NEW YORK, Dec 19 — Though there is still a week until Christmas, Saturday Night Live has already seized the opportunity to leave a lump of coal in the stocking of President-elect Donald Trump.
In its final episode of 2016, SNL, the sketch series and enduring thorn in Trump’s side, began with a cold open on Saturday that went hard at some sensitive spots for the president-elect: His relationship to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, his courtship of Melania Trump, and some of his recent gaffes and Cabinet nominations. The show all but dared Trump to respond on his Twitter account, but he did not immediately do so.
The opening sketch once again featured Alec Baldwin as Trump and Kate McKinnon as his senior adviser Kellyanne Conway. It began with him revealing that he had chosen Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, to be secretary of energy after seeing him on Dancing With the Stars.
“This guy has so much energy,” Baldwin said as Trump. “It’s just unpresidented.” (The malapropism was a reference to a tweet Trump had posted on Saturday morning, in which he wrote “unpresidented,” which he then deleted and replaced with the correct word, “unprecedented.”)
A bare-chested Putin (played by SNL cast member Beck Bennett) soon came down the chimney with a Santa sack. He profusely flattered Trump as “the best candidate” and “the smartest candidate” — and “the Manchurian candidate,” implying Trump was an unwitting Russian puppet.
“I don’t know what that means, but it sounds tremendous,” the Trump character said.
The Putin character then gave Trump an “Elf on the Shelf” toy — and instructed him to keep it next to his internet router all year long.
“Vladimir, I’m sorry, but I didn’t know you were coming, so I do not have a gift for you,” the Trump character said.
“Please, Mr Trump, you are the gift,” the Russian leader replied.
Melania Trump (played by Cecily Strong) interrupted to express concern that Putin and her husband were becoming too cosy.
“If a person you did not know came from a foreign country and just started flattering you, what would you do?” she asked.
Baldwin’s Trump responded, “Marry them.” (Melania Trump was born in Slovenia.)
Appearing moments later was Rex W. Tillerson (John Goodman, the frequent SNL host and guest star), chief executive of Exxon Mobil and Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. He quickly huddled with Putin to review some plans for oil drilling, excluding Trump from their discussions.
“What are you guys talking about?” the president-elect said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Putin said dismissively.
Still, Baldwin’s Trump tried to inject himself into the conversation. “And then we destroy Vanity Fair, right?” he asked. “Speaking of black and crude, I know Kanye,” a reference to his real-life meeting with Kanye West last week.
Trump, who hosted Saturday Night Live in November 2015 while still vying for the Republican presidential nomination, has lashed out at the programme in recent weeks amid its steady caricatures of him. In Twitter posts, he has called it a “boring and unfunny show” and said that Baldwin’s portrayal of him “stinks.”
During the show’s December 3 broadcast, which began with a sketch that satirised his Twitter habit, Trump tweeted, “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live — unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad.”
Later that week, in an interview with NBC’s Today show, Trump expanded on his criticism.
“I hosted SNL when it was a good show, but it’s not a good show anymore,” he said. “Nothing to do with me, there’s nothing funny about it. The skits are terrible.”
He added that he liked Baldwin but “his imitation of me is really mean-spirited and not very good.”
Earlier on Saturday, Baldwin let it be known that he would be returning to SNL to mock Trump, tweeting a photo of himself in his Trump hair and makeup, as well as a tweet that said, “I won’t apple-agize.” (Another apparent reference to Trump’s use of “unpresidented.”)
Lorne Michaels, creator and executive producer of SNL, has not directly addressed Trump’s criticisms. In a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, Michaels said he believes the show speaks to a wide range of political affiliations. “We’ve actually tried to make SNL a safe space across the political spectrum,” Michaels said.
As of early yesterday, Trump had not tweeted about the latest SNL episode. — The New York Times