Donald Trump and his GOP goofuses might’ve snagged SNL’s cold open slot once again in last night’s season premiere, but America didn’t have to wait long to see how the venerable show would depict the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates. They were all lined up in the first spot after the monologue, framed as an “Impeachment Town Hall” on CNN, and the second sketch that was basically just a series of political impressions (with celebrity cameos) in the episode’s first 12 or so minutes. At least this one was livelier than the cold open, and a good bit funnier.
If you were wondering whether Larry David would be back as Bernie Sanders, well, the answer is “yes,” thankfully. His impression is still great, evoking the tone and cadence and body language of Sanders without trying to disappear into it. Contrast it to Alec Baldwin’s Trump: Baldwin’s caricature doesn’t really sound, look, act or talk much like Trump. It doesn’t come anywhere close to the essence of Trump. It doesn’t have that inherent Trump combination of utter obliviousness and absolute megalomania. Baldwin’s Trump has pretty much always been its own isolated, self-perpetuating character instead of a successful impression. David’s Sanders, meanwhile, is far from an exact impersonation, and the fact that we immediately recognize the actor is a crucial part of its appeal, but it still shows a much greater understanding of Sanders and how people view him (both positively and negatively) than Baldwin’s moribund Trump.
Woody Harrelson, the episode’s host, plays Joe Biden as an unnaturally tan, perpetually confused fool with brilliant fake teeth and no ideas or message. He’s perfect.
David isn’t the only surprise here. Maya Rudolph shows up as Kamala Harris, which means Kamala Harris gets way more attention in this debate sketch than she has at any point since the first debate. The gag about Harris being a real-life TNT procedural lead is a good joke the first time, less so the other two or three. Also present: Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren (folksy, chipper); Bowen Yang as Andrew Yang (blink and you’ll miss him); Alex Moffat as Beto O’Rourke (nails the awkward cool-guy mannerisms but the Spanish jokes are played out); Colin Jost as Pete Buttigieg (because apparently the three other white guys who actually appear in sketches were busy elsewhere); and Chloe Fineman as Marianne Williamson (via astral projection, in one of the sketch’s better bits—sometimes the predictable still works).
Check it out!