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SNL imagines the Biden administration’s meeting with TikTok stars for help with Ukraine effort

From left, Chloe Fineman, Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, James Austin Johnson (as President Biden) and Kate McKinnon (as Jen Psaki) during the White House TilkTok meeting cold open sketch on the March 12 episode of “Saturday Night Live.” (Will Heath/NBC)
4 min

For the third week running, “Saturday Night Live” kept its sights on Ukraine in the cold open, this time finding the Biden administration in its crosshairs.

On Friday, The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz reported that the White House briefed 30 top TikTok stars about the war in Ukraine, in hopes of disseminating information to a younger generation that turns to the social media platform for the news. “We recognize this is a critically important avenue in the way the American public is finding out about the latest,” Rob Flaherty, the White House director of digital strategy, said at the meeting, “so we wanted to make sure you had the latest information from an authoritative source.”

The White House is briefing TikTok stars about the war in Ukraine

Such a meeting might sound like an SNL sketch, and the show wasted no time imagining it. Featured player James Austin Johnson, who appeared as former president Donald Trump in last week’s cold open, portrays an increasingly bewildered President Biden who refers to himself as “the landline of presidents.” He’s thankful to press secretary Jen Psaki for “having the vision to set this up.”

“I suggested it as a joke, but then it actually happened,” says Kate McKinnon’s Psaki.

Among the TikTokers gathered at SNL’s version of the White House is an actress from the CW named Actress From the CW, who wants to fight the Russians with poetry, a reference to a viral video made by “90210” actress AnnaLynne McCord in which she recites an original poem bemoaning the fact that she wasn’t Vladimir Putin’s mother. She, you see, would have shown him the love and affection he required to not invade Ukraine. (The line between reality and comedy feels like a blurry one this week.)

Also in attendance are a member of the Boo-Boo Boys, a rapper and prankster who “lives in the Cringe House with One-Neck Kevin and Dumbass Larry” and wants to push Putin down a flight of stairs; a 12-year-girl who does “silly animal makeup for kids” and turns out to be alt-right; and singer Jason Derulo, who seems to be incapable of saying (well, singing) anything but his own name.

Perhaps the most confused person at the meeting isn’t Austin’s Biden, but Kenan Thompson’s Charles F. D’Amelio. Sporting a Pittsburgh Steelers beanie and a bemused smile, he explains, “I’m a roofer from Pittsburgh. … I suspect you may have confused me for Charli D’Amelio, the 17-year-old girl with 130 million followers on TikTok.”

Charli D’Amelio is TikTok’s biggest star. She has no idea why.

As the meeting begins winding down, suddenly appears Bowen Yang, playing a 55-year-old TikToker who “does a bunch of insane tricks using the toilet plunger stuck to my nipples.” And, indeed, he’s shirtless … with a toilet plunger stuck to one of his nipples. But he will be taken seriously.

“The idea of asking TikTok stars how to fight Russia might sound like a joke, but, remember, they said the same thing about the radio in World War II. Never underestimate the importance of new technology, and how it reaches young people in ways you can never understand,” he says. “TikTok isn’t some childish gimmick. It has more power and more influence than the nightly news.”

As Yang gives his impassioned speech, the camera slowly zooms in on that plunger, until nothing else is in the frame.

Once again, the episode proceeded to avoid the war in Ukraine until the “Weekend Update” segment. “Russia has passed a fake-news law that makes it illegal for any organization to report information that contradicts what the government says. Which explains the recent headline, ‘6-Foot-5 Putin Not Insane,’” jokes co-anchor Colin Jost, who adds that he’s considering “marching down to the nearest Army enlistment office and signing [Michael] Che up.”

“After the U.S. ban on Russian oil, gas prices hit a record high of $4.30 a gallon. Which is so expensive that, America, we might have to move back in with our ex,” quips co-anchor Che as a graphic showing Iraq and the words “U.S. invades Iraq again” appear on screen. “Come on Iraq, you know we never stopped loving you, baby.”

“Russia has responded to sanctions by banning the export of Russian-made cars,” he adds. “But a Russian-made car is just a drunk bear on roller skates.”