“SNL” spent its 43rd season firing away at American politics and culture, with no shortage of ammunition coming from Donald Trump and the rest of the White House staff.
Season 44 of “SNL” is now in full swing. The first two episodes of December brought us a pair of first time hosts — “The Crown” star Claire Foy, along with musical guest Anderson.Paak on Dec. 1, and “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa with Mumford and Sons as musical guest on Dec. 8.
This week, for the Dec. 15 episode, we’ll get a new episode hosted by Matt Damon, who will be hosting for only the second time and first time since 2002. Despite the hosting drought, Damon has already had a big impact on “SNL” this year — in the season 44 premiere, Damon portrayed Brett Kavanaugh during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in what was probably the best sketch of the season.
Damon will be accompanied by Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson as the musical guests. With Cyrus having herself hosted “SNL” before, don’t be surprised if she pops up in a couple sketches.
The season premiere was eventful beyond just Damon’s appearance — musical guest Kanye West wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat on stage and giving a pro-Donald Trump speech that didn’t air. Cast member Pete Davidson addressed West’s pro-Trump speech during the “Weekend Update” portion of the Oct. 6 episode the following week.
Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin has popped up far less often in season 44 than he did in the last two seasons, when he would appear as Donald Trump in the cold open most weeks. He’s only appeared twice so far this season, though the most recent instance was just two weeks ago. Will he pop up again this week, in the final episode before the holiday break?
The political bent has continued throughout the season. Ahead of the midterm elections, we got a cold open sketch that parodied Fox News’ hysterical coverage of the immigrant caravan ahead of this week’s midterm elections. The sketch saw cast member Kate McKinnon playing “Ingraham Angle” host Laura Ingraham, with guest appearances by Kenan Thompson as right-wing former sheriff David Clarke and Cecily Strong popping up as “Judge” Jeanine Pirro. The three took turns spouting false narratives about the caravan and presenting videos of things like a mob of Black Friday shoppers and crabs scrambling around on a beach as being footage of the caravan.
Then, two weeks ago, we saw Robert De Nero pop up again as special counsel Robert Mueller to bid farewell to Kate McKinnon’s still tremendously impression Jeff Sessions impersonation. And last week McKinnon brought back her Laura Ingraham impression for another crazy, fearmongering episode of “Ingraham Angle.”
Season 44 has featured the expected emphasis on politics, and a special guest appearance to rival the surprises of Season 43 in Damon. With Seth Meyers hosting last month, it continues a trend from last season, which saw a number of “SNL” alumni returning as hosts and making guest appearances. Season 43’s finale was one such episode with a returning cast member taking the helm: alumna Tina Fey as host, with musical guest was Nicki Minaj.
Other bygone “SNL” cast members hosting in Season 43 included Bill Hader, who led the March 17 episode. It also featured a guest appearance by former “SNL” cast member Fred Armisen, playing “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff. John Goodman also made a surprise appearance, playing former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Stand-up comic and former “SNL” writer John Mulaney hosted an episode that included a big guest appearance surprise as well — its cold open featured Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, playing Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, respectively. The pair did a political sketch riffing on their hit comedy, “Meet the Parents.” It was Stiller’s first appearance as Cohen, a role he returned to several times throughout the last few months of Season 43. The season finale saw the return of both Stiller and De Niro as Cohen and Mueller, joining Alec Baldwin as Trump, Kate McKinnon as Rudy Giuliani, and Mikey Day as Donald Trump Jr.
Will Ferrell, who left the show way back in 2002, also played host last season. His Jan. 27 episode marked Ferrell’s fourth turn as host for the show in the last 16 years, and his first return to lead the show since 2012. Singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton took on the role of musical guest.