Well, that was a snooze. Also strange. And a little bit sad. Otherwise, no fireworks, no hecklers, no sizzle, no razzle, no dazzle, no . . . laughs either, or not many. "Saturday Night Live" sure picked an unusual occasion to turn out a dud, although "SNL" fans and historians could have predicted as much: Politicians, even those suffused with the star wattage of Donald Trump, rarely make great hosts, and in some demonstrable instances, certifiably terrible ones.
Trump's host outing, the second one, wasn't a disaster, and -- who knows -- in the cold light of morning, might even turn out to be one of those performances we'll remember for years to come, for the high camp alone, or for one (or two) searing memories, specifically Trump twisting, dancing, and singing these words: "Call me on the cellphone . . . "
But it'll have to be an awfully cold morning and the light pretty dim. This was not a triumph, for either show or host.
After an eight-minute cold open, Trump appeared from the back of the stage and lumbered forth -- the energy he so esteems almost completely absent and drained even before he started. His monologue was a virtual copy of the one he did 11 years ago, playing off the same old lines, the same old conceits:
"Many of the greats have hosted this show, like me . . . " Ba dum.
Larry David -- there to reprise his Bernie Sanders impression -- heckled Trump from offstage. David, who is almost richer than Trump, claimed to have heard that he'd get that $5,000 bounty if he taunted the candidate. (DeportRacism.com, a Latino rights group offered to pay that to an audience member who yelled out "Trump is a Racist." LD can now collect.)
It got grimmer before it got better: A slack-jawed sketch where Trump tweeted reactions to it, another where he had won the White House, and got a check from the Mexican president to build the wall. There was the digital short -- the parody of Drake's "Hotline Bling" music video -- and another where he played the laser harp.
As guest hosts go, Trump was busy -- just not effective. That wasn't his failing as much as a show that seemed to have absolutely no idea how to make use of one of the most visible -- or at least most controversial -- hosts in its history, and so fell back to a default position instead. Trump tends to be outspoken about his own self-described virtues and accomplishments? That should theoretically work as a theme for one (or two, or three) bits, right? Theoretically -- except it's been done to death already, and on this show, too, by the resident "SNL" Trumps, who also made brief appearances in the monologue, including Darrell Hammond and Taran Killam.
The vibe was weird too -- a subversive one that sought to mock the guest host instead of support him. Trump -- the candidate, not the host -- was the target of fully half the lines of "Weekend Update," which, in fact, offered the most memorable ones, or at least most tweeted, of the entire show. Bobby Moynihan's Drunk Uncle, for example: "It's like I'm running for president . . . we both like white Russians."
There were obvious risks for "SNL" and Trump before this night began: Would the bitter protests by Latino groups over Trump's host appearance hurt the show's standing among Latino viewers? Would Trump's standing as one of the leaders of the Republican field diminish if he fumbled his guest appearance?
Saturday offered no clear answers, but "SNL" and Trump got an almost unquantifiable amount of media attention tonight, and for a candidate in the middle of a campaign and a TV franchise in the middle of a sweeps month, that adds up to a win-win. "Risks" and critics be damned.