Brow Beat

Watch Alec Baldwin Declare a National Emergency on Saturday Night Live

Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump.
Most improved!
NBC

Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Donald Trump debuted on Saturday Night Live on October 1, 2016, and has remained more or less the same ever since. It’s striking to watch that first performance two years into the Trump presidency, if you can make it through the part where Kate McKinnon’s Hilary Clinton says, “I think I’m gonna be president!” without driving off a cliff:

Baldwin had already figured out most of the impression in his first outing, from pronouncing “China” with a “G” to behaving like a demented old man who should never have been allowed within 50 miles of another human being, let alone Washington. Since then, neither Alec Baldwin nor Donald Trump have added much to the perfomance, until this week, when Trump brought an unexpected new register to his ongoing one-man-production of King Lear during his national emergency declaration. Baldwin followed suit, with the first Saturday Night Live cold open in a long time that pushed his impression forward:

He’s still doing the “China with a G” thing, but he’s also added a luded-out, softer delivery (a trademark of the new, “I really, really can’t do this job” Trump), plus the bizarre musical breakdown (a trademark of “Here’s a thing I’m gonna do for the very first time in a press conference where I declare a national emergency to remind you I’m losing it” Trump). But although picking up a new quirk in Trump’s speech patterns represents a step forward for Alec Baldwin and Saturday Night Live, it doesn’t necessarily represent a giant leap for mankind, because the best joke about Trump’s fledgling music career was made on Friday, by Nick Lutsko:

Lutsko’s video went viral, in many cases without attribution, and close observers of Saturday Night Live will appreciate this tweet from Anthony Atamanuik of The President Show making sure Lutsko got credit for his work:

Observers of Saturday Night Live* have long claimed that Baldwin based his Donald Trump impersonation on Atamanik’s, so he must have been thrilled to see Baldwin’s take on our musical president just a day after Lutsko’s. Still, a step forward is a step forward. Now if we can just get the president to do a better impersonation of a president, we’ll really be onto something.

*Correction, Feb. 17, 2018: This article originally misstated that comedian Anthony Atamanuik claimed Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Trump was based on his own. James Adomian, who played Bernie Sanders to Atamanuik’s Trump during the last presidential election, has tweeted that he believes Baldwin studied Atamanuik’s Saturday Night Live audition tape, which included a Trump impersonation, but Atamanuik himself has not made that claim.

Subscribe to Slate’s Culture newsletter for the best of movies, TV, books, music, and more, delivered twice a week.