As Saturday Night Live prepares to start its 42nd season on Saturday night, the show revealed that longtime SNL performer Alec Baldwin will be playing the role of Donald Trump.
Baldwin, who has hosted the show a record 16 times since 1990, will be replacing Darrell Hammond who has played Trump for years. SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels told Hollywood Reporter that “the idea came out of a conversation with Tina Fey at some point during the summer” and that Kate McKinnon will continue to play the role of Hillary Clinton. SNL posted a YouTube video which advertised a “Clinton vs. Trump” showdown on October 1.
In addition to the Trump and Clinton announcements, SNL also announced that they would be releasing longtime veterans Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah as well as newcomer Jon Rudnitsky. In their place will be Alex Moffat, Mikey Day, and Melissa Villlasenor.
Humor or Politics?
The long-running comedy show has always spoofed the presidential candidates before every election. Some memorable sketches include their depictions of the Bush-Kerry debates in 2004 as well as the Obama-Romney debates in 2012.
But while Baldwin and McKinnon may be prepared to make the audience laugh, the upcoming SNL show is already receiving scrutiny for what role it may play in the upcoming election. SNL was criticized for letting Trump host in November 2015. Certain media outlets argued that by hosting Trump, the show had normalized him as a candidate and played his racism off as a harmless joke instead of a potential danger to America.
SNL may be a comedy show, but its sketches have played an important role in how the larger public views the candidates. Tina Fey’s famous portrayal of Sarah Palin, where the comedian uttered the classic line, “I can see Russia from my house,” cemented the image of the vice presidential candidate as lacking the knowledge to serve as president.
Furthermore, SNL and Alec Baldwin both have a controversial relationship with Trump. The show has spoofed the billionaire over the years, with the first sketch being performed by Phil Hartman in 1988. In a recent podcast on Politico, two SNL co-hosts defended Trump and claimed that while they had no intention of voting for Trump, they understood how he appealed to working-class Americans and said that Trump was a very smart and hard-working man. Baldwin himself stated in 2015 that he would love Trump as the Republican nominee, though he more recently called Trump “the first presidential candidate made of hate.”
A comedy divide
Saturday Night Live is not the only avenue where there has been controversy over how comedians may have treated Donald Trump with soft gloves. NBC comedy host Jimmy Fallon was also criticized for how he handled a late-night interview with Trump a few weeks ago. In addition to asking Trump easy questions, Fallon mussed Trump’s hair in a gesture that The Atlantic called “a bad move, a destructive and self-indulgent mistake.”
Other comedians have displayed much less hesitation towards attacking Trump. Stephen Colbert, who has received some criticism for being too political on the Late Show, recently called Trump a “coward” on a radio interview for not appearing on his show since an interview in September 2015. He has also attacked Trump for his many controversies, such as a recent episode where he slammed Trump for his role in perpetuating the Obama “birther” myth.
Comedy and politics have often intertwined, but comedians going back to the days of jesters also served as individuals who could criticize authority figures. Some believe that it has now become a comedian’s duty to show Trump as unqualified to be president, while others think that they should take a step back.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]