Following a week in Washington that pretty much wrote itself, “Saturday Night Live” just had to sit back and let the good times roll.
And it did: Guest host Melissa McCarthy returned as Sean Spicer, riding a motorized press room lectern through the streets of New York, before submitting to a passionate kiss from the commander in chief.
Also, in another one of those self-referential — otherwise known as self-promotional — tie-ins to NBC News, the cold open featured Alec Baldwin/Donald You-Know-Who in “part two” of Lester Holt’s (Michael Che) interview with the president . . .
“Thank you for having me here, jazzman.”
Then there was this special added bonus: Aidy Bryant as Sarah Huckabee Sanders (assistant press secretary and stand-in for Spicer after a much ridiculed “bushes” incident last week; more on that in a bit).
Colin Jost of “Weekend Update” set the tone an hour in with this observation: “Most of us think this every week, but this week was crazy.”
Indeed, these cup-runneth-over weeks have been either a blessing or challenge for “SNL” this season. The rest of late night TV — “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” even the new Comedy Central show fronted by the other Trump doppelganger, Anthony Atamanuik — has already picked the low-hanging fruit. By late Saturday, ridicule begins to loose its edge, then fatigue sets in. Enough, already.
“SNL” has struggled to find a way forward, but does have a few not-so-secret weapons, only one of them in-house — Kate McKinnon, who was largely invisible over the first hour Saturday. Like Baldwin, McCarthy has effectively turned into an honorary cast member, thanks to her Spicer. As host, she didn’t bother with a monologue, but instead lead an audience member — and mother — on a tour backstage. Her first sketch, “Just Deserts,” was basically a food fight (cream pies).
But everyone knew her Spicer was coming. McCarthy became a social media phenom in New York last week when spotted on that magical lectern in midtown. The skit opened with Bryant’s Sanders, who explained that her father is Mike Huckabee and “my mother is a big southern hamburger.” She was asked during the press briefing where Spicer was.
“As you know, Sean is fulfilling his duty in the naval reserves.”
Reporter: “I’m pretty sure I can see him hiding in those bushes.”
Cut to the window, where Spicer/McCarthy/bush is seen.
McCarthy/Spicer then joins the news conference in progress where she/he insists that the president was telling the truth about why he had fired FBI Director James Comey.
She/he is then challenged: What if he was lying to you?
“He wouldn’t do that. He’s my friend.”
And that sets off the trip to New York, where Spicer/McCarthy goes in search of his friend, first at the Trump Tower, later at the Trump National in Pine Hill, New Jersey, where Trump/Baldwin proceeds to assure him that his job is safe. A passionate, reassuring kiss follows.
The cold open was Baldwin’s next to last appearance as Trump this season — and he’s implied that his last will be next week. (Baldwin is writing a satirical book with Kurt Anderson about Trump due out November, so don’t bet on it).
The cold open picked another one of those low-hanging fruits from last week, notably Time magazine’s report that Trump gets “two scoops” of ice cream when everyone else around the table at dinner gets but one. Cast member Mikey Day — playing Paul Ryan — arrived in the middle of the Holt interview as the president’s own personal Good Humor man.
Holt/Che later asks about “optics” — referring to the firing of the FBI director in the midst of an investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.
“Optics? You think I care about optics? I sit on every chair like it’s a toilet.”
Meanwhile, some background: The Washington Post first reported last week that Trump press secretary Spicer had wandered into bushes rather than face questions about the president’s firing of Comey. A semi-retraction followed saying “Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”
Didn’t matter. The “bush” damage was done. “SNL” and the rest of late night TV had a gift that it wasn’t about to return. What gifts will next week bring?