Saturday Night Live finds humor in approaching bizarre election



Taylor Malatesta

Prior to the Oct. 8 Season 42 premiere of “Saturday Night Live,” there was one question on nearly every viewers’ mind: how would SNL to handle, and find humor in, this bizarre and unpredictable presidential election? Within seconds of the episode’s commencement, viewers came to find that even in the increasingly unpredictable and absurd political climate of this year’s election, there is still one thing America can count on: SNL’s flawless ability to make light of the gravity of presidential politics.

Certainly the season opener came out swinging and took a no-holds-barred approach to this year’s presidential election.  In typical SNL fashion, the episode featured wonderfully irreverent political satire, impressions of important political figures and skits almost as bizarre as the election itself. 

Starting with a classic cold open, SNL star and Kate McKinnon, who took home her first Emmy award for her role in the popular sketch show, reprised her beloved and critically acclaimed role as Hillary Clinton. She then went head to head with Alec Baldwin flawlessly executed Donald Trump in a reenactment of the first presidential debate. 

The opening sketch perfectly embodied the absurdity of the first presidential debate and touched on all the noteworthy topics and memorable moments from debate night, including those concerning climate change, pneumonia, Trump’s sniffling, Clinton’s shimmying, taxes, broken mics, Sean Hannity, Rosie O’Donnell and more.  

Notably, the debate parody highlighted Trump’s unpreparedness and his inability to maintain calm throughout the debate, as well as his countless interruptions of Secretary Clinton throughout the evening.  Meanwhile, McKinnon’s Clinton appeared poised, prepared and perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about her apparent leg-up in the debate; at one point, after one of Trump’s nonsensical claims that Clinton and Obama took his mic to Kenya and broke it, an overwhelmed Clinton eagerly proclaimed, “I think I’m going to be president!”  The debate sketch then proceeded to poke fun at Clinton’s attempts to be relatable and unquenchable thirst for the presidency.

From the cold open, things only got more political.  Another sketch featured a presidential edition of “Family Feud,” hosted by Keenan Thompson’s Steve Harvey.  The sketch poked fun at Clinton and Trump’s closest allies and most vocal supporters.  “Team Trump” featured Trump’s daughter Ivanka, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and, most notably, Vladimir Putin, whose presence called attention in a lighthearted way to Trump’s concerning ties to the dangerous, authoritarian Russian leader.  

Meanwhile, “Team Clinton” featured Clinton’s husband Bill, “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, comedian Sarah Silverman and, embodied perfectly by the always hilarious Larry David, Senator Bernie Sanders.  The sketch managed to echoed voters’ about the election. “Senator Clinton is the prune juice of this election,” proclaimed Sanders.  “She might not seem that appetizing, but if you don’t take her now, you’re gonna be clogged with crap for a very long time.” 

Colin Jost and Michael Che echoed similar sentiments during Weekend Update. The segment entertained, while ultimately bringing viewers back to the sobering reality of the political climate and the import of this election, which is widely considered to be one of the most divisive and critical elections that this country has seen in years.  Jost started off Weekend Update by reminding viewers that, “we still have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.”  Jost then compared the candidates to cell phones, referring to Clinton as the iPhone 7, which is not necessarily an improvement and seems to have been forced on us. Meanwhile, Trump was compared to a Samsung Galaxy, which is dangerous and potentially explosive.

During Weekend Update, Jost also called attention to the oddity of the presidential debate, which was parodied earlier in the show.  Jost claimed that the debate was less sophisticated than his own high school debates, reflecting the state of disbelief that many viewers of the actual debate found themselves in following the 90-minute showdown, which seemed more like a chaos filled free-for-all than a serious presidential debate.  

In the concluding moments of Weekend Update’s election coverage, Che and Jost stressed the importance of the undecided voter.  The anchors noted that even now, after a successful debate for the democratic nominee, Clinton is still barely doing better than Trump, reminding viewers of the close nature of the election.

This pivotal election commentary served as a reminder that although this election may be fun to joke about and laugh at, this year’s election is, in fact, no laughing matter.  

While at times this election may seem like some dark, demented joke in and of itself, this is truly the reality in which we live.  And it’s scary. 

While we may inevitably find humor in this election, we cannot forget what is truly at stake.  And that is the beauty of SNL: it manages to bring an otherwise divided nation together with humor, while gently reminding us of the gravity of this election and how it has the power to shape our nation for years to come.

So, every Saturday night, between now and election day, don’t forget to laugh at the comedic genius that SNL has to offer with its political parodies, but don’t forget to take stock of the reality that fuels the comedy, either.