Donald Trump’s COVID Results Had ‘Saturday Night Live’ Scrambling, Says Lorne Michaels

Michaels, Geist NBC News/Sunday Today With Willie Geist

Saturday Night Live writers were revising the season’s first cold open right up to the last minute after President Donald Trump’s positive COVID test tossed all plans into the air.

In a new NBC News interview, SNL creator Lorne Michaels says the long-running sketch comedy show had a presidential debate sketch written for the Oct. 3 season premiere when news broke the day before about Trump’s illness. “It all changed,” Michaels tells Willie Geist on the upcoming Sunday Today With Willie Geist, “and it was being rewritten. I don’t think the final version of it got to dress rehearsal.”

The sketch, which featured Alec Baldwin’s Trump and the debut of Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden, drew the expected “too soon” internet gripes, which Baldwin addressed the following day on Instagram. “If there was ever the suggestion that Trump was truly, gravely ill, if people said, ‘Oh, Trump is really in trouble,’ I bet you everything I have that we wouldn’t even get near that in terms of the content of the show,” he said.

In Sunday’s interview with Geist – a portion of which was released today – Michaels says the ever-changing political happenings keeps the show from over-preparation. “Most often we don’t even attempt it until Friday,” Michaels says of the sketch-making. “Fortunately, the cast are good at it and can adapt.”

Michaels concedes that the show’s return to a live audience after last spring’s remote, mostly pre-taped bits, was crucial.

“I think it was all I talked about all summer and leading up to it was I need an audience,” Michaels says. “Because we’re taking big swings and they’re hard jokes, when you don’t hear any sound, it throws the timing off. The thing that the audience does is it’s the plug that makes the circuit work.”

The Michaels interview airs Sunday, Oct. 18, 8 a.m., on NBC’s Sunday Today with Willie Geist.


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