Matt Damon hosted 2018's last episode of Saturday Night Live, which featured a cold open that looked at Donald Trump's presidency through the prism of It's a Wonderful Life (as Miranda Priestley would say, "Florals for spring? Groundbreaking.").
The straight white male actors who parade in every other week or so to play Trump (Alec Baldwin, who punches people over parking spots and routinely drops antigay slurs), Special Counsel Robert Mueller (Bobby DeNiro, a great actor who should be running miles from this tripe), and the assorted characters in this orbit (Ben Stiller as Michael Cohen, etc.) swung by and read off cue cards to some forced laughs.
Damon was greeted with applause for playing accused sexual predator/Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh; Damon has never been accused of the heinous crimes Kavanaugh has, but he's shown his understanding of race and sexuality is not far removed from the far-right jurist. Damon gets praise for his impression, but does portraying a hard drinking former frat boy seem like a real stretch?
A fictional Mike Pence made an appearance in the lazy skit, which imagined how everyone's life would be had Trump lost the electoral college. Care to guess how the homophobic VP was portrayed by player Beck Bennett? As a DJ wearing a sleeveless shirt; Pence hates gay people, so obviously he must be gay.
This trope is repeated in other episodes when Bennett plays Vladimir Putin, where the cozy relationship between the Russian dictator and the illegitimate American president is often depicted as sexual in nature. Basically, Trump is Putin's "butt boy," as straight people like to say.
Then we had a skit that played off the antigay controversy that helped fell Kevin Hart's appointment as Oscar host. No comedic insight was offered about Hart's pathetic non-apology, his initial refusal to rise to the moment and decry words of violence against gender-nonconforming children. Instead, SNL's players were trotted out and did impressions of other actors and comedians. The show's writers continue to waste the talents of their female cast, with out star Kate McKinnon portraying comedian Michelle Wolf (the big joke was that her voice is squeaky), as well as Ellen DeGeneres.
"I'll host the Oscars, sure," McKinnon says as DeGeneres. "I haven't done anything controversial in my life except for being gay. But people like that now except for the guy who was supposed to host." Fin.
Offensive? No. Enlightening or even mildly funny? No.
The brainchild of this tired show is head writer Colin Jost, the smug, smirking co-host of the show's Weekend Update. After Jost told New Yorkers they should be appreciative that Amazon will soon invade their city with a new HQ and make traffic worse and rents even more expensive, The Advocate's sister publication wrote how Jost is one of the worst things to ever happen to SNL. I myself was gobsmacked when Jost not only joked that Hillary Clinton's loss to Trump was due to her outreach to minority groups, but that he backed up his assertion by tweeting out a wildly reductive New York Times op-ed that decried "identity politics." Don't you love being mansplained that minority groups don't deserve to be name-checked by presidential candidates?
On top of the toxic male goo that now seeps into nearly every joke on SNL, the skits are completely forgettable save for the celebrity and political skits. Remember the days of Gilda Radner's Roseanne Roseannadanna and Eddie Murphy's Buckwheat? Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri's energetic cheerleaders? Tim Meadows' sexually confident Ladies Man? Molly Shannon's hyperactive Mary Katherine Gallagher? Kristin Wiig's bragadocious Penelope? There are almost no running skits on the current SNL; that's even more offensive than the show's testosterone-laden worldview. Maybe like American voters did to Congress, Lorne Michaels will clean house at his ailing show and replace his skits, actors, and hosts with people who actually look like this country.
NEAL BROVERMAN is the interim digital editorial director of The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @nbroverman.