SNL season premiere is a home run

Gabby Seed

This past weekend, “Saturday Night Live” began its 42nd season with a presidential debate cold open sketch that featured recent Emmy winner Kate McKinnon as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and special guest Alec Baldwin as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

McKinnon has played Clinton since taking over the role from comedienne Amy Poehler, who left the variety show in 2008, but this was Baldwin’s first time stepping into Trump’s shoes. SNL’s debate cold opens are always a crowd favorite, with non-regular viewers tuning in to see the sketch or finding it on YouTube later in the week.

The energy in the crowd during this highly anticipated 10-minute sketch was palpable even through the television set; studio audience members reacted audibly to McKinnon’s portrayal of Clinton’s push to be “relatable” and Baldwin’s portrayal of Trump’s frequent interruptions.

This firework of a cold open was followed by Margot Robbie’s deflated opening monologue. The host’s monologue is an unwavering SNL tradition with which I have always found problems.

The monologue is an attempt at comedic stand-up but usually ends up being an awkward sequence of cast members wandering in and out, trying to save the host with their marginally-better jokes. Regardless of whether or not the host for the night is actually a comedian, this formula is used. Consequently, singers and celebrities are forced into a role they simply cannot play.

Despite this setback that seems to plague almost every episode of the show, last weekend’s SNL managed to quickly pick itself up off of the ground. Even after the cold open, much of the 90-minute show clung to a political motif.

Kenan Thompson’s long-running parody of “Family Feud” pitted parodied supporters and family members of Clinton against parodied supporters and family members of Trump. Newcomer Melissa Villaseñor gave us a taste of her skills in impressions, as she played comedienne Sarah Silverman on the Clinton side of the game show parody.

Villaseñor captured Silverman’s nasally tone and cackle-like laugh. She is SNL’s first Latina cast member, but this milestone has unfortunately been overshadowed by Villaseñor’s recent purge of racist tweets she had posted in the past. However, Villaseñor and her cast mates’ impressions paled in comparison compared to that of Kate McKinnon, who tackled the persona of Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.

Popular segment “Weekend Update”, which stars Michael Che and Colin Jost as news reporters, also focused on the current political atmosphere, but was broken up by the lightheartedness of Cecily Strong’s recurring character, Cathy Anne. This week, Cathy Anne was unsure of who she should vote for, garnering laughs when she referred to President Barack Obama as “Robama,” Melania Trump as “Nelamia,” and Ivanka Trump as “Kivana.”

Cathy Anne, like many other SNL characters and sketches, offers comedic relief in an election season where Americans are truly fearful about the future of their country. We are inundated daily with posts, tweets, news segments and newspaper clippings swaying us one way or the other, but just five weeks out from the election, it’s clear that it’s time for a break.

SNL provides the opportunity to find at least a little humor in this crazy election year.

Gabby Seed is a columnist, contact her at [email protected].