In the cold open for the season finale of “Saturday Night Live,” the “Trump administration” bid farewell, as Alec Baldwin and other cast members sang a mournful “Hallelujah” around the piano.
After that, another duo stepped in to fill the political void. Sort of.
Actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who was hosting the show for a fifth time, made a dramatic announcement in his opening monologue: He was putting the persistent rumors — some fueled by his own statements — to rest “once and for all.”
“Starting tonight, I am running for the president of the United States!” Johnson thundered, to applause.
He had even chosen a running mate, he joked.
Tom Hanks stepped onto the stage and feigned embarrassment as the audience cheered his surprise appearance.
“Dwayne, Dwayne, Dwayne, I could not possibly … turn this down!” Hanks said. “I’ll do it!”
With subtle digs at Trump, the two discussed why they would be “unstoppable” candidates. Johnson mused that he would have never considered running for president in the past because he didn’t think he was qualified.
“But now I’m actually worried that I’m too qualified,” he said.
“The truth is, America needs us,” Hanks said. “No one can seem to agree on anything anymore, except for two things.”
“Pizza,” Johnson said, “and us!”
The pair also pondered their universal likability: Hanks noted that he had been in two movies in which the plane crashes — “and people are still excited to see me on their flight.” Meanwhile, Johnson said he once ran a red light; the traffic camera footage alone made a billion dollars, he joked.
They talked demographics.
“I would get the senior vote,” Hanks reasoned. “Because I’ve fought in World War II in, like, 10 different movies.”
“And I, of course, would get the minority vote,” Johnson said. “Because everyone just assumes that I’m, well, whatever they are.”
Though the two were joking, that didn’t stop people from jumping onto the “Johnson/Hanks 2020″ bandwagon. Many acknowledged it was a joke but couldn’t contain their enthusiasm about the hypothetical ticket.
Overnight, T-shirts and buttons sprang up.
Johnson finally acknowledged that they were just kidding. Or were they?
“When it comes to politics, we need more poise and less noise,” Johnson said, to cheers. “Americans deserve strong capable leaders. Leaders who care about this country and care about its people.”
Hanks turned to Johnson.
“Uh, Dwayne, that kind of sounds like you and me,” Hanks told him. “I guess we got to do it. C’mon!”
Behind them, a “JOHNSON HANKS 2020″ banner unfurled and confetti rained from above, as a band played a celebratory march.
Rumors that Johnson might launch a presidential bid have floated in the ether for some time. Though it was once an outright joke, it now occupies a space that is not quite real and yet not absurdist fantasy. And Johnson’s outright acknowledgment that he has considered a political career has only fueled the speculation.
Formerly a registered Republican, Johnson is now a registered independent. He has mentioned several times in the last year that he is not ruling out a run. The rumors have reached such a pitch that Public Policy Polling actually conducted a recent survey that indicated “The Rock” would lead Trump in a hypothetical 2020 election.
In a recent profile in GQ magazine, Johnson told reporter Caity Weaver that both Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns had sought his endorsement. When asked how Trump was performing as president, Johnson gave a surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) meandering non-answer. He later told Weaver that he disagreed with Trump’s entry ban.
“I believe in our national security to the core, but I don’t believe in a ‘ban’ that bans immigrants,” Johnson said, according to GQ magazine. “I believe in inclusion. Our country was built on that, and it continues to be made strong by that. And the decision felt like a snap judgment.”
And just a few days before the SNL season finale, Johnson appeared on “The Tonight Show,” where he again teased a possible run for president.
“Three and a half years is a long ways away,” Johnson told host Jimmy Fallon. “So we’ll see.”