SNL rolled out another celebrity cameo playing a Trump figure last night, but guess what: we’re cool with it this time. Instead of pointing out how it’s a lazy way to get cheap recognition laughs, while also stealing valuable air time from deserving cast members, or how it’s an obvious ploy to get websites like this one to make a clip go viral the next morning, we’ll just let this one slide. Steve Martin showed up as the recently arrested Roger Stone—the cartoonishly garish, obnoxiously confident Republican hack who styles himself as a Floridian version of a Gilded Age robber baron, and was one of Trump’s first and closest political advisers—at the end of the cold open, and we’re totally fine with it. Here’s why:
1. Steve Martin is still funny. Not so much in this sketch, but he’s far more reliably funny at this point than Alec Baldwin or Robert De Niro or any of the other names Lorne Michaels can pull out of his Rolodex on a Thursday and get in the studio on Saturday night.
2. He’s not immediately recognizable in this sketch. Unlike Baldwin’s Trump, which is more about Baldwin than Trump, Martin’s brief appearance feels like legitimate character work.
3. Martin has been associated with the show pretty much since it started. He’s hosted so much over the years, and made so many other cameos, that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was actually a cast member at some point. Baldwin has a long association with the show, too, and Ben Stiller was very briefly a cast member in 1989, but neither feel anywhere near as embedded in the fabric of the show as Steve Martin. A Martin cameo is the same as a long-running, popular former cast member coming back, a Bill Murray or Will Ferrell, which can be overdone, but has a different vibe than a movie star dropping in for easy applause and YouTube views.
4. Roger Stone probably won’t be popping up as a character in SNL all that often. He’s not a member of the administration, he’s not Robert Mueller, and he hasn’t been as crucial to the investigation as Michael Cohen, so this probably isn’t a role that will recur that much. There’s not a sense that Martin is taking a role that could benefit a cast member, or that he’ll be stealing too much screen time from the underexposed regulars.
This was all basically true with Melissa McCarthy’s sketches as Sean Spicer in 2017. Those worked for similar reasons—they were limited, she was legitimately funny in them, and they were more about her performance and less about her as a celebrity making a surprise appearance. Martin’s turn as Roger Stone isn’t nearly as funny or memorable as McCarthy’s first Spicer sketch, but it has a similar vibe, and it’s also still the funniest part of an otherwise weak Fox News parody.
There could also be an element of us just liking Steve Martin at play. I mean, he’s Steve Martin—one of the funniest people ever, and lacking the extreme baggage Alec Baldwin lugs around wherever he goes.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, here’s the clip. Martin comes in at the very end, so have fun getting to that point. (Also, holy shit: Sting really is older than Roger Stone.)