From the voice and the facial expressions to the tan and the poorly tailored suit, Alec Baldwin rocketed to the top of the Donald Trump impersonators list on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. The comedian flat-out nailed Trump's many idiosyncrasies.
But Baldwin's impression of the Republican presidential nominee remained safely in the realm of absurdist humor, never venturing into the territory of truly biting satire. An article by The Washington Post's David Weigel asked Friday, "Can SNL take down Donald Trump? Is it going to try?" The answer, at least for now, appears to be no.
As expected, the opening sketch Saturday parodied last week's presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton.
"Good evening, America," Baldwin-as-Trump said in his opening statement. "I am going to be so good tonight. I am going to be so calm and so presidential."
With a boast and a locker-room joke, Baldwin immediately captured Trump's style.
Later, Baldwin hit on three other Trump habits — repeating phrases, making excuses and peddling conspiracy theories: "My microphone is broken. She broke it. With Obama. She and Obama stole my microphone. They took it to Kenya. They took my microphone to Kenya, and they broke it, and now it's broken."
Other jokes centered on Trump's hair, his pronunciation of "China" and his debate-night sniffles. It was funny stuff, but it is unlikely to satisfy critics such as comedian Samantha Bee, who a couple weeks ago shredded NBC for normalizing Trump through shows like "Saturday Night Live."
"To its credit," Bee said on her weekly TBS show, "NBC did sever ties with Trump after he called Mexicans rapists — if by severing ties you mean inviting him on their flagship comedy programs to show millions of Americans what a fun guy he is."
Last June, NBC said it was ending its business relationship with Trump, who had been the longtime host of "The Apprentice" and the network’s partner on telecasts of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Five months later, however, the network invited Trump to host "Saturday Night Live," and the real estate mogul has appeared with Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" three times since September 2015.
Some late-night shows, including Bee's "Full Frontal," have taken an oppositional, hard-edge approach to Trump comedy. Even on NBC, Seth Meyers — a former SNL cast member — has described Trump as "a race-baiting, xenophobic serial liar who peddles conspiracy theories and thinks the National Enquirer is a real newspaper."
As it begins a new season with barely a month to go before Election Day, "Saturday Night Live" looks like it will avoid such commentary and stick to more lighthearted laughs.