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SNL’s cold open took some parting shots at Donald Trump

After four years of Trump spoofs, the show tackled Biden’s victory without much inspiration.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Saturday Night Live’s cold opens have not been great this season, but on November 7 — the day a number of news outlets finally declared that Joe Biden had defeated Donald Trump and won the 2020 presidential election — a mediocre opening sketch was at least a bit understandable. After all, vote-counting fatigue set in for everyone at least three days earlier, and the real-life victory speeches it referenced happened only hours before.

The episode started late in most markets due to a long-running football game, but when it finally began, Wolf Blitzer (played by Beck Bennett) and John King (Alex Moffat) announced that “Election Week in America” was coming to a close. They called the race for Biden (Jim Carrey), who strode onto the stage with what has become Carrey’s signature Biden move: finger guns.

Biden appeared to give his first public address as president-elect. “Whether you’re from a liberal state like California or a conservative state like Oklahoma, or a cracked-out, hot mess like Florida, I will be your president!” he said. Kamala Harris (Maya Rudolph) followed as vice president-elect, wearing a white suit and white blouse with a pussy bow that echoed Harris’s real-life victory speech ensemble from earlier in the evening. Periodically stopping for applause, Rudolph-as-Harris said, “Like Joe, I am humbled and honored to be the first female, the first Black, the first Indian American, and the first biracial vice president. And if any of that terrifies you, well, I don’t give a funt.”

Of course, few Trump-era SNL cold opens are complete without the appearance of a clearly-over-it Alec Baldwin as a lame-duck Trump. This time, he ostensibly showed up to give a “concession” speech — but after declaring victory, he stepped over to a piano. In an echo of SNL’s somber post-2016 election cold open in which Kate McKinnon, playing Hillary Clinton, sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” from a grand piano, Baldwin sang a slow version of the Village People’s “Macho Man.”

Was it Baldwin-as-Trump’s last appearance on the show? That’s about as likely as Trump disappearing from public consciousness. SNL’s handling of the Trump administration has been alternately baffling and annoying, and whether it’s equipped for what comes next is far from clear. But if the cold open felt limp, it also signaled the end of an era that SNL seems happy to stop spoofing. Biden and Harris’s Ace Ventura-echoing parting taunt of Trump — “Loser!” — felt like it came from deep within the show’s psyche — and most of the SNL audience seemed just fine with that.

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