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The Repercussions of SNL’s Most Serious, Political Sketch

The Repercussions of SNL’s Most Serious, Political Sketch


Saturday night’s cold open with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump urged viewers to stop laughing and start voting.

In less than 48 hours this election will be over. Pending Madam President makes it into office, we can breathe a needed sigh of relief. But the alternative outcome proves almost too terrifying for conscious voters to contemplate.

Saturday Night Live, which was given ample material to satirize this election season (though it doesn't take much with Donald Trump's Twitter account), leaned rather unexpectedly, if not poignantly, toward the serious and less comedic on Saturday night. Though the iconic comedy sketch show rarely shows vulnerability within its craft, its latest cold open with Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) and Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) retreated from its form to provide a sobering reminder to audience members about their civic duty on Tuesday--and what exactly is at stake.

The sketch started per usual: Clinton and Trump are at the podium to make their final cases for presidency. Clinton stands in front of her campaign logo; Trump before some Pier 1 swirly wallpaper.


The first topic of debate? The FBI investigation of Clinton's emails part deux (which has since been cleared). And while Clinton pushes to cover other, more credible topics, the sketch remains fixed on her emails.

So fixed in fact, that after Trump kisses an FBI Agent...Vladimir Putin...and a KKK member, Clinton's emails are STILL at the forefront.


It's this last image of Trump smooching a KKK guy that drives home the true, terrible reality of this election. Even when Baldwin goes in for the white-sheet liplock, the audience lets out an uneasy laugh (and some boos), followed by Clinton's almost-completely serious questioning of America's current circumstance: "What is happening? Is the whole world insane? Donald Trump has single handedly ruined so much of what we as Americans hold dear. Kindness. Decency. Tic-Tac's."

Sure, there are a couple quips thrown in there, but Baldwin and McKinnon are then prompted to break character, ditch the skit, abandon set, and hit up Times Square. "Don't you guys feel gross all the time about this?" asks Baldwin before exiting. Yes. Yes. Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" blasts. Wake up, America.


When Baldwin and McKinnon return to the stage they can't stomach playing the political game any longer. They're peacefully themselves. But what does that really mean? Is the humor of this election dead? Should we stop caring about making it funny? Is it less important to laugh and more important to campaign?

"We can't tell you who to vote for," says McKinnon, breathless and emotional, "but on Tuesday we all get a chance to choose what kind of country we want to live in."

McKinnon makes this statement not as Hillary Clinton, but as herself, as a comedian, as a human--an American--appearing on a cable network. After a sketch that deservedly strips Donald Trump of credibility, decency, and amusement, SNL knows who should vote for on Tuesday.

Watch the cold open below:

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Jesse Steinbach