She didn’t just imitate a real-life person — McCarthy embodied an outrageous character so effectively that, judging by the studio audience’s delayed reaction at her presence, she was unrecognizable at first.
McCarthy yelled. She chugged gum by the mouthful. She shifted her eyes and gesticulated wildly and went through a rapid-fire series of props to punctuate the press secretary’s point about President Trump’s refugee executive order.
“Settle down, settle down, settle down!” she yelled. “Before we begin, I know that myself and the press have gotten off to a rocky start.”
“All right, all right, all right!” she continued. “When I say rocky, I mean in the sense of ‘Rocky’ the movie because I came out here to punch you in the face, and also I don’t talk so good.”
She continued, telling reporters: “I’d like to begin by apologizing, on behalf of you, to me.”
Her Spicer character described Trump’s Supreme Court pick announcement: “When he entered the room, the crowd greeted him with a standing ovation, which lasted a full 15 minutes. And you check the tape on that. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was happy.”
At one point, McCarthy-as-Spicer called out New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush (played by Bobby Moynihan) who asked “about the travel ban on Muslims.”
“It’s not a ban. The travel ban is not a ban, which makes it not a ban,” Spicer responds.
McCarthy’s character even aimed a Super Soaker filled with soapy water at a reporter to “wash that filthy lie out of your mouth,” she told him.
On Twitter, chatter about the Spicer sketch overtook talk of Alec Baldwin as Trump during the cold open, which typically is the most high-profile moment of any SNL episode (especially since real-life Trump has publicly denounced Baldwin’s take in the past).
Even host Kristen Stewart’s slip of an expletive during Saturday’s opening monologue became a blip after McCarthy’s appearance.
Comedians tweeted they saw a master at work. Journalists took particular delight at having their world lampooned. Critics raved about the best sketch in ages.
It’s no wonder that McCarthy did such a fine job as Spicer. She’s an SNL veteran who has hosted the show four times. Each appearance earned her an Emmy nomination.
Maybe it’s time for a fifth?