Ever since Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, at which Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was asked about the accusations of sexual assault levied against him, stemming from events in his adolescence, America has been asking one question: What’s Saturday Night Live going to do? Is this a healthy impulse? Probably not, but how will we know what’s funny unless comedians tell us?
Okay, sure, that’s the question a lot of people ask about nearly every major news event, but the Kavanaugh hearing was different, because (a) it came right before Saturday Night Live’s season 44 premiere, and (b) the show has made a habit recently of casting big-name celebrities in these sorts of parts. (Alec Baldwin, of course, plays Donald Trump, but Melissa McCarthy essayed Sean Spicer, Robert De Niro has played Robert Mueller, etc.)
So how would Saturday Night Live handle Kavanaugh? With LOTS OF YELLING and furtive crying and MORE YELLING and then occasionally messy water chugging (or more specifically, shotgunning). And, oh yeah, he was played by Matt Damon — yes, big movie star Matt Damon of The Martian and Bourne Identity fame.
The cold-open sketch was mostly a collection of real moments from the hearing, including when Kavanaugh asked Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (played by former SNL star Rachel Dratch) if she ever drank so much that she blacked out. But it was also just generally an attempt by Damon to capture Kavanaugh’s je ne sais quoi. He snorted and sniffed. He spilled water all over himself. He announced, up top, “I’m gonna start at about an 11, then I’m gonna take it to a 15 real quick!”
The sketch was long — over 10 minutes — and it started with a Fox News framing that it never really returned to. But it earned a bunch of solid laughs, and Damon’s Kavanaugh captured something about what many have dubbed either his righteous anger or his petulance, depending on their political persuasion.
It was also a great reminder that Damon is from Boston and his big breakthrough, Good Will Hunting, vivisected the sort of rich kid prep school alumni/Ivy Leaguer types that populate that city in some of the movie’s most famous scenes. Damon knows these dudes, and in playing Kavanaugh, he captured some essential part of the man in a way that felt a little bit cathartic, even if you think Kavanaugh has been unjustly accused.