Surprising no one, the latest edition of “SNL” began with a parody of the week’s most talked-about politics moment, the dueling town halls by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Obviously, the cold open sketch featured an appearance by Jim Carrey as Biden, joined by Alec Baldwin once again playing Trump.
The joke: They presented the debates as they presumably were watched by a great many people — clicking back and forth between them. And of course, the sketch did a lot of celebrating on behalf of Trump town hall moderator Savannah Guthrie, who was widely praised for defying expectations and giving Trump real pushback, by imagining that the event turned into a Wrestlemania-style fight.
Also on hand were “SNL” cast members Mikey Day as George Stephanopoulos, who moderated the Biden town hall on ABC, and Kate McKinnon as Guthrie — and yes, they found a way to squeeze in Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris too.
First, a quick recap for those of you who might have forgotten why the dueling town halls even happened. After Trump came down with COVID-19 following the first Democratic Debate, it came out that he flagrantly broke the rules by arriving at that event too late to get tested. (Trump might have already had symptoms at the debate, just like his adviser Hope Hicks, one of the dozens of Republicans in Trump’s orbit who contracted COVID around that time.)
Understandably, the debate commission imposed safety measures on the second debate, scheduled for Oct. 15, that for unknown reasons Trump opposed. So on Oct. 8, after the commission declared that the debate would be a virtual event with Biden and Trump in separate locations, Trump simply quit in a huff and announced he’d hold one of his rallies instead.
Hours after Trump backed out, Biden locked down a solo town hall event on ABC, the same night and time that the second debate was originally scheduled. And then 6 days later, Trump arranged to hold one of his own on NBC at the same time as Biden’s. Those events could not have been more different: Biden responded to voter questions with lengthy, detailed answers, while Trump refused to disavow the racist right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon. (Biden won in the ratings, if you’re curious.)
Naturally, the “Saturday Night Live” version of the town halls took some liberties with how things went in real life as it switched back and forth between the parodies.
Most notably, the show took a strangely both-sides approach, attempting to hit Biden as hard as they hit Trump — which required the sketch to pretend that every voter at Biden’s town hall was in the tank for Biden, that he only got softball questions, that no one actually pushed back or criticized him, and that Biden was doddering and gave meandering, off-topic answers to questions. (None of these things are true.)
Also, for some reason, this segment of the bit also riffed on an extremely unsuccessful — and widely mocked — attempt by a Trump adviser to dunk on Biden by comparing him to Mr. Rogers. At one point, when the scene switched to Biden singing the “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” theme song.
“What do you say, will you be my neighbor, George?,” Carrey’s Biden asks Stephanopoulos.
“Uh, what? Oh, I’m sorry. I’m watching the Trump one, they’re really going at it,” Stephanopoulos replied.
The Trump section meanwhile stuck slightly more to reality, with a slightly exaggerated version of the real thing. It of course mocked Trump’s refusal to disavow QAnon, his refusal to say if he was tested for COVID-19 before the first debate, and his evasive answers. It also mocked the weird moment where a woman told Trump he’s handsome when he smiles. And of course, took multiple victory laps on behalf of Guthrie, ultimately concluding with a joke where the debate turned into a pro wrestling match.
For instance, when asked by McKinnon’s Guthrie asked Baldwin’s Trump if he still has symptoms of COVID-19, Trump said: “I’m doing great. My doctors say my lung is beautiful. I have one beautiful lung now. It’s turned basically into glass, so it’s very strong.”
“And you didn’t have pneumonia?” McKinnon’s Guthrie asked.
“I had a small fever, it was around a hundred Celsius, but I did great,” Baldwin-Trump continued. “I never died, never saw a hell or the devil. He never showed me a list of my sins. I was just alive and strong the whole time.”
The Biden part of the sketch, meanwhile, concluded with a pretty funny parody of Biden’s IRL closing statement. “George, we have to restore sanity to the nation,” Carry’s Biden said: “If elected, I promise I won’t tweet once. Because I don’t know how. And I’ll have exactly one scandal: I will mistake Angela Merkel for my wife from behind and tell her she’s got a rocking caboose. There’s no malice in that. That’s it!”
As for the Trump section, near the end of the gag, as the scene switched back from Biden to Trump, you could hear “SNL” cast member Beck Bennett narrating: “And now, Savannah is telling him there’s another question. But oh no! It was just a distraction! Savannah Guthrie has a folding chair from the audience and Trump doesn’t see it! Oh, the humanity!” at which point the Wrestlemania bit began.
We get it, “SNL,” you were (justifiably) proud of Guthrie’s performance.
Watch the clip above.