“Saturday Night Live” guest host Alec Baldwin appeared as President Trump only once during the latest episode, and it was to take his displeasure with a federal court’s decision on his immigration order to a reality TV show.
“Mr. Trump, you understand that this is a TV court, right?” asked the host of “The People’s Court,” played by Cecily Strong.
“That’s okay, I’m a TV president,” Baldwin-as-Trump responded.
The episode had considerable buzz with Baldwin setting an SNL record. The actor has now hosted the show 17 times.
But Baldwin has been a constant presence this season, as his scathing Trump impersonation has elicited critiques — usually via Twitter — from the president himself, including when Trump was a nominee and the president-elect.
“I don’t think that his imitation of me gets me at all, and it’s meant to be very mean-spirited, which is very biased, and I don’t like it,” Trump told “Today” show host Matt Lauer in December.
While SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels has long insisted the late-night comedy show doesn’t take sides and always aims to lampoon whoever is president, the show has been more biting with some leaders than others. Will Ferrell portrayed President George W. Bush as a lovable idiot. Chevy Chase took a “First Klutz” approach to playing President Gerald Ford.
But Michaels has admitted that the show struggled with a take of President Barack Obama that resonated with audiences. And SNL reacted to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s loss with an emotional and entirely serious cold open.
Trump has remained publicly silent for the past week about SNL’s portrayal of him, but he was reportedly unsettled by Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of White House press secretary Sean Spicer, particularly with the cross-gender casting.
“The People’s Court” sketch was shorter and later in the episode than most of Baldwin’s other appearances as Trump. He faced off against three 9th Circuit judges “accused of letting bad hombres into this country,” the announcer said. The text scrolling below them also accused them of “I guess, knowing the Constitution …?”
Baldwin-as-Trump stated his case: “I signed a tremendous travel ban. I didn’t read it, but I signed it. People took pictures of me holding up a piece of paper. Very official. These judges have been very disrespectful. I’m right. They’re wrong. I want the ban reinstated. Also I want $725.”
He also referred to federal judges as “so-called judges” and brought out a character witness, a shirtless Russian President Vladimir Putin, played by Beck Bennett.
“Everybody, come on! Lay off President Trump,” Putin said. “This man is great friend. He is my little American happy meal. He do anything for you. He’d go against his own country just to make us happy, okay.”
In the sketch, Trump asked to settle, but the reality court judge cut him off:
“No, I won’t,” Strong, as the judge, said. “And let me just say, you are doing too much, okay? I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.”
The studio audience cheered at Strong’s remarks, which served more as a plea than a laugh line. She continued: “I just want to relax and watch the Grammys, all right? And no one has ever said that.”
Earlier in the show, McCarthy-as-Spicer said in a sketch that “if the appeals court won’t do what’s right, President Trump will see them in court, specifically, ‘The People’s Court’!”
The big question looming over the NBC show is how it will continue to portray Trump, particularly since Baldwin isn’t a cast member. Will he continue to pop up every so often? Will writers find other officials in the news to focus on, with just mentions of Trump? Saturday’s episode offered few clues — but Leslie Jones, playing herself in a prerecorded bit, tried to make the case as to why she should be the next Trump.