This week’s Saturday Night Live cold open has everything: Alec Baldwin, Cecily Strong, jokes about Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump being gay, Kate McKinnon in a bald cap, Ben Stiller, Beck Bennett, the thinnest possible connective tissue holding a parade of cameos together, Fred Armisen, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, and an unconvincing blue-tinted “nighttime” background photograph that has approximately no connection to the stage lighting. Laugh and learn, America:
Alec Baldwin delivers two good throwaway jokes over the course of this sketch—“I love Argentina—there are a bunch of old German guys who are really into what I’m saying there!” and “What did nationalism ever do to Europe?”—and in both cases the jokes work because the sketch keeps moving along as the punchline hits. But for every laugh, there’s a moment where the strings are painfully visible, like Baldwin’s five second pause after making a self-referential joke about his recent legal troubles, or the moment where the writers needed a pretext to introduce Ben Stiller as Michael Cohen and settled on having Baldwin mutter this to himself:
All alone again. No one understands me. Who can I call? Someone who I know will always answer.
That’s a “Let’s go to the window!”-in-Citizen-Kane-level transition, and it’s emblematic of Saturday Night Live’s slapdash one-thing-after-another approach to Trump-era cold opens. You could make an argument that the show is cleverly mirroring Donald Trump’s slapdash one-thing-after-another approach to governance, but that seems like one backflip too many to justify a sketch that just isn’t that funny. Still, there’s more than one way to summon the ghost of Perón to get a laugh out of people suffering under Trump, so if NBC’s attempt didn’t do it for you, perhaps Warner Pathé will be more your speed:
There aren’t a lot of punchlines in the Pathé footage, but contemplating the inevitable downfall of tyrants is more heartening than imagining what Saturday Night Live is going to look like a few years after Trump declares himself President-for-Life. Especially when you consider that Perón’s overthrow ushered in decades of smooth sailing for Argentina. Ha ha.