Michael Che's Trump remarks saved the 'SNL' season premiere

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Michael Che on Saturday Night Live (Photo: NBC)

The season premiere of Saturday Night Live occurred on an ordinary weekend, which is to say, a weekend during which President Trump tweeted something embarrassing for America. Trump emitted an awful attack on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, saying that she’d been “told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump” — this, in the midst of Puerto Rico’s ongoing posthurricane crisis and his own golf weekend. On SNL, during the “Weekend Update” segment, Michael Che pared his response to the bare minimum of contempt to achieve the maximum effect.

Addressing Trump, Che used language the president could understand, saying sarcastically, “Oh, really, Donald, you bitch? Was she nasty to you?” (Trump opened that door when he called Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” in his Alabama rally.) Che elaborated further: “Write [Puerto Rico] a check with our money, you cheap cracker. … In one month, you’ve mishandled Puerto Rico, DACA, and the NFL. It’s like whenever anybody darker than your golf pants has a problem, you’re thinking, ‘How can I make this worse?’”

We’ve arrived at a time when humor or satire is almost pointless in the face of what comes out of the president. SNL recently won multiple Emmy awards that might seem to deny what I just said — doesn’t Alec Baldwin’s success in this arena prove the country “needs” amusement in this time of governmental emergency? No, not really. This week’s opening sketch found Baldwin doing the same old Trump pucker-face, with Kate McKinnon doing her winsome Jeff Sessions. Aidy Bryant tried out her Sarah Sanders impression. As usual, the sketch wasn’t written so much as it merely transcribed many of the things the people being impersonated have actually said. Because in reaction to what this administration tells us, jokes are superfluous. Anger and gestures are a couple of the only possible effective responses.

Thus, music guest Jay-Z, during his performance of “Bam,” wore a jersey that read “COLIN K” on one side. Jay-Z and Che were the only performers on SNL this night who embodied the terrible fix in which President Trump has placed public American figures — entertainers and athletes — who now must sometimes forsake entertainment simply to communicate disgust and alarm.

Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.

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