Saturday Night Live has often had a contentious relationship with our country’s leaders, going back to when Gerald Ford’s press secretary hosted the show to try to defuse the weekly embarrassment of Chevy Chase’s impression of the then-POTUS as a clumsy idiot. But President Trump has taken the usual satire much more personally than any of his predecessors, and has taken to complaining about the “failing” show — which he seemed very pleased to host only last season — on Twitter every Sunday after Alec Baldwin plays him. And as Trump’s objections have gotten louder and angrier, it’s only emboldened SNL to start full-on trolling the Commander in Chief, knowing that he’ll be watching and writing sketches and jokes whose primary purpose seems to be to drive the Oval Office’s current occupant crazy, and if the rest of us laugh, that’s just a bonus.
That’s the only way you can look at what the show has done since the inauguration, and especially in the latest episode, hosted by Kristen Stewart, which featured, among other things:
* A sketch portraying Steve Bannon as the Grim Reaper, who gets to sit at the big boy desk at the Oval Office while Trump sits at a little desk and plays with toys;
* A monologue where Stewart recalled Trump’s many tweets obsessing over the state of her relationship with Robert Pattinson;
* A parody commercial where a welcome to America film was hastily edited by a Department of Homeland Security employee to reflect Trump’s Muslim ban;
* Special guest star Melissa McCarthy doing a dead-on impression of Sean Spicer losing his temper at the daily press briefing.
That last one was not only the funniest of the bunch, but the one I instantly knew would hit hardest at 1600 Penn, for two obvious reasons:
1)McCarthy is a woman.
2)McCarthy is not a skinny woman.
And those two things together would push many, many, many of Donald Trump’s buttons.
Politico tonight reported that, indeed, the Spicer sketch was the most troubling one for the President, specifically because he was being played by a woman in a suit:
More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him.
Spicer, Steve Bannon, and most of the President’s inner circle — including POTUS himself — fancy themselves as old-fashioned tough guys, and few things would be more puncturing to their egos than to be portrayed by a woman.
And beyond that, we also know that Trump has an uncontrollably visceral reaction to women who don’t meet his aesthetic criteria, and plus-sized ones in particular. Just compare his response to Rosie O’Donnell’s attacks over the years to those against people he’d find glamorous enough to be worth his notice. Or look at how upset he got over Miss Universe Alicia Machado gaining weight after winning — when she still looked like this, mind you. So to have the public face of his administration be played by a larger woman in drag would be doubly hard for Trump to deal with.
It’s not just about larger women, though. Trump has issues with men’s images, too. There were reports that one of his many reservations about making Chris Christie his VP was the New Jersey governor’s waistline, as well as stories about his concern over hiring men with beards or who otherwise don’t fit his belief of what a Trump executive should look like.
That’s one of the reasons why portraying Bannon as the Grim Reaper doesn’t seem to have gotten Bannon into the same hot water the Politico article suggests Spicer is now in. Being told that your top adviser is evil is an easy joke, and maybe even something to be taken as a point of pride, given how much Trump and Bannon both like to brag about crushing their enemies. But portray Bannon at his biggest and sloppiest — while still forcing the classy POTUS himself to sit at the little desk — and that’s something that might actually make Trump question his trust in the man.
And if that’s the goal — which it very much seems to be — don’t stop there. Go full drag king on the whole administration. Have Aidy Bryant — or Leslie Jones! — play Bannon. Let Alec Baldwin take a break for a while and bring in a rotating cast of Very Special Guest Actresses to play Trump himself, starting with his chief nemesis, who sounds like she’s into the idea:
After that, give the “overrated” Meryl Streep a three-week run, and see who else wants to do it. If SNL really is determined to get under Trump’s skin, those writers need to be aware of what digs in the deepest with him. And this initial report about his response to the McCarthy/Spicer sketch should be very encouraging.