‘S.N.L.’ Season Premiere Weighs in on Its Own Trump Sketch

If you have thoughts about the new season of “Saturday Night Live,” rest assured, so too does “Saturday Night Live.”

In the first episode of its 48th season, “S.N.L.” went meta in the opening sketch, recruiting the host, Miles Teller, and cast member Andrew Dismukes to play the sibling sports commentators Peyton and Eli Manning as they offered their running criticism on a seemingly standard satire of former President Donald J. Trump.

For the sketch-within-a-sketch, James Austin Johnson reprised his recurring role as Trump and Chloe Fineman played an adviser encouraging him not to stay at Mar-a-Lago during Hurricane Ian. “Actually it’s the safest place I’ve been in two years,” Johnson told her. “There’s no lawyers, no F.B.I. I’m in my happy place.”

Teller and Dismukes mocked various (scripted) elements of the sketch, like an awkward entrance from new cast member Michael Longfellow and Heidi Gardner’s impersonation of Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota.

“A political impression that no one asked for,” Teller said. “What about a fun impression, like Anthony Fauci or Lindsey Graham or Rudy Giuliani?”

Dismukes replied, “Those were all Kate McKinnon.”

The absence of several familiar faces was noticeable in this episode, which also featured the musical guest Kendrick Lamar. Eight veteran cast members left “S.N.L.” ahead of this weekend’s broadcast, starting with McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson and Kyle Mooney, who all made their exit plans known before last May’s season finale. The departures of Melissa Villaseñor, Alex Moffat and Aristotle Athari were announced at the start of September, and Chris Redd left later that month.

Lorne Michaels, the “S.N.L.” creator and executive producer, hired four new featured performers over the summer and has said this new season would be “a year of reinvention.”

As he told The New York Times in an interview last month, “We got to a point where we had a lot of people, and people weren’t getting enough playing time. The way the series has survived is by that level of renewal.”

The opening sketch went on to poke fun at these expectations, as when Bowen Yang appeared as President Xi Jinping of China and (deliberately) mispronounced the word “corgis.”

“It’s a surprising fumble from the veteran Yang,” Dismukes said. “He was supposed to take a step up this year, but you can tell the pressure is getting to him.”

The sketch continued to pile up with cameos, including appearances from new cast member Devon Walker (as the viral celebrity Corn Kid) and snowboarder Shaun White.

Meanwhile, Jon Hamm, the “Mad Men” alumnus and veteran “S.N.L.” host, joined Teller and Dismukes in their dismay over the segment.

Responding to White’s appearance, Teller said, “That is just gratuitous stunt casting.”

With an eye toward Teller, Hamm replied, “Sometimes they need to bring in a real celebrity when the host isn’t that famous.”

Teller tried to rebut him: “Well, I heard they rarely put the host in cold opens, so when they do, it is special,” he said.

Hamm replied, “Special or is it desperate?”

How much of a rebuilding year can it really be at “S.N.L.” if the show is still relying on the tried-and-true staple of the game show parody? Well, how’s this for a changeup: this time, Kenan Thompson played a contestant and not the host! Instead, the spoof — called “Send Something Normal” — was hosted by Teller, who offered the participants $100 million if they could provide a normal reply to a woman’s DM on Instagram. No easy feat when the panelists include Adam Levine (Mikey Day), Armie Hammer (Johnson) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (Thompson). The returning champion, Bowen Yang playing himself, explained the secret to his success at the game: “Being gay,” he said.

This filmed segment, in which Teller and Day play bank robbers whose heist goes awry, is not just a clever commentary on the popular photo-sharing platform BeReal — it’s also a helpful explanation of the site to anyone who hadn’t actually heard of it before. (Not us, of course.) As the inept criminals learn, the app sends users a notification once a day, at a random time, to post a picture of themselves. (“Oh, so there’s no posturing and it’s not status-oriented,” an understanding Teller says.) The catch is that neither the thieves nor their hostages can resist when a BeReal alert goes off during the crime in progress. Great, now who can help us make sense of cryptocurrency?

Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che riffed on a belligerent speech from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and a widely discussed gaffe by President Biden.

Prolific “S.N.L.” impressionists Johnson and Thompson joined forces for this bit about Mitch McConnell (Johnson), the Republican Senate minority leader, and Herschel Walker (Thompson), the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia. Thompson offered awkward defenses of past remarks that Walker has made, like his claim that “when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move.” By way of explanation, Thompson said, “We all know air, right? Air Bud. Air Jordan. Air-n Brockovich. You see, science don’t understand.” Johnson, as McConnell, read from a list of policy proposals Thompson gave him that included “Barbecue Tuesday”; “Let’s get a daytime moon — that way, no more rain”; and “Create a Department of Instagram Booty.”

Though he was taunted in the opening sketch, new hire Michael Longfellow made a strong showing in this Weekend Update segment in which he riffed on having different political views from his family in Arizona. Longfellow joked, “You shouldn’t cut anti-vax people out of your life. They could be dead tomorrow. Spend time with them. Call them. Get in the will.” He also said that when he learned his father was voting for Trump, “I sat him down and I told him, hey, if you keep going down this path, I might have to pay for my own car insurance next year. Then he told me how much it was and I said, well, I didn’t know that when I said that, so, I’m sorry.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/02/arts/television/snl-miles-teller-kendrick-lamar.html