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'SNL' takes the right line on Trump

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"Saturday Night Live At Home" attempted to recreate the feel of a normal episode by having sketches, Chris Martin as a musical guest and Tom Hanks as host.

Posted: Apr 13, 2020 3:51 AM
Updated: Apr 13, 2020 3:51 AM

"Saturday Night Live" returned on Saturday with its first new episode after stopping production due to the coronavirus pandemic. And much like the first "SNL" after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the show opened with a more somber theme. But the big difference was that in that first show after 9/11, there were no jokes at the expense of then-President George W. Bush. On Saturday's show, however, there were many directed at President Donald Trump -- and Trump earned every one.

I worked on the production staff of "SNL" on 9/11. I can still recall the eerie quiet that filled the "SNL" offices in the weeks that followed, replacing the usual horsing around by the cast and writers. Like the rest of the nation, those who worked on this iconic comedy show were in shock. Plus, there was the question about what would be considered (appropriately) funny in this new America?

"SNL"'s first post-9/11 show aired on September 29, 2001 and opened with then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, surrounded by first responders, speaking of the lives lost and the heroes. "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels soon joined Giuliani on stage, asking, "Can we be funny?" to which Giuliani replied -- to big laughs -- "Why start now?"

Flash forward nearly 20 years, to the first "SNL" in the midst of a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has taken the lives of over 20,000 Americans. There were some similarities, but also some of the glaring differences that reflect today's America. Due to social distancing, Saturday's show was not broadcast live from the famed Studio 8H but remotely from the homes of cast members. Show host Tom Hanks was in his kitchen, where he noted that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had recovered after contracting the virus last month. Hanks, much like the show after 9/11, addressed the idea of "SNL" being funny in this new world: "Will it make you laugh? Ehh, you know, it's 'SNL.'"

Giuliani was also a part of Saturday's show. But as a testament to how much things had changed since 9/11, the former New York City mayor who became Trump's personal lawyer wasn't heralded on stage as a hero. Rather, Giuliani became a punchline in a joke told by "SNL" Weekend Update segment co-anchor Colin Jost about Trump reportedly taking advice from him about "unproven cures" for Covid-19.

The most notable difference, though, between that first post-9/11 "SNL" show and Saturday night's was Alec Baldwin's comedic filleting of Trump on the show. "SNL" didn't do that to Bush in that September 29, 2001 show -- not, to my knowledge, because writers were told to avoid such jokes, but because it didn't need to be said. It was a different time and, more importantly, a vastly different president.

Trump is not Bush in so many ways. For starters, at the time of the first post-9/11 "SNL," America had rallied around Bush, giving him an approval rating in the Gallup poll of 90%. In contrast, a CNN poll released last week found Trump with only a 45% approval mark.

The most glaring difference between the two Republican presidents is that Bush didn't make 9/11 about himself. Bush didn't brag about the TV ratings for his briefings, nor did Bush hold daily press media conferences where he would go on at length slamming the media, spewing misinformation and even going after Democrats -- all things Trump has done over the past month.

That's why Trump earned every punchline on Saturday's show. Trump, as depicted by Baldwin, began bragging that, "I'm happy to report...that America is now number one in the world for coronavirus," adding, "Number one while I was president. #Americanumberone. #Notimportantwhy."

Baldwin, continued with the "Trump" brag: "My approval rating is up, my TV ratings are through the roof, and every night at 7:00 PM all of New York claps and cheers for the great job I'm doing." (The daily applause is actually for New York's first responders.)

"SNL" also took a jab at Trump's continuous attacks on reporters who ask him questions that he doesn't like. When Weekend Update co-anchor Michael Che asked "What exactly is your advice, because it seems to change every 24 hours?" Baldwin's "Trump" responded, "That's a nasty question, you're very nasty." Baldwin then added, "I've been consistent all along. I've always said it was a giant hoax, that we should take seriously, even though it was invented by the Democrats: Impeachment Part Two." (This joke skillfully highlighted Trump's February 28 comment about the threat of the coronavirus being politicized by the Democrats as their "new hoax.")

There was even a snide shot at Trump's idea of "experts," with Baldwin saying, "We have to listen to the experts on this one: Me, Hannity, Jared Kushner, and Mike Lindell from MyPillow." (Trump recently included Lindell along with several other executives at a press conference.)

"SNL," a show that thrives on mocking political leaders, collectively understood that mocking Bush immediately after 9/11 was the wrong through to do. Today, mocking Trump is the right thing to do. He deserves every barb for his comments and actions during this crisis.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 449492

Reported Deaths: 6047
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin933031483
Ramsey40134741
Dakota33159344
Anoka31061365
Washington20220230
Stearns17922188
St. Louis13730242
Scott1199496
Wright11656104
Olmsted1054775
Sherburne822065
Carver696436
Clay653981
Rice610769
Kandiyohi554871
Blue Earth543233
Crow Wing484877
Otter Tail457967
Chisago453336
Benton421086
Winona390046
Douglas375766
Nobles371746
Mower367829
Goodhue349259
Polk328958
McLeod325745
Morrison312145
Beltrami311048
Lyon302538
Becker286239
Itasca285243
Isanti282941
Carlton280943
Steele27489
Pine267013
Freeborn247923
Todd232230
Nicollet225436
Brown215534
Mille Lacs214545
Le Sueur210715
Cass207723
Meeker200033
Waseca190116
Wabasha17243
Martin170826
Roseau165717
Hubbard149538
Redwood139827
Renville137540
Houston137213
Dodge13544
Chippewa131632
Cottonwood127718
Fillmore12435
Wadena120117
Rock110312
Sibley10857
Aitkin108333
Faribault106716
Watonwan10678
Pennington99715
Kanabec98018
Pipestone94723
Yellow Medicine93715
Murray8935
Jackson86010
Swift83518
Pope7415
Marshall70315
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake64915
Wilkin6269
Koochiching59710
Lincoln4871
Big Stone4603
Unassigned43668
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37220
Red Lake3174
Traverse2523
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307088

Reported Deaths: 4340
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46016457
Linn17864278
Scott15566166
Black Hawk13875238
Woodbury13040177
Johnson1216051
Dubuque11434153
Pottawattamie9047113
Dallas896572
Story871235
Webster470172
Cerro Gordo467871
Sioux456157
Clinton451863
Warren449038
Marshall428662
Buena Vista393829
Muscatine392278
Des Moines383641
Plymouth351468
Wapello346598
Jasper324059
Lee318131
Marion305752
Jones272649
Henry264831
Carroll255934
Bremer246848
Crawford232324
Washington220332
Boone219517
Benton210150
Mahaska195037
Jackson193031
Tama188758
Dickinson186227
Kossuth174844
Delaware174536
Clay169820
Wright165224
Fayette163623
Hamilton160730
Buchanan160423
Winneshiek156919
Harrison156762
Hardin155529
Cedar154219
Clayton151548
Butler149224
Page144915
Floyd139836
Cherokee139227
Mills136916
Lyon135732
Poweshiek133924
Hancock130724
Allamakee129628
Iowa126022
Calhoun12299
Grundy121626
Jefferson121325
Madison12129
Winnebago119729
Mitchell116235
Louisa115430
Cass113942
Chickasaw112212
Sac111115
Emmet110831
Appanoose110740
Union109222
Humboldt105819
Guthrie103424
Shelby103427
Franklin102718
Unassigned9410
Palo Alto90910
Montgomery86423
Keokuk85626
Howard84419
Monroe81319
Clarke7987
Pocahontas77711
Ida74730
Davis69421
Greene6947
Adair69020
Lucas6589
Monona64616
Osceola6419
Worth6133
Taylor5949
Fremont5176
Van Buren49713
Decatur4934
Ringgold44311
Wayne41721
Audubon4158
Adams2973
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