“Saturday Night Live” (SNL) captures the zeitgeist like no other, satirizing politics since its inception in the 1970s. And since embarking on his campaign and eventual presidency, President Donald Trump has provided an avalanche of material to the crew of SNL.
As the sun sets on Trump’s presidency, here’s a look back at the highlight sketches during his time in office.
“Melanianade” (October 2016)
In the months leading up to the 2016 election, allegations of sexual misconduct plagued Trump’s campaign. On the heels of Beyoncé’s viral “Lemonade” visual album, SNL flipped the script. In a parody of album track “Sorry,” the women in Trump’s life air out their grievances.
The pitch-perfect parody and exceptional cinematography make “Melanianade” a standout sketch. The witty lyrical rewrites elevate the sketch to greatness. Cecily Strong’s Melania Trump and Vanessa Bayer’s Tiffany Trump are highlight impersonations of the modern era and make it all the more memorable.
Easter eggs from the campaign, including a reference to Melania’s allegedly stolen speech from Michelle Obama, add timely fun to the sketch. Even four years later, it’s held up remarkably, encapsulating the cultural sentiment toward the controversial president.
“Leslie Wants To Play Trump” (February 2017)
SNL likes to get meta in the modern era with sketches featuring heightened-versions of the cast members. “Leslie Wants To Play Trump” has cast member Leslie Jones vying to take over Alec Baldwin’s role of Donald Trump.
The overdramatics make for great laughs. Fake cast dynamics add to the sketch for a self-aware in-joke. And ultimately, the Baldwin Trump persona got old rather quickly, so maybe SNL should have thrown caution to the wind and let Jones don the role.
“Anderson Cooper 360” (February 2017)
Cable news in the Trump era evolved into a cultural phenomenon that led to public vitriol and idolization. CNN’s newsroom has often taken a more liberal spin, regularly criticizing the president. SNL’s “Anderson Cooper 360” sketch satirizes this repetitive news cycle by poking jabs at its predictable nature.
For those who find SNL too one-sided in its politics, this sketch hops onto the other side to examine CNN’s shortcomings. The caricatured talk show pundits increasingly growing in monotony will land with anyone who watched a heavy chunk of cable news during the purgatory that was election week.
“Complicit” (March 2017)
The entire Trump dynasty has cultivated roles in his staff. SNL didn’t hold back on eldest daughter Ivanka with this scathing perfume ad parody.
Scarlett Johannsen dons the role of Ivanka, playing her as elegant and sophisticated. An expertly cadenced narration by Cecily Strong drags Ivanka effortlessly. The sketch is summed up with this line, “She’s a feminist. An advocate. A champion for women. But, like, how?”
A strong mix of comedy and politics carries “Complicit” to signature status. Ivanka allegedly loathed the sketch, which is amusing to keep in mind while watching, regardless of one’s opinion of her.
“Customer Service” (October 2017)
Most SNL sketches are simple and cute, providing chuckles and mild distraction. “Customer Service” hops off that track, mirroring an indie award-bait movie. As Melania Trump (Cecily Strong) builds a platonic connection with an overseas customer service agent (Kumail Nanjani), her layers are peeled back.
The commitment to the hyper-serious, artistic nature makes it all the funnier. It’s a beautifully strange sketch that stands tall for its random and unnecessary introspective study on Melania.
“Kellywise” (October 2017)
The revolving door of team Trump produced many viral characters for SNL, none more so than Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway. After the release of “IT” (2017), SNL decided to parody the film with a political send-up.
The sketch features an appearance from Mckinnon’s Hillary Clinton impersonation too. Smart commentary and truly stunning production value lead “Kellywise” to be the definitive Trump-aid sketch. With so many boisterous characters fighting for time in sensationalist headlines, Conway stood out thanks to Mckinnon’s inspired impersonation.
“Them Trumps” (December 2018)
What if Donald Trump was Black? That’s the question asked by “Them Trumps,” a sketch emulating FOX’s hit drama “Empire” to parody Trump’s White House.
“Them Trumps” is light fun and captures the atmosphere of a primetime drama incredibly. The renamed characters (shout out to L’evanka) add to the joke. It’s a unique satire on the Trump presidency that has remained fresh. Unlike many political sketches, which rely on repeating flashy news moments for quick laughs, “Them Trumps” gets creative with critiquing Trump.
The breakneck pacing sells the sketch immensely well. SNL should invest in a true full-length episode to cap off the presidency. What better way to say farewell to Trump could there be?
“Enough is Enough” (October 2020)
Heightened socio-political sentiment during the Trump presidency had many celebrities speaking out on political matters. “Enough is Enough” pokes fun at the vague, pointless statements many celebrities have made.
Beck Bennett plays a wannabe famewhore with ease and sells the role. Little jokes such as the reference to a Nintendo streaming service add to the ridiculousness of the sketch and make it a treat. The satirization of faux-woke celebrity culture provides a great source of humor. Conservative and liberal people may have their differences, but no one likes a moody, black-and-white “deep” Instagram post for attention — that’s certain.
Now that America has voted against a second term, perhaps Benji from the hit show “The Buddies” on Nintendo TV can take credit for leading that cause. Maybe he threw the first proverbial rock at this Stonewall. If there’s one thing this sketch implies, it’s that Benji certainly would think that.