Alec Baldwin, who attracted both rave reviews and political criticism for his portrayal of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, tweeted that NBC executives prevented the show from taking a more overt political stance against Trump.
Baldwin’s tweets came in response to criticism from Time television critic Daniel D’Addario, who attacked last Saturday’s episode by stating that the show had given up on political satire a year ago.
D’Addario criticized how the SNL writers mourned the prospects of Trump’s victory after they “treated him as a figure of fun whom it’s a bit more trouble than it’s worth to treat as something other than Clinton’s equal and opposite.” He contrasted SNL‘s determination to draw “false equivalencies” between Trump and Clinton with how other comedians like Samantha Bee did not hesitate to make fun and attack what Trump represented.
Alongside his article, D’Addario launched a series of tweets where he wrote that SNL “chose at every turn to display about as little courage or decisiveness as possible” towards Trump. Baldwin then responded from his Twitter account with the Alec Baldwin Foundation, where he made the claim that NBC executives prevented SNL staff from telling voters who to vote for.
A Comedian’s Role?
The debate between D’Addario and Baldwin is just one facet of an ongoing debate over how comedians and the media should treat Trump, first during his campaign and now that he is president.
D’Addario is far from the first writer to argue that comedians and the media have treated Trump with kid gloves and constructed a narrative that both Clinton and Trump were equally terrible. Similarly, SNL is not the first comedy outlet to be accused of being friendly towards Trump. Late-night host Jimmy Fallon was criticized back in September for a playful interview where he messed with Trump’s hair, as The Atlantic called his interview an embarrassment.
The charge made by critics is that by treating Trump like a normal candidate, SNL and Fallon among others have reinforced the idea that Trump is just a normal candidate who says odd things every now and then. These critics argue that Trump is a uniquely dangerous candidate, and that the media’s normalization of Trump ended up being a tacit endorsement of what he stands for.
These debates are part of a crucial examination of the role of comedy in poking fun and attacking the wealthy and powerful. It is traditionally said that in the Middle Ages, the court jester was the only one allowed to lampoon and make fun of the king, and comedians have made fun of important figures throughout history. But some people believe that this humor towards Trump should more emphasize the policies he believes in as opposed to more general humor about his various eccentricities.
How SNL will continue to treat Trump as his presidency becomes official remains to be seen. Dave Chappelle, who hosted the show last Saturday, was praised on both sides for stating that he would give Trump a chance as well as his insights and biting humor towards the election. D’Addario called Chappelle’s monologue as well as a sketch performed with black comedian Chris Rock making fun of distraught, white Hillary supporters who finally realized that America was racist “insightful.”
But regardless of how SNL treats Trump, it will not be with Alec Baldwin. The actor did not appear in Saturday’s episode and said in an interview that “I’m trying to shed the Donald Trump cloak.” He observed that a good comedic impression requires the actor to admire the person he is impressing to some degree and that he does not admire Trump.
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