“Oh, it’s wonderful to be here in the town of East Palestine, not a great name,” said the James Austin Johnson-portrayed Donald Trump tonight, kicking off Saturday Night Live. “I’m here and I brought hats, cameras and hats,” he added after taking a swipe at Joe Biden for visiting the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this week and had a visit from his own legal troubles.
“That’s why you need me,” the MAGA hat-wearing SNL Trump went on to say. “I feel like I could Schitt’s Creek this place,” he added, a reference to the multi-Emmy winning comedy.
Check out the video above.
Just over three days after the former and looking to be future POTUS made a self-aggrandizing trip to the small Ohio town savaged by a massive chemical burn-off that followed a train derailment, tonight’s SNL cold open definitely started out timelier than most the show has had this 48th season. Having done double duty for months as both Trump and Biden, Johnson again enthusiastically showed the former is his strong suit.
Modelling what was a train wreck of an appearance by the real-life trump in East Palestine on Wednesday, Johnson riffed on the “beautiful rainbows and discoloration” of the town’s water, Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show and “your train exploded and who do we blame?”
The answer from SNL’s Trump, as in real life, was Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“This was his responsibility. Unfortunately, he was too busy being a nerd and being gay,” Johnson’s Trump deadpanned to big laughs. “But this would have never happened under my administration. People are saying I made the trains less safe. Not true. Okay, not true. I did a lot for trains. I made them bigger, faster, less safe perhaps.”
Coming a day after the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutish invasion of Ukraine, tonight’s edition of the long-running NBC late-nighter had plenty of material to draw from. Beside the very serious war on the Eastern edge of NATO, there is the crazy and deadly wet weather in California, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green’s Presidents’ Day call for a “national divorce,” and escalating friction in GOP ranks as ex-pals Trump and Ron DeSantis bicker and foot-stamp over the 2024 nomination and that looming indictment.
The return to the seemingly bottomless pit of Trump, who controversially hosted SNL in the midst of the 2016 campaign, wasn’t exactly the most original approach the show could have taken tonight – but it was a tried and true tactic that certainly did not seem tired.
Taking the dangerous and absurd turns of Trumpland up a notch, SNL also brought out Emily Kohrs, as played by cast member Chloe Fineman.
If you missed her media tour this week, the chatty Kohrs in the foreperson of the special grand jury looking into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. Korhs’ nudge nudge, wink wink interviews on closed-doors deliberations may threaten the case itself. In real life, Trump called the Georgia grand jury a “Kangaroo court” and mocked Kohrs herself.
On SNL, the mock Trump said: “Can you believe that? They almost had me and then this little horse girl comes in and saves the day. Thank you Emily.”
Back for the first time since February 4, tonight’s SNL sees host Woody Harrelson joining the Five-Timer Club. Coming off hosting stints as far back as the Cheers days of 1989 (followed by 1992, 2014 and 2019), White House Plumbers star Harrelson also popped into SNL back in the early days of the 2020 presidential campaign as then-candidate Joe Biden. In what likely no coincidence, tonight is also the fifth time Jack White has rocked 30 Rockefeller Plaza’s studio 8H as SNL’s musical guest.
Next week, Saturday Night Live will see Kansas City Chief tight end and Super Bowl champ Travis Kelce in his hosting debut, with Kelsea Ballerini as musical guest. On March 11, the show will have Wednesday star Jenna Ortega fronting SNL with The 1975 as musical act.
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