This weekend, Donald Trump tuned into Saturday Night Live with the delusional expectation that he would not be mocked. Of course, he was mistaken. When the show opened with Alec Baldwin portraying the president-elect as a clownish megalomanic with a “bad brain” who can’t control his impulsive tweeting, Trump (of course) responded with a clownish, impulsive tweet. “Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad,” he bellowed.
However, I’m guessing that another person parodied in that sketch, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, wasn’t nearly as offended. In this season’s Trump sketches, SNL has presented Conway in a weirdly sympathetic light. As portrayed by the imminently likable Kate McKinnon, Conway is one part put-upon mother figure, and one part victim of Stockholm Syndrome. As a viewer, you’re set up to feel bad for how Conway has to put up with this blowhard, as if she didn’t a choice.
This most recent sketch is a perfect example: SNL treats Conway as a proxy for the audience, with multiple eye-rolls accenting all of Trump’s misdirected bluster. Upon the entrance of a horror-show caricature of Steve Bannon, she recoils. When Trump tweets at a 16-year-old, McKinnon looks directly into the camera and says, “He really did do this.”
The gap between Conway the real person and Conway the SNL character couldn’t be any wider. In real life, Conway has described Bannon as a “brilliant tactician” and dismissed charges that he’s a white nationalist. And she was worked tirelessly, time and again, to deny that Trump didn’t do the awful things we all know that he did.
SNL established its Kellyanne Conway character back in October with the well-received “A Day Off,” in which a harried Conway is called upon repeatedly by CNN to answer for Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior. When I say “well-recieved,” I mean that Conway herself loved the sketch, tweeting that it gave her “a good laugh.” Of course it did — SNL absolved Conway of any responsibility for enabling her boss. Instead, she’s been enlisted by SNL as the straight woman in an administration full of dangerously wacky cut-ups.
This treatment of Conway is my biggest pet peeve with SNL this season. I find it absolutely mystifying, not just because I think it’s plainly dishonest, but also because it makes no sense comedically. There’s plenty of evidence that Conway is as nuts as anyone in the Trump administration. Why give her a pass?
Consider that Conway tweeted out this photo of herself less than three hours before SNL went live on Saturday.