In the final farewell — or broadside — to Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) and Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) of 2016, “Saturday Night Live” delivered a cold open and sketch last night that deftly captured a current media obsession (Vladimir Putin) and a forthcoming one (the electors).
In a season that sometimes struggled to sync relevance with “funny,” or at least “cutting,” Saturday proved that the post-election may offer even better or easier material than the pre-election because in both, it mostly found all three.
Of that open, “SNL” got help from a reliable old friend, John Goodman, who played Donald Trump’s selection for secretary of state, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Cast member Beck Bennett reprised his Putin — this time shirtless, but still squint-eyed, all-knowing, and the bearer of gifts for the president-elect after dropping down a chimney. (There are chimneys in Trump Tower?)
For one of his gifts, he got Trump an Elf on the Shelf — a “toy” to place on his shelf right next to his internet router. (This was one of those instances of parody imitating real, live TV shows — specifically a plotline from an early season of “The Americans.”)
As usual, Trump/Baldwin was brutal. Personally thrilled with his choice of Rick Perry as a Cabinet pick, he said: “Was that the greatest choice? I saw him on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ this guy has so much energy.” (He’s been nominated as secretary of energy; bah-dum.)
With all the Cabinet positions filled, he tells adviser Kellyanne Conway (McKinnon) that “now all I have to do is pick who will be president.”
Conway reminds him that that’s already been determined. Trump/Baldwin wonders whether he can do the job “three days a week, like Howard Stern.”
The write-themself lines just kept coming, perhaps daring the president-elect to respond the way he likes to with “SNL,” via Twitter, thus feeding news stories and free “SNL” promotions for days and days. But by late morning Sunday, there was still radio silence from Trump himself.
Putin/Bennett drops down that chimney:
“I was just in town, hiding in the walls.”
Shirtless Putin/Bennett is pleased to know that Trump “trusts me more than the American CIA.”
Jutting Lower Lip Trump/Baldwin: “All I know is I won.”
Extravagantly Exotic Melania Trump (played last night by Cecily Strong, although others, like host Margot Robbie, have previously taken their shots) then says she doesn’t trust Shirtless Putin:
“If a person came from a foreign country and just started blathering, what would you do?”
Jutting Lower Lip Trump/Baldwin: “Marry them.”
Tillerson/Goodman, who then arrived unannounced, bonded instantly with Shirtless Putin: “Oh my stars, Donald, you didn’t tell me PUTTY was here.” They then began to discuss crude production strategies in various parts of the former Soviet Union and of course Donald/Alec had something to say about that, too:
“Speaking of black and crude, I know Kanye. He’s using my colorist.”
The return of McKinnon’s Clinton — possibly for the last time, but that’s highly unlikely — was the better sketch, and by far the more imaginative. Knocking on the door of an elector, she said nothing because the woman elector’s husband was inside, also presumably less amenable to the pitch Clinton was about to make: To drop her vote for Trump.
So instead, she held up a series of cue cards that attempted the job (the elector was Cicely Strong): The cards began, “It’s me, Hilary Rodham Clinton,” then quickly dashed off the sound bites for her entire campaign, before finally getting down to business: Don’t vote for Donald because “he cray.”
Instead, vote for anyone else: “Tom Hanks, Zendaya, The Rock, a rock ...”
“SNL” returns Jan. 14 — just in time for the inauguration on Jan. 20. Imagine the possibilities.