The second Larry David was announced as the host of the February 6 edition of Saturday Night Live, it became obvious that the show was going to offer an extended take on Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign.
David, see, has played Sanders on previous occasions, and his initial appearance as the candidate was one of this season's true delights — even if most of the jokes SNL wrote for him were of the generic "old man" variety. His second appearance might have been even sharper, but he was overshadowed by that night's host — one Donald Trump.
Yet SNL showed a surprising amount of restraint when it came to tossing David's Sanders into every sketch it could think of. And it showed even more restraint when Sanders himself (who has, let's recall, played minor bit parts in two indie films during his career) popped up in a sketch where both he and David shared the screen (which you can see above).
This was nobody's finest hour
If Sanders loses the nomination, it is all but guaranteed that some horse race-following pundit or another (or maybe all of them) will point to this sketch as a harbinger of doom. After all, both David and Sanders play characters on board a sinking, Titanic-esque ship. David's the rich guy who thinks his money should buy him a spot on a lifeboat. Sanders is the guy who says the 1 percent has been treated preferentially for too long.
The sketch's biggest flaw is that it mostly lacks for solid jokes. It picks the most obvious things about Sanders and David — they're old! they're Jewish! Sanders says "huge" with a y! — and goes to town. Of course, that's SNL's way. The show's writing for its political guests tends to wear the very gentlest of kid gloves. (See again: Donald Trump.) This is why the list of great appearances by politicians on SNL is, effectively, blank.
David mostly seems mildly amused by everything that's happening, while Sanders is basically fine, clearly thrilled to be there, delivering every line like he's been given the comic relief part in the community musical.
The best moment comes when Sanders says his name is Bernie Sanderswersky, but his family will be changing that once it gets to America, so it doesn't sound so Jewish. "Yeah, that'll trick 'em," David deadpans, and the two seem vaguely tickled by the whole idea of being on television together.
The sketch wasn't even at the level of, say, the time Tina Fey met her presidential doppelgänger, Sarah Palin, way back in 2008. SNL isn't entirely sure what to make of Sanders just yet, a situation that's not uncommon — the show often (though not always) struggles to make fun of left-leaning politicians, and it is still clearly feeling out what's most amusing about most of the candidates not named Clinton or Trump. But it still leads to a sketch that struggles to ever take off.
Much better was Larry David as Bernie Sanders in Bern Your Enthusiasm. Maybe just watch that one. If nothing else, it might convince you that Sanders should start playing the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song at his rallies.