Opinion: SNL, comedians must walk a fine line covering Trump administration


Matt Poe

Matt Poe

One of the most commonly discussed aspects of the wackiness that is the Trump administration is the idea of how media and other platforms cover this circus masquerading as a presidency.

The question itself is only posed because, hell, we’ve never seen a presidency like this before, one where its reality seems far more absurd and humorous than anything you or I can come up with, in terms of satire.

Most of it has been pretty hilarious in a holy-hell-I-can’t-believe-we’re-at-this-point kind of way. Then I remember Trump has access to the nuclear codes, and I want to crawl into my fallout bunker surrounded by puppies, hockey and enough beer to last three decades.

But, back to the matter at hand (small ones, at that): attempting to cover Trump and his goon squad has been debated incessantly, with every talking head having some opinion on how it should be properly done. Here’s a few examples of that logic:

Do we cover everything Trump does to show the public this behavior is not normal? Do we cover only the most important issues and ignore every time he tweets something ridiculous? Does too much coverage inadvertently normalize him and his colleagues odd behaviors? Where do babies come from?

These are the questions that keep me up at night.

It seems as if those in the entertainment world may be asking themselves the same questions about how they should cover Trump and his antics. In terms of that comedic coverage, none are doing it better than Saturday Night Live and, in particular, Melissa McCarthy.

I’ve made my warrants on many occasions that I think SNL has suffered dramatically in its talent, writing and overall quality over the last decade. After all, the show has been on for over 40 years with major overhauls in cast members and writers every couple of years to shake things up.

The show, however, has struck gold with McCarthy’s interpretation of Press Secretary Sean Spicer and, to a lesser extent, Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Trump. McCarthy’s appearances the last two weeks have been a riot and, while I’m no expert on the history of SNL, I’d easily put her portrayal of Spicer up there with the other great bits in the show’s long-tenured history; Bless her, for she is a treasure.  

The bit with the squirt gun was simply side-splitting, and “washing that filthy, lying mouth” has become one of my favorite things to say to my Republican friends anytime something comes out of their mouths (kidding).

So, all is good; SNL should continue to keep up the gift that is Spicer and Trump’s silver platter of comedic gold?

Wrong (Trump voice).

What made McCarthy’s Spicer bit so effective was – much like Spicer’s actual first press conference – how out of nowhere it seemed to come, and that’s evident for how well it spread across social media. Again, that’s a probable indicator that the show will continue to use McCarthy’s sketch, and it will more than likely become a weekly staple.

That’s the problem.

News outlets of all types, including this dimwitted columnist, exhaustively joked and dissected Trump to the point that it felt like we were shouting at a brick wall until we were blue in the face. Much of that coverage may have played into that perception of normalization that it was intended to avoid in the first place.

Am I hypocritical for asking SNL to pause its Trump and Spicer sketches when I will most certainly continue to use them as fuel to write columns and satire about them? Absolutely I am. Have you met me?

Ultimately, I think it’s going to take media, entertainment and all of us in this country a while to figure out the right balance for providing legitimate, hard-hitting coverage of Trump and his colleagues while also being able to find the humor in them, even if it’s a sad and dangerous reality where that humor exists and occupies.

As aforementioned, I’m exhausted. I feel how Kellyanne Conway looks (oh, snap).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Poe’s got to go bye-bye and take a big boy nap.  

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].