Last weekend my bf and I did what all couples who are truly in love do on a Saturday night before Valentine’s Day.
We rushed home to watch Saturday Night Live. What? Are you kidding me? It’s the new normal! #liberalrelationshipgoals
The political sketches were predictably glorious. McCarthy’s turbo-charged Spicer, the “Fatal Attraction” of Kellyanne. Yes, yes, yes. But the sketch that brought tears of laughter and delicious schadenfreude to my eyes? It was Leslie Jones: vulnerable, determined, eager to further her craft and embrace the role of a lifetime as our so-called “President”.
The following morning I waited with anticipation for the lampooning headlines of my favorite news outlets, the outraged tweets about “disrespectful conduct” and carefully crafted think-pieces praising SNL in general and Leslie Jones’ comic genius in particular.
There were reactions, yes. About Baldwin, about McCarthy as Spicer, about McKinnon as Kellyane. Yet it seemed unusually difficult to find any commentary about what seemed to me to be one of the most brilliant and ferocious comedy sketches in SHL history.
Were the opinion-makers put off by one of the questions asked during the sketch? “Is it like a Hamilton thing where you’re making a comment on race in politics” and Leslie’s terse response, “Nope. It’s about giving America what it wants.”
Was the skit so self-explanatory, the message so obvious that it didn’t merit discussion? If this is the case, then why did Baldwin, McCarthy and McKinnon’s sketches receive more than their fair share of praise and analysis the Sunday after?
It WAS a brilliant piece of comedy, though. From the moment the subversive realization sweeps across Leslie’s face that it’s entirely possible that SHE could replace Alec, to the hilarious mashup of 45’s own words: “Drain the swamp of tremendous … Muslims.”
Who would think it was possible to satirize so thoroughly on so many levels?
Matthew Dessem of Slate explained that the main barrier to Jones taking over from Alec was that her impersonation was “terrible“. Although his review was entirely positive and worth a read.
For me, part of the “yuge” appeal of the sketch was that Leslie’s accent was a conscious and hilarious nod to Trevor Noah’s send-up, America’s African Dictator.
The “meta-jokes” (as Dessem calls them) about racism and sexism were plentiful and poignant. At one point, Jones skewers the stereotype of strong, vocal black women as perpetually angry. She throws Lorne Michaels against the window of his SNL office screaming, “People keep casting me … as someone who YELLS!”
She goes on to prove that Leslie DO got range! The way her voice breaks as a white female cast-member passes her dressed as the President is convincingly sorrowful. “I thought you were my friend” she cries. It’s another hard dig at the racist complicity of white women “friends” in positions of privilege, executed so perfectly that we all laugh as though we’re in on the joke instead of all too often, the perpetrators or beneficiaries.
The look of lascivious pleasure she gives as she steps into the limousine beside “Melania” surely had to be enough to enrage 45 beyond belief.
And yet, *crickets* … silence from the Tweeter-in-Chief. We can hypothesize as much as we want about that, but may never know. Did he actually listen (for once) to an advisor who suggested it best to avoid comment? It seems unlikely. Did he develop a sense of humor all of a sudden? Again from what we know, unlikely.
Could it be that he knew that to respond was to confirm beyond all doubt the accusations of racism that have been leveled against him? Or could it be that he actually views an impersonation by a black female comedian as less rather than more of a threat from a white male “peer”? Could it be that his “color-blindness” extends into an actual inability to see black women (who do not conform to his standard of attractiveness)? Are people of color who dare to criticize simply invisible to him?
Is that far-fetched? Probably so, although I have given up my secret hope that this might actually force 45 to imagine just for a moment what it might be like to be black, to be Muslim, to be an immigrant, to be poor and disenfranchised in this “United” States of America. It is this sheer lack of imagination that astonishes me most of all in the man, and in his supporters.
It’s Saturday Night Live time again tonight. Of course I’m looking forward to seeing Alec Baldwin and the others do their thing. Most of all though, I’m waiting for Leslie and hoping against hope that she will continue to “give America what it wants” even though America, and Trump, for reasons that I think we can all imagine, don’t want to seem to talk about it.