There are times you might think we just elected a TV critic-in-chief. Those times often come at just before midnight Saturdays, when President-elect Donald Trump goes off on Twitter about another Alec Baldwin portrayal of him on “Saturday Night Live.”
It happened again this past Saturday in the most meta fashion, when Trump tweeted about a sendup of his tweeting.
The “Saturday Night Live” skit portrayed Trump, played by Alec Baldwin, retweeting posts by 16-year-olds and conspiracy nuts instead of paying attention during a security briefing.
Trump replied: “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live — unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad”.
OK, we didn’t say being TV critic-in-chief made you a good TV critic. He has also said in interviews that he thinks the show is going to be canceled, even as it enjoys its best ratings since 1992 — one of the show’s glory days, with a cast including Mike Myers, Chris Rock and Dana Carvey (whose specialties included the “wouldn’t be prudent” George H.W. Bush impersonation).
Our 45th president needs to understand that the send-ups come with the office. Lampooning the president is a United States tradition that goes back to George Washington, who was satirized in print and probably formally and informally on stage, too. In the modern era, those satirical pieces have been mass-produced.
A 1963 album called “The First Family” by a guy named Vaughn Meader, sending up President John F. Kennedy, won the Grammy Award for album of the year — not comedy album of the year but album — beating out Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and Ray Charles’ “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.” (Finding that album and some others by guys like Allan Sherman and Bob Newhart in my parents’ record collection launched my love of comedy and comedy albums.)
“Saturday Night Live” debuted in 1975 with Chevy Chase portraying President Gerald Ford as an accident-prone doofus, and the show hasn’t let up on the Oval Office since. Ask George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama.
Virtually all presidents took it in stride, with maybe some mild disdain. Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, in the midst of some brutal takedowns by Tina Fey, even showed up in the midst of an SNL skit during the 2008 presidential campaign.
This is going to happen to the president, regardless of party, ideology or anything else.
President-elect Trump really should be flattered: “Saturday Night Live” went out and got a bona fide movie star to play him, instead of drawing from its regular crew, once known as the Not Ready for Prime Time Players.
Granted, Trump enjoys a First Amendment right to say what he wants, the same as comics and pundits. But now that he is the president-elect, most of us would really prefer that he concentrate more on preparing to govern and less on late-night comedy critiques — and stop giving the comics so much material.
‘Saturday Night Live’
11:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC
Host John Cena, musical guest Maren Morris