controversial GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was tabbed as host, and he presided over one of the worst episodes in a very long time.
The show began innocuously, lampooning the Democratic candidates lightly as Larry David returned to play Bernie Sanders. Trump’s monologue was not that painful either, as he delivered harmful jokes alongside Taran Killam and Darrell Hammond, who were both impersonating him.
However, the first live sketch may have been the worst thing that “SNL” has ever aired. The sketch, which took place in the White House in 2018, imagined a Trump-led America in which his campaign trail rhetoric had cured all of the government’s ills and created a perfect country. It was not satirical, it was not biting and it was certainly not funny. The complete lack of audience response made the entire debacle absolutely excruciating to watch.
If the White House sketch was the worst thing that “SNL” has ever aired, the following ‘tweeting’ sketch was a close second.
After announcing pre-sketch that he would sit this one out (presumably to help skirt equal time requirements for presidential candidates), Trump made impossibly unfunny “live tweets” of the ensuing restaurant scene that appeared onscreen to openly make fun of the cast members performing on stage.
If that sounded horrendous in print, you will not believe how painful it was to experience with both eyes and ears. All copies of the previous two sketches should be removed from the Internet, physically destroyed and thrown into a landfill. I feel bad that the “SNL” cast members were forced to partake in their existence.
The show never dipped to this level again in its remaining runtime, but believe me, it tried. The ‘Weekend Update’ segment was weak, hysterical recurring characters came out flat and the typically stellar pre-taped segments were not at their usual level. A surprisingly enjoyable “Hotline Bling” parody gave Trump the platform to deliver his only laugh of the night, as he attempted to mimic Drake’s off-kilter dance moves.
Look, we already know that “SNL” got what it came for: last weekend’s episode scored the highest overnight ratings for the show since January 2012.
However, the stink of this episode could hurt the show down the road. Many, many new viewers turned into NBC to watch Donald Trump, and I’m guessing that almost all of them left worrying about what “SNL” had turned into.
As for long-time viewers, we know that “SNL” can be funny, but episodes like this one make it fair to ask how committed the show is to its comedy. If you’re going to have Donald Trump host the show, at least have a few ideas in mind.
Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.