clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

SNL adds “pizzazz” to the impeachment hearings by turning them into a soap opera

Pundits called the first public impeachment hearings boring. SNL answered that criticism by turning them into a soap opera.

Scott Nover is a freelance writer covering media and technology. He is a contributing writer at Slate and was previously a staff writer at Quartz and Adweek.

The US House of Representatives commenced its public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump Wednesday, after weeks of closed-door testimonies. The hearings marked the first time the American people heard directly from those with knowledge of Trump’s relationship with Ukraine and the allegations Trump tried to withhold military aid from that country in exchange for an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of his political rival Joe Biden.

Despite the hearings featuring in-depth questioning and new revelations — with top US diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent appearing Wednesday and former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch appearing Friday — a recurring critique afflicted pundits’ reactions: that the hearings were boring.

In a cold-open sketch last night, Saturday Night Live addressed that criticism, transforming the depositions into a soap opera, billed as “Days of Our Impeachment.”

“This week, 13 million Americans tuned in to watch the impeachment hearings, as multiple officials testified against President Trump. But some complained the hearings were ‘lacking in pizzazz,’ ‘dull,’ and ‘not The Masked Singer,’” an announcer read during the sketch’s introduction. “So to make sure people are paying attention, we now present the hearings in a way that underscores how scandalous these revelations really are.”

While the Masked Singer barb was satirical, the “pizzazz” comment was a real one from an NBC News analysis by Jonathan Allen, who was widely ridiculed for arguing something as sober as an impeachment inquiry ought to be more exciting. Vox’s Aaron Rupar, for one, held it up as an example of the media’s shortcomings in covering the hearings. But Allen’s analysis followed the theme of a critique often heard in conservative media in recent weeks: That the impeachment proceedings are too boring for Americans to care about.

“I think impeachment is not only dumb, it’s boring,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson told the Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison, a sentiment that’s been recurrent on his show.

With House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (played by Alex Moffat) leading the proceedings, the sketch opens with Yovanovitch (portrayed by Cecily Strong) sparring with Mikey Day’s Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, introduced as a “cross-examiner with a mysterious brain injury.”

Strong’s Yovanovitch opened by saying she has been a victim of a “smear campaign” from Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. When Jordan interrupts to allege Yovanovitch is just seeking attention, she retorts, “I love the glamour and the spotlight, that’s why I spent my career in Ukraine and Somalia.”

The proceedings quickly devolved into soap opera motifs with an audience member (Heidi Gardner) constantly fainting and shocking new twists, like Schiff dramatically halting the hearing because “the president just sent … a tweet.” Yovanovitch’s hearing was actually interrupted by presidential Twitter attacks, which Democrats have suggested could be added to articles of impeachment as witness intimidation.

One other thing SNL added to spice up the testimonies was an unyielding stream of surprise cameos.

In the midst of the Yovanovitch testimony, Taylor — played by Jon Hamm — arrived to reveal there was a second phone call of note beyond Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraininan President Volodymyr Zelenksy in which Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Democrats and the Bidens.

This second call, between Trump and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, was overheard by a Taylor aide and featured the president asking for a status report on those investigations.

Before Hamm’s Taylor can go into detail about this call, however, Rudy Giuliani (played by Kate McKinnon) appears, announcing plans to fake his own death should the president try to make him a Ukraine scandal scapegoat.

Giuliani was followed by Beck Bennett’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who takes over the hearing saying, “The Senate has voted: acquitted.”

When reminded the House has to impeach the president before the Senate can hold its trial, he says, “Sorry for the spoiler, just tell me when I’m supposed to say it: Acquitted.”

Kyle Mooney, playing Sondland, then takes the stage, spoofing Sondland’s need to revise his sworn testimony after other closed-door hearings made it seem inaccurate. Reviewing those other hearings suddenly made the real-life Sondland “recall” certain matters relating to questions about the withholding of US military aid.

Mooney’s Sondland, in true soap fashion, said his testimony didn’t align with that of other witnesses “because I had amnesia. But now the amnesia is fine again, and I remember: there was a quid pro quo.”

The hearings devolved further with Michael Avenatti (Pete Davidson) announcing dramatic news: that the president had an affair with a porn star; Taylor butts in to say that was a storyline from “last season.”

“Yeah bud, we know,” adds Yovanovitch, noting, “No one seems to care.”

In a final act of drama, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett appears. Garrett beat Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with his own helmet at the end of Thursday night’s game, and there was some question of whether he would be subject to criminal charges. “Mr. Garrett, you are not on trial here,” Schiff says.

“Oh I know. President Trump just pardoned me too for the war crimes,” Garrett responds. “He said I could bring a helmet to Afghanistan and just go nuts,” referring to Trump issuing presidential pardons for three service members accused of war crimes Friday.

Naturally, the cold open concludes with Garrett seeing Giuliani, thinking he’s a vampire, and bashing him in the head with a Steelers helmet.

“I think he actually might have fixed me,” Giuliani says, adding viewers will have to tune in to the next episode to find out.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.