The 2016 election did not go as Saturday Night Live had hoped. After spending weeks dunking on Donald Trump — and a year after the show invited the presidential nominee to yuk it up as the host the show — SNL returned to airwaves on Nov. 12 with a solemn cold open. Kate McKinnon, as her version of Hillary Clinton, took to the stage to perform Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” equating the Democratic nominee’s election loss with a death. “I’m not giving up, and neither should you,” McKinnon said in conclusion. Some critics called the earnest moment “powerful.” Others called it total b.s.. Years into the Trump presidency, most people have settled on “bizarre.”
The results of the 2020 election, though fraught and prolonged with a week-long count, did not provoke the same response. On Saturday morning, former vice president Joe Biden was declared the winner of the gauntlet. By the evening, but with enough lead time for SNL to grab material, Biden was on a stage addressing the American people. The President-elect and vice president-elect Kamala Harris delivered a pair of striking speeches that acted as a rebuke of President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric, and leaned into themes of unity, equality, and healing.
SNL filled in some blanks, giving cameo stars Jim Carrey and Maya Rudolph all the space they needed to celebrate. Biden and Harris did not take the stage to call Trump a big stinkin’ loser. The SNL counterparts did — and Carrey even resurrected Ace Ventura’s looo-oooo-serrr-errrrrrr.
But what of Trump? The president has yet to concede the election, hoping to find some legal loophole that could swing the vote back in his favor, and SNL nodded to the quixotic quest. Alec Baldwin returned — though with nearly three months left of the Trump presidency, probably not for the last time — to perform his impression of the Commander-in-chief, in all of its sputtering glory. And in an equally strange, but should-have-seen-it-coming moment, the writers of SNL invited Trump to perform his own elegiac piano cover in the wake of his loss. The song choice was spot on. Tremendous, if you will.