Taking both barrels of the shotgun and aiming squarely into the barrel, "Saturday Night Live" opened with Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump Saturday and fired away. The result: Water everywhere, dead fish and confirmation that these impressions have run their weary course. "SNL" desperately needs another approach to this presidency because the current one is no longer working.
Saturday's opener wrote itself because the president, in essence, already wrote it: "Weekend Update" established that later in the hour when Colin Jost played an extended clip of a presidential singsong rap from last week's real news conference about the "national emergency" and border wall, thus mimicked by Baldwin/Trump:
" . . . I'm gonna sign for the EMERGENCY, then be SUED, then the ruling will not go in my FAVOR, then I'll call my buddy KAVANAUGH..."
In fact, nothing Baldwin/Trump can now do can supersede what Trump/Trump does. Satire struggles, then expires, when the object of scorn exceeds it. In fact, Baldwin's impersonations have been vitiated by the real thing, and become just a variation of Poe's law — that internet age adage which insists that the line separating the object being satirized has disappeared, leaving no space between subject and object. No one is about to mistake Baldwin/Trump for Trump/Trump — the final outcome of Poe's law — but no one's about to see much of anything that will surprise or amuse them either. The great "SNL" presidential impersonations, like Dana Carvey's Bush I or Phil Hartman's Reagan, found the absurd in their targets. Baldwin can't find the absurd because Trump long ago beat him to both the punch and the punchline.
How much longer will this painfully unfunny exercise continue?
Baldwin will play Trump for the rest of this term, and into the next term — if there is one of those — and even after the term or terms. Baldwin is now Trump. Neither man can escape the other. They are both entangled in a tragic-comic quantum mechanical farce, where one has become the other in one parallel universe and the other becomes the other in another parallel universe. They are the yin and the yang, the alpha and the omega, the Laurel and the Hardy to each other.
Viewers just don't love this impression, they can no longer imagine another impression. Baldwin's has become the de facto Trump, the only fake Trump most viewers will ever know. Just a squint of those eyes, and a thrust of that chin will be enough for laughs — cheap ones — for as long as he's in the public eye.
It's too bad really. Baldwin, a immensely gifted actor, is better than this. And fans — not to mention the country — deserve a much better Trump too. A truly devastating one.