This week’s Saturday Night Live cold open featured corny and unfunny jokes, some extremely half-assed impersonations of media figures and government officials who’ve been in the news lately, and a running time that somehow managed to be at least eight minutes too long, despite the fact that the entire sketch ran for less than six minutes. It was also one of the most reassuring things I’ve seen on television since the night of Nov. 8, 2016. Bask in the normalcy:
That is not a great example of sketch comedy, political comedy, or comedy in general. But you know what else it’s not? It’s not a hasty attempt to wring laughter from the latest lunacy of the week from Donald J. Trump. The president suggested Americans inject themselves with bleach all the way back in April, which is long enough for the initial horror to have faded. More importantly, it’s long enough that Saturday Night Live referencing the incident in a sketch feels like a choice rather than an obligation or a historical inevitability.
The cold open was also not an attempt to help Americans process the events of the week, and it easily could have been: The president and his toadies spent the last seven days trying to overturn the election and we’re up to 3,000 coronavirus deaths a day. Instead of yet another exploration of Donald Trump’s bottomless stupidity, however, the sketch lightly pokes fun at Anthony Fauci for letting fame go to his head, skewers Deborah Birx for being completely useless, and, except for the references to injecting bleach at the president’s recommendation, could have been made about government officials during basically any administration.
The last four years have often felt like being dragged behind one of those trucks Donald Trump likes to pretend he’s driving, getting jerked from one previously unfathomable topic of conversation to another at the whim of the president’s diseased brain, face scraping on asphalt all the while. This week, Saturday Night Live chose to ignore the latest developments in our dime-store Lear in favor of some lazy jokes about barbecue styles and Antony Fauci’s pitching. Any disappointment that this cold open doesn’t go anywhere interesting or hilarious is more than drowned out by the overwhelming relief that at long last, Donald Trump isn’t in the driver’s seat. Comedians can ignore him, and soon we should all be able to do the same. Nature is healing.