“Saturday Night Live” trained its sights on Jussie Smollett, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the cadre of legal personalities that dominate cable news in the Trump era, all in one skit titled “Legal Shark Tank.”
Unlike the ABC television show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs pitch products and business ideas to high-profile investors, “Legal Shark Tank” features embattled public figures who pitch their cases to celebrity lawyers. The “legal sharks,” Michael Avenatti (Pete Davidson), Jeanine Pirro (Cecily Strong), Alan Dershowitz (the night’s host, John Mulaney) and Rudolph W. Giuliani (a reprisal by Kate McKinnon), were looking for new clients after representing real-life characters such as Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels. Cellino and Barnes, a pair of personal injury lawyers with a catchy jingle, were also eager for clients.
The legal sharks were receptive to the case of Kraft, who has been charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor in Florida. (Kraft has pleaded not guilty to the charges.)
But it was the second “Legal Shark Tank” contestant, Jussie Smollett, played by Chris Redd, who earned the biggest groans from the audience.
In the SNL sketch, Smollett, as embodied by Redd, greets the judges by saying, “You won’t believe this, but I was just attacked outside the studio by Donald Trump himself!”
“Jussie? Is that true?” asks Mulaney’s Dershowitz.
“Are there cameras outside? Then no, it is not!” Smollett says.
In real life, the “Empire” actor has been accused by prosecutors of paying two men to stage a racist and homophobic attack that Smollett then claimed was a hate crime. Smollett’s lawyers deny he played a role.
When news of the attack first broke, Smollett received an outpouring of support, but as Chicago police investigated further and details about the incident emerged that supported the possibility of a hoax, public opinion turned on the actor. Smollett has been charged with felony disorderly conduct, and he was removed from the final two episodes of this season of “Empire.”
“I broke humanity,” Smollett says in the SNL sketch. “But if you take my case, I’m offering spoilers for the next season of ‘Empire.’ I die.”
Dershowitz was game, but Cellino and Barnes, the personal injury attorneys, wouldn’t touch it.