With 2024 underway and the presidential race in full swing, it was time for “Saturday Night Live” to get back to doing what it loves best: lampooning former President Donald J. Trump.
In its first new broadcast of the year, hosted by Jacob Elordi and featuring the musical guest Reneé Rapp, “S.N.L.” kicked off with a sketch featuring its resident Trump impressionist, James Austin Johnson. It parodied Trump’s impromptu remarks outside a courtroom in Lower Manhattan where he is again on trial facing accusations that he defamed the writer E. Jean Carroll, after an earlier jury verdict in May that Trump defamed and sexually abused her.
After a brief introduction by Chloe Fineman, who played Alina Habba, Trump’s lawyer (“I am new at this, and I am learning,” she said), Johnson entered as Trump and quickly dressed down his own legal representation.
“You’re great on TV,” Johnson told Fineman, adding: “Maybe the worst lawyer I’ve ever had, which is quite an accomplishment. Look at this team — this is the bottom of the barrel, folks, this is who said yes. I’m in the lead for president, and this is the best I can get. Feels like a red flag, no?”
Johnson addressed his remaining lawyers and said, “You’re not getting paid, by the way.”
He promised to abide by a gag order that prevented him from discussing the current defamation trial. “So I will not be saying that the judge is an idiot,” Johnson said, “or where he lives or what kind of crappy car he drives. I didn’t know they still made Wagoneers.”
Johnson celebrated a first-place finish in the Iowa caucuses by taking potshots at rivals like Ron DeSantis (“Ron DeStupid,” he said. “It just works. We’re going with Ron DeStupid”) and Vivek Ramaswamy (“who dropped out of the race and has agreed to live in my suit pocket,” he said. “I love my little ‘Ratatouille’”).
He went on to contrast himself with President Biden, his likely rival in this year’s election. “He sniffs little girls’ hair,” Johnson said. “I am different, of course, I do far worse than that. You ever see that video of me dancing with Epstein? Boy, is that some dark energy.”
Johnson predicted he would prevail because of his loyal voters: “We just need ’em to stay alive till November,” he said. “Stay alive till November. Just pull that lever and drop dead.”
No matter what, Johnson predicted that 2024 would be an exciting year for him. “I’m either going to jail, be president or frankly, the Purge,” he said. “Perhaps all three; let’s spin the chamber.”
Celebrity worship of the week
The awards season has already produced several viral video clips of celebrities talking to one another in conversations inaudible on camera. So who better to interpret what they’re saying than a pair of professional lip readers, played by Elordi and Bowen Yang? Well, probably anyone else — the two were genuinely terrible, but hilarious, as they misconstrued a romantic heart-to-heart between Timothée Chalamet and Kylie Jenner and an obvious joke from Jennifer Lawrence. Aptly, for a comedy sketch about spoken language and its meaning, no written words can fully do justice to the dopey voice that Elordi adopts when trying to lip-read Travis Kelce, a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs and Taylor Swift’s boyfriend.
Fly the friendly skies of the week
There’s basically no upside to the episode this month in which an Alaska Airlines flight had a door plug blow out shortly after takeoff. But that didn’t stop “S.N.L.” from seeking a positive spin in this fake commercial for Alaska Airlines, which reveals the company’s (fake) new slogan: “You didn’t die and you got a cool story.” The ersatz ad also points out that Alaska was the carrier in an episode in which an off-duty pilot was accused of trying to cut the engines on a flight in October and was charged with more than 80 counts of attempted murder. As a flight attendant, played by Kenan Thompson, says: “Now we’re so proud to say that’s our second-worst flight.”
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the 2024 presidential election.
Well, guys, it’s 2024. But is it? [His screen showed photographs of Trump and Biden] I don’t know about you, but when I think of the year 2020, I never think we should run that one back. And if you’re feeling confused, you’re not the only one. At a rally on Thursday, President Biden said he was mixed up when he claimed he had just taken a photo with a woman who wasn’t even there. Then the next day, Donald Trump repeatedly confused Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi. Guys, I don’t know if we should do this election. It’s honestly starting to feel like elder abuse. And I don’t even blame them — I blame us for allowing it. It reminds me of those bum fight videos, where they made two homeless guys fight for money. And now we look back on it and we’re like, how did we as a society let that happen? So I think the best solution is, we should just tell Trump and Biden that they both won. And that we’re very proud of them. And that they can rest now.
In Monday’s Iowa caucuses, Ron DeSantis beat out Nikki Haley for second place. [His screen showed a photograph of DeSantis smiling awkwardly.] Well, that ought to put a — whatever this is — on his face.
Weekend Update desk segment of the week
Off Friday’s news that Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina had endorsed Trump at a rally in New Hampshire, Devon Walker performed an impersonation of Scott, seeking to justify his endorsement. After poking fun at Scott’s voice (“My voice is like if Bill Clinton was actually Black,” Walker said. “I sound like the princess and the frog. I sound like if Forrest Gump was doing an impression of Ja Rule”). Walker explained that he didn’t see color: “When I looked at all the people at Trump’s rally, I did not see a single color,” he said. He also contended that it was not “a racist dog whistle” to ask whether Haley was born in America. Walker then took out what he said was an actual “racist dog whistle” and blew on it, seemingly to no effect — until Jost, wincing in discomfort, asked, “What is that noise?”