Saturday Night Live has been all-in on the Trump administration this season, riding the wave to its highest ratings in 20 years (as well as a level of cultural relevancy that has only happened a few times over the course of the program's history). But even with all the Sean Spicer podium journeys and Alec Baldwin congratulations, people still bring up the albatross around SNL's neck: the dreadful 2015 episode hosted by then-candidate Donald Trump. Most people associated with the show haven't commented on the lingering resentment toward the episode, but they finally did in an extensive interview with The Hollywood Reporter this week.
"I always think it's so funny when people talk about the idea that we somehow introduced him to America or that our show or Jimmy Fallon has humanized him," Colin Jost told them. "He's been on the cover of every tabloid consistently for 30 years. When he hosted last season, the worry was, 'Would he have burned out by the time he even came to host?' That was Lorne's concern more than the concern of, 'How will this help him?'" Of course he is right about Trump being a public person and staple of tabloid covers for years—but there's a pretty huge difference between being on the back page of the NY Post and getting free air time on national television. SNL isn't a news program; it doesn't have to cover tabloid stars or give them a platform. It definitely didn't have to help Trump look cuddly and in-on-the-joke.
"People had different opinions about him being there at that time, but during that week, he was in second place in Iowa, behind Ben Carson," writer Bryan Tucker said. "He was definitely a national phenomenon, but he was not imminently going to be president."
At least Jost seems a little uncomfortable, or at the very least self-aware, of some of the contradictions: "It's been harder in the past couple of years at SNL because the culture's so fragmented," he added. "If you do a parody even of a huge show like Game of Thrones, it doesn't have the full cultural resonance of a Cheers or Friends. Whereas politics right now is probably the closest we've come to a full-blown national phenomenon as anything in a long time, and anytime people are paying more attention to politics, it's good for our show. But you almost feel like a war profiteer at times because we've benefited from a situation that's so tough."
The whole Hollywood Reporter article is worth reading, with everyone from Kate McKinnon to Chris Rock weighing in on SNL's huge season and the genesis for many of the political sketches/ideas.
Check out a few more highlights below:
- Baldwin on his Trump motivation: "They give you all the resources you need to watch and look at Trump in different tableaux: Trump somewhat off the record, Trump caught by a camera, not just Trump making a speech. But I watch and watch and I still don't know what I'm going to do. Then I get out and all I remember is, 'Just try to make him unhappy.' There are many people who do Trump now, and they have different Trumps. They have kind of a 'balls-of-his-feet-light Trump' or what I like to call 'Gene Kelly Trump.' But my Trump is 'Miserable Trump.' No matter what. He wins, he loses, he's miserable."
- Tucker on the story behind Dave Chappelle's election night sketch: "I had written for Dave 12 years ago, so I had a personal stake in trying to make that show go well because I had promised Dave that it would. The night of the election was crazy. Like most of America, I expected Hillary to win. Dave and I had even talked through some sketches with that assumption. There was a lot of talk about Trump starting his own TV network if he lost, and so one of them was a preview of what that might be like. Dave was going to play Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke, who had his own show. But by 1 a.m., it looked like Trump had won. I was watching with Leslie Jones and Dave. A lot of people in the office were shocked, many were upset, but Dave and Leslie just kind of shrugged. They were like, 'That's what happens.' That attitude was the inspiration for the election night sketch. [Poking fun at overconfident Hillary supporters, surprise guest Chris Rock cautioned white liberals against celebrating too early.]"
- Aziz Ansari on the monologue joke he cut from his post-inauguration episode: 'The inauguration was that Friday, and the mood was so dark, like a national tragedy had happened. All I could think was, 'How are we going to do this tomorrow?' Then the next day the Women's March happened, and it changed everything. I had to change my monologue because I'd opened the whole thing with this joke that no longer made sense. It was something like, 'I know everyone's upset but let's look at the bright side: there's a huge group of people who are motivated to take action, they're ready to do something. Well, to an extent.' Have you ever been to these brunches where people are like, 'Guys, we've got to get out there and do something. What should we do?' And you go, 'Well, you can get involved with state and local government, you can start working with organizations like the ACLU...' 'Whoa, whoa, woah, I'm not doing any of that. Is there any way I can make a difference just by complaining at bunch?' But on that Saturday, we couldn't do that joke anymore because people were out there doing something."
- Melissa McCarthy came up with Kristen Stewart's monologue idea: "Back in February, I was on a plane with Kristen [Stewart] — she was coming out to host SNL; I was coming out to shoot a movie. She has a reputation for not loving to be interviewed, which I think becomes very funny, so I shamelessly pitched her [this monologue idea where she's] doing the worst opening ever."
- McCarthy on the first time she portrayed Spicer: "I was so nervous that first time. It was very quiet at first, and I'm thinking, 'The audience is already turning before they even know what's going on.' There was this weird, great delay, and first people figure out it's Spicer and then they figure out it's me. You could just feel it in the room. And then I get off, and I have all of these texts, like 'Oh, my God, are you looking at what's happening?' I didn't quite know what to do with the reaction."
- Leslie Jones on playing Trump: "Most political stuff I try to stay away from, but the black Trump sketch was [an exception]. One night I was imitating Trump with Kenan [Thompson] and I was like, 'I think I want to be Trump.' He said I should write it. It was really about getting the look down — they made me my own Trump wig and eyebrows — and then a couple of his phrases. I just thought it'd be funny because it's like everybody else was playing him, but I'd never seen anyone play him who's black. And a black woman playing him would be hilarious and probably just piss him off really bad."
- Jones also on why the show didn't bring in Rosie O'Donnell to play Steve Bannon: "I asked Lorne, 'How come y'all aren't bringing Rosie O'Donnell in [to play Bannon, per her plea on Twitter] or any of them to do it?' And he was like, 'When you're playing a character, you can't play it from hate. You have to play it from funny, because when you play it from hate, it looks like you're just being mean.' I love Rosie to death, but he might have been right on that one."
- Baldwin on whether he'll play Trump in the future: "People talk now about getting Trump removed or impeached. It's going to be impossible with the Republican Congress in place. Maybe that will ramp up if they lose the midterms? Look, I'd love to keep doing this per my availability, but I have other things I'm going to do, so I guess we'll figure it out. If I'm doing a film [a Lamborghini biopic opposite Antonio Banderas] in Rome in the fall, you can bet I'm going to be on a satellite from Rome doing Trump. (In Trump's voice) 'We're going to tear down the Pantheon. These paintings all gotta go. They're disgusting. By the way, this place is filled with Italians. Italy is wall to wall Italians.' I have a lot of things I'm supposed to do. I'm sure Lorne will find ways to kill them. He'll call the producer: 'You know he can't kiss his wife in the scene because of that disease he has.' (Laughs.)"
SNL will close out their 42nd season this coming weekend—The Rock is hosting with musical guest Katy Perry.