Saturday Night Live is known for it hilarious political skits; Tina Fey’s depiction of Sara Palin comes readily to mind. The show has been very successful in producing some good laughs with celebrity guests of all descriptions, including presidential candidates. Recently Kate McKinnon’s depiction on Hillary Clinton while Hillary played the bartender was really very funny. So there were great expectations when it was announced that Donald Trump had agreed to host SNL.
Those expectations produced the best ratings that the Saturday night late show has pulled in years, but by all accounts the show was actually a dud. I personally thought that Trump’s opening and his skits were at best marginally funny and at worst boring. Apparently I am not alone in that opinion:
TV critic Hank Stuever: “Donald Trump’s highly touted and almost certainly inappropriate hosting gig on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ turned out to be an anemic and halfhearted dud.”
Daniel Fienberg in The Hollywood Reporter: “As lifeless as Trump was for the majority of the show, the writers deserve every bit as much of the onus for entirely failing to work around Trump’s limitations or finding amusing things to do with the lump in the middle.”
Ken Tucker of Yahoo TV: “Turns out, this really was just a craven move for ratings. There was no attempt by Lorne Michaels and company to use Trump as a critique of himself, no moment that did not feel vetted by the candidate.”
Many critics blame both Trump and SNL for the lack of sarcastic “bite” which normally makes the show’s political skits work so well. They point to the fact that Trump’s vetoed several skit ideas which he now says “went too far”. I think what he really means that they depicted him in a negative manner too accurately. Others critics have made the claim that the SNL writers and producers craved the ratings boost so much that they were afraid to push Trump too hard into agreeing to more edgy, and therefore funnier, skits.
I think that is probably an accurate assessment, but the problem goes deeper than that and centers on the character Trump portrays daily. SNL skits portraying political candidates and office holders work because they overly emphasis the person’s traits, in essence making them into caricatures of themselves. Generally we find that funny. The problem they have with Trump is that on the campaign trail and in personal appearances before that, he has already been playing a caricature of himself for years. So on Saturday Night Live Trump, the caricature, looked remarkably like the Trump we see on TV almost every day, and that’s not funny.