If you have been loyally watching every episode of Saturday Night Live in the last couple of years, you would be in a small group. The seasons following the departure of former head writer Seth Meyers have been critically hailed as some of the worst. Not to mention, in 2014 the ratings dipped to an all-time low. And these ratings would never jump worlds higher for the next couple years, until they invited a groundbreaking and controversial host to the stage: Donald Trump.
The night Trump went live in Studio 8A, almost seven million people tuned in. Backlash followed, saying that NBC should not be allowed to give just one candidate that kind of airtime, especially one of the most disliked and problematic ones in the country’s history.
Fast forward ten months, and Trump is the republican candidate running against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Their debates draw in unprecedentedly high ratings, and so do the parodies of these debates. The season 42 opener brought in 8.3 million viewers. But it’s not just the ratings that are impressive. The actual sketches themselves are better, funnier, and more promising for what this season will look like.
For three seasons now, the many people who have been missing SNL have not been missing much. The era of Colin Jost, Bryan Tucker, and Rob Klein as a head writers was not highly acclaimed, and therefore was short lived.
Enter Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, who were announced as the new head writers just two months before the show’s big return. No pressure. All eyes turned to them to save SNL from what some people thought was an unfunny hole that could never be climbed out of.
Thankfully for Kelly and Schneider, they had plenty of material to work with. With Kate McKinnon’s hilariously anxious yet spry Clinton, and Alec Baldwin, who joined the cast for a season just so he could do a freakishly accurate Trump, everyone wants to know what SNL will be saying next about the presidential race. And they make their stance clear: They’re with her.
For their opening episode with host Margot Robbie, three of their sketches (Weekend Update not included) were politically charged, including their debate cold open which now has over 18 million views on YouTube. For the two episodes that would follow, political satires included Trump addressing the 2005 Access Hollywood tape leak, Lemonade from the perspective of Trump’s leading ladies, and an imagining of a day off in the Life of KellyAnne Conway.
Not only do these clips get the most clicks online, but they are generally the funniest in every episode. We live in a time where political intrigue is at an all-time high. No one is afforded the chance to stop thinking about this election. We can’t escape it, and it is utterly exhausting.
And even though SNL’s take is always heavily liberal leaning, so is its general audience. And it draws in laughs because it makes light of what haunts us every time we turn on our TV, open up Twitter or Facebook, or turn on the radio in our car. So long as you’re not too far on the right side of the spectrum, the show is objectively funny and paints incredible caricatures of the two candidates on the ballot.
Shows like SNL were created for this exact reason: to enlighten the country with satire, and also to bring some amount of comic relief from reality. And this election gives it the opportunity to do just both. And SNL does its job well. They take the elements of this election that make us feel like the world is burning to the ground, and add both poignant and trivial commentary. They take away the doom, and make it funny. When Trump says something that makes us shake in our seats from fear, we still know that we have their parody of it to look forward to and ground us again.
This circus of an election cycle may be the last thing we all wanted to deal with, but it is exactly what SNL needed to make the show great again. (Please kill me for making that pun.) The material brought out by every scandal, debate, and even tweets, is effectively giving the show CPR and bringing it back to the shining standard it sets for comedy. This election coverage alone can paint this season of SNL as a golden area. These sketches have the ability to live in historic and comedic infamy, and we can only hope that even after November 8, SNL will keep its momentum strong.