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On November 7, 2015, Donald Trump hosted the iconic American skit show Saturday Night Live (SNL) for his second time. Exactly one year and one day after, on November 8, 2016, Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States — a shock result for an election that seemed in the bag for his opponent until the very last minute. Throughout his campaign and, indeed, his entire career, Trump has enjoyed his position as a divisive ‘popular’ figure. Sure, he was hated by most of the liberal world but we could say “fuck off” and actually make him do that by simply turning off the television or exiting his Twitter profile. Now one of the most powerful positions in the western world is held by a reality television star, and not even one of the good ones. How did we go from 2011’s “Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump” to 2017’s Donald Trump Roast of America’s Civil Rights and Constitution?
Lorne Michaels created SNL in 1975 and since then it has been an enduring staple of American television and culture. Currently in its 42nd season, it’s hard to find an SNL alumni who hasn’t gone on to feature heavily in mainstream American comedy. The show has birthed many careers since its inception, including Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Jimmy Fallon. There was no way SNL could ever function without inclusion of the country’s current political climate but in order to maintain success it had to make sure not to make camp with either the Democrats or Republicans. Showrunner Michaels has stated that it’s easier to make fun of Republicans than Democrats while remaining bipartisan, but it’s become clear that this has created tension in recent years. When Donald Trump was announced as host for the November ‘15 episode there was immediate backlash — claims of humanising a man who had no intention of relating to anyone on a human level himself. The episode was awkward and stilted and it was apparent Trump had demanded limitations on the jokes. After the episode, cast members gave interviews recapping their experience filming with him. Cast member Pete Davidson, in particular, has been extremely vocal in describing Trump’s lack of humour and understanding of the culture of SNL. Davidson has also expressed personal displeasure in having to work with a man he saw as an unrelenting bigot.
Despite holding power over an entire nation, Trump has made it clear from his Twitter rants (from his @realDonaldTrump account — the account he prefers to use as it has more followers than @POTUS) that he cannot tear himself away from his television come 11:30pm, Saturday night. In particular, he loathes Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him — a smug, ignorant, racist, power-hungry maniac — and to everyone but Trump this rings true. His current White House Chief Strategist and personal assistant is simply portrayed as the Grim Reaper. Since Trump’s election almost every single host has addressed the now President of the United States personally: Aziz Ansari begged for acceptance of people of colour within America, while Kristen Stewart mocked Trump for his previous obsession with her relationship with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson.
At this point SNL finds itself in a strange position; it seems crass to make light of a man who for all intents and purposes is a neo-Nazi and who intends to create a modern civil war in America, but it seems absolutely delightful that a comedy skit show has the full attention of the President of the United States. Trump is a man with an ego so fragile the humour doesn’t even have to be intelligent, it just has to piss him off. With a cast that has become increasingly more diverse since its inception, and with the frankness that comes with hosting comedians, it’s only a matter of time before the show itself becomes controversial — but with a President whose skin is so thin it’s increasingly easy to push his buttons. As long as SNL continues, and as long as Trump maintains his position before his eventual impeachment (fingers crossed), the hosts and cast members will hopefully continue to antagonise him and humour us through admittedly one of the darkest moments of modern day politics.