SNL premiere provided a little satire

saturday night live snl
Still from NBC

Saturday Night Live returned for its 41st season last night hosted by Miley Cyrus, and there were a couple satirical highlights—none of them from Weekend Update, which was arguably the weakest segment of the premiere. The cold open this week was “A Message from Donald & Melania Trump”, in which the Republican candidate (perfectly embodied by Taran Killam), sat beside his wife Melania (Cecily Strong) to give the audience a chance to know the real Donald. But while Killam’s Donald tried to present us with the same Donald we’ve seen all year, Strong’s Melania exposed Trump’s true nature by following up everything he said with an honest clarification as though unaware she was supposed to be spinning the truth. Trump wanted to clear up the lies being said about him, like that he hates women. Melania could confirm he loves women because he always says things like, “That woman is a knockout. That woman is a ten. That woman used to be a ten, but now she’s a seven.” In regard to his beef with Megyn Kelly, Melania insisted he was actually worried about her because she was “bleeding everywhere” and needed to get to the hospital. When he laid out his tax plan, she said, “I know Donald is so smart, because I hear this and it’s a jumble of words.” And when he promised the American people that he’s just a regular Joe like them, she confirmed, “he puts his hair on one strand at a time.” Thus Melania was used almost as a straight character to Trump’s absurdity, but because she was uniformed (or too informed), she served as the vehicle for the irony in the sketch. Trump presented his inflated self, and she inadvertently aired him out by trying to build him up. This was a nice technique, because usually Trump’s own ridiculous bravado is the source of the comedy, but in this sketch it was Melania’s oblivious support for her husband that exposed the absurdity of the things that come out of his mouth.

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The other great piece of satire was the commercial parody for Abilify, a pill for people who think they can run for president. It starts as a seemingly normal commercial about mental illness from a wife worried about her husband, whose family has no history of mental illness, and who has never before exhibited such symptoms. Then the woman speaking reveals herself to be the wife of Rick Santorum. She’s followed by the wives of Mike Huckabee, and Jim Gilmore, who are all worried about their husbands. Janet Huckabee says day Mike got up in the middle of the night, “He wasn’t making any sense. He was muttering ‘Kim’s in jail, and I gotta get her out of jail, and I’m gonna be in jail. And that’s gonna make me president.'” Roxane Gilmore looks at the camera and says, “Do you see? He’s sick and he needs help.” According to the doctor, there is help, and it’s called Abilify, a medicine for people who think they can be president. “It’s the only dementia prescribed for 11 specific people.” Jim Gilmore says, “Before taking Abilify, I used to go on TV and say ‘This is how I would eradicate ISIS.’ Me! It’s like…What?!” As soon as they take the pill, they immediately snap out of their disorder. The doctor then implores, “So ask us about Abilify today, Bobby Jindal.” Relying on the established tropes of medical commercials, the ad employs a soporific tone and sentimental music that makes it real, until it’s revealed to be a send-up, not of all Republican hopefuls, but of those who have no chance of contending but have somehow deluded themselves into thinking they do.

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