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'SNL' takes the right line on Trump

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"Saturday Night Live At Home" attempted to recreate the feel of a normal episode by having sketches, Chris Martin as a musical guest and Tom Hanks as host.

Posted: Apr 13, 2020 4:51 AM
Updated: Apr 13, 2020 4:51 AM

"Saturday Night Live" returned on Saturday with its first new episode after stopping production due to the coronavirus pandemic. And much like the first "SNL" after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the show opened with a more somber theme. But the big difference was that in that first show after 9/11, there were no jokes at the expense of then-President George W. Bush. On Saturday's show, however, there were many directed at President Donald Trump -- and Trump earned every one.

I worked on the production staff of "SNL" on 9/11. I can still recall the eerie quiet that filled the "SNL" offices in the weeks that followed, replacing the usual horsing around by the cast and writers. Like the rest of the nation, those who worked on this iconic comedy show were in shock. Plus, there was the question about what would be considered (appropriately) funny in this new America?

"SNL"'s first post-9/11 show aired on September 29, 2001 and opened with then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, surrounded by first responders, speaking of the lives lost and the heroes. "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels soon joined Giuliani on stage, asking, "Can we be funny?" to which Giuliani replied -- to big laughs -- "Why start now?"

Flash forward nearly 20 years, to the first "SNL" in the midst of a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has taken the lives of over 20,000 Americans. There were some similarities, but also some of the glaring differences that reflect today's America. Due to social distancing, Saturday's show was not broadcast live from the famed Studio 8H but remotely from the homes of cast members. Show host Tom Hanks was in his kitchen, where he noted that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had recovered after contracting the virus last month. Hanks, much like the show after 9/11, addressed the idea of "SNL" being funny in this new world: "Will it make you laugh? Ehh, you know, it's 'SNL.'"

Giuliani was also a part of Saturday's show. But as a testament to how much things had changed since 9/11, the former New York City mayor who became Trump's personal lawyer wasn't heralded on stage as a hero. Rather, Giuliani became a punchline in a joke told by "SNL" Weekend Update segment co-anchor Colin Jost about Trump reportedly taking advice from him about "unproven cures" for Covid-19.

The most notable difference, though, between that first post-9/11 "SNL" show and Saturday night's was Alec Baldwin's comedic filleting of Trump on the show. "SNL" didn't do that to Bush in that September 29, 2001 show -- not, to my knowledge, because writers were told to avoid such jokes, but because it didn't need to be said. It was a different time and, more importantly, a vastly different president.

Trump is not Bush in so many ways. For starters, at the time of the first post-9/11 "SNL," America had rallied around Bush, giving him an approval rating in the Gallup poll of 90%. In contrast, a CNN poll released last week found Trump with only a 45% approval mark.

The most glaring difference between the two Republican presidents is that Bush didn't make 9/11 about himself. Bush didn't brag about the TV ratings for his briefings, nor did Bush hold daily press media conferences where he would go on at length slamming the media, spewing misinformation and even going after Democrats -- all things Trump has done over the past month.

That's why Trump earned every punchline on Saturday's show. Trump, as depicted by Baldwin, began bragging that, "I'm happy to report...that America is now number one in the world for coronavirus," adding, "Number one while I was president. #Americanumberone. #Notimportantwhy."

Baldwin, continued with the "Trump" brag: "My approval rating is up, my TV ratings are through the roof, and every night at 7:00 PM all of New York claps and cheers for the great job I'm doing." (The daily applause is actually for New York's first responders.)

"SNL" also took a jab at Trump's continuous attacks on reporters who ask him questions that he doesn't like. When Weekend Update co-anchor Michael Che asked "What exactly is your advice, because it seems to change every 24 hours?" Baldwin's "Trump" responded, "That's a nasty question, you're very nasty." Baldwin then added, "I've been consistent all along. I've always said it was a giant hoax, that we should take seriously, even though it was invented by the Democrats: Impeachment Part Two." (This joke skillfully highlighted Trump's February 28 comment about the threat of the coronavirus being politicized by the Democrats as their "new hoax.")

There was even a snide shot at Trump's idea of "experts," with Baldwin saying, "We have to listen to the experts on this one: Me, Hannity, Jared Kushner, and Mike Lindell from MyPillow." (Trump recently included Lindell along with several other executives at a press conference.)

"SNL," a show that thrives on mocking political leaders, collectively understood that mocking Bush immediately after 9/11 was the wrong through to do. Today, mocking Trump is the right thing to do. He deserves every barb for his comments and actions during this crisis.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
Clark16988222
Madison16899378
Vigo15562272
Monroe14186190
LaPorte13961235
Delaware13613215
Howard13531258
Kosciusko11150134
Hancock10534159
Warrick10431174
Bartholomew10233166
Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
Dearborn734186
Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
Lawrence6803150
Jackson638980
Shelby6386106
Gibson5999105
Harrison587984
Huntington586490
Montgomery5663101
DeKalb555691
Knox532999
Miami523183
Clinton522464
Putnam519067
Whitley509851
Steuben480267
Wabash470192
Jasper465760
Jefferson456091
Ripley439074
Adams435565
Daviess4008106
Scott389563
White383457
Decatur376895
Clay376455
Greene375589
Wells375183
Fayette363074
Posey351841
Jennings341756
Washington324046
LaGrange312074
Spencer310734
Fountain306553
Randolph302087
Sullivan294947
Owen275961
Orange269659
Starke268961
Fulton264451
Jay248134
Perry244950
Carroll239926
Franklin229337
Vermillion225850
Rush225530
Parke212020
Tipton205354
Pike200938
Blackford163834
Pulaski155250
Crawford140818
Benton138316
Newton138141
Brown130646
Martin124416
Switzerland122310
Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
Unassigned0461

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
Lorain30438525
Warren29170326
Mahoning25988629
Clermont24726278
Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
Champaign426463
Ottawa425783
Perry414051
Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
Fayette353951
Coshocton345064
Hardin341868
Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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Feels Like: 79°
Huntington
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 79°
Decatur
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81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 80°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
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Friday is the beginning for a more summer-like forecast, with more heat and humidity returning to the region.
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