For a show that’s been wrestling with politics the past couple years, and relying heavily on President Trump for the punch line, Saturday Night Live finally hit a home run with their take on the MSNBC Democratic President Debate over the weekend. My apologies if you don’t like SNL or a good political satire, but I think this one was worth sharing.
Take a gander and judge for yourself. The celebrity cameos are plentiful and they really nailed several of the candidates. For once I found myself laughing out loud at the show, something as a long-time fan I haven’t done often over the past decade or so:
The number of celebs and former SNL alums playing candidates was long and noticeable:
Presidential candidates Andrew Yang (Bowen Yang), Pete Buttigieg (Colin Jost), Cory Booker (Chris Redd), Elizabeth Warren (Kate McKinnon), Amy Klobuchar (Rachel Dratch), Tom Steyer (Will Ferrell), Michael Bloomberg (Fred Armisen), Tulsi Gabbard (Cecily Strong) Bernie Sanders (Larry David), Joe Biden (Woody Harrelson) and Kamala Harris (Maya Rudolph) speak at MSNBC’s 2020 Democratic Debate.
If there was one weak point, perhaps it was Colin Jost trying to capture the nuances of Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He was close but needs some work to get the character down. Let’s hope Jost has more opportunities to play the role and turn up his creativity a little bit next time.
The strongest performances, by far, came from Larry David, Kate McKinnon, and Woody Harrelson, playing Sanders, Warren, and Biden, respectively. At first, I was skeptical that Harrelson could pull off a solid Joe Biden, but by the end, he was starting to sound convincing. I thought they clearly went easier on Biden than they could have since they left out his actual debate answer about “punching” at violence against women.
Larry David was brilliant as Sanders, the two men look alike and sound alike without much effort on David’s part. The bit on healthcare about nothing coming out of anyone’s pockets except the little bag with the extra buttons that come with the blazer was comedy gold and very believable in relation to Bernie.
Kate McKinnon is a comic master having played Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, and now honing in her talents to portray Elizabeth Warren she has hit another massive home run. Every chance she has the camera is a solid performance and she captures the most basic elements of Warren’s argument and mannerisms in a caricature sort of way.
Tulsi Gabbard portrayed as the “villain” of the debate is more accurate than satirical. Sen. Kamala Harris sparred with her during the real debate arguing that Gabbard didn’t even deserve a spot on stage. Playing Gabbard, Cecily Strong was spot-on with the speaking and especially the hair with the white suit. The line about wearing the outfit of the woman she vanquished, Hillary Clinton, is once again more true to life than satire.
Maya Rudolph taking on Kamala Harris was also very strong, she did a good job studying the California Senator and had her character pretty much down. She captured some of the desperation if not an outright annoyance at Harris’ polling situation right now. She’s trending down, and Rudolph captured this moment in time.
Perhaps the other weak point was Bowen Yang playing Andrew Yang. I felt that they could have spent more time on this one. I would have liked them to have Yang pull out a whiteboard of math problems and spend his few minutes exploring his love for “math” since it’s basically his campaign slogan. At which point the moderator could have responded, “Yeah, we don’t care about that, let’s move on.” A missed opportunity with Yang.
Rachel Dratch captured Sen. Amy Klobuchar and also deserves credit for a solid performance. While watching the real debate on Wednesday, Klobuchar’s shaking hair was very noticeable to the point where I commented on it to others I was watching the debate with.
Finally, who can ignore Will Ferrell’s attempt at billionaire Tom Steyer? The attempt at Steyer on the real debate stage, and the campaign trail, to portray himself as the common “everyman” is laughable to the point that not many Democratic voters are buying it. Ferrell, another comic genius and SNL alum, fleshes out Steyer’s desperate attempts to “relate” and gives a worthwhile performance for his hosting return to the show.
In total, a truly funny sketch, and in covering politics day in and day out, some laughter is needed once and a while among a group of candidates and strategists who all take themselves very seriously. I hope the real Democratic candidates were able to watch and laugh along with their characters portrayed on the show.