“SNL” picked an extremely topical topic for the cold open of Saturday’s episode, roasting both sides of the congressional hearings on antisemitism.
The sketch had something for everyone (except, perhaps, people looking to laugh.) On the one hand, it leaned in hard on the obvious showboating and bad faith on display by Republicans during the hearings, particularly from NY Rep. Elise Stefanik, portrayed here by “SNL” featured player Chloe Troast.
It also sent up the disastrous appearances by the presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT, played here by Chloe Fineman, Heidi Garder and Ego Nwodim. Their parts in this emphasized how incoherently academic, blithe and noncommittal — even in response to easy layups like denouncing pro-genocide speech — their testimony often was.
Alas, it came with halted pacing that kept most of the jokes from landing, and other than correctly depicting how vapid Stefanik is and how utterly unprepared for the moment the leaders of three of America’s top colleges were, it was a tepid and meandering satire. (Honestly, we suspect the decision to make it the cold open sketch might have been last minute, which would explain a lot.)
Fortunately, Kenan Thompson’s brief appearance as the president of Univeristy of Phoenix was hilarious.
“Finally a real president of a real university,” Troast’s Stefanik said when he appeared.
Thompson’s Phoenix president exclaimed that this was actually part of the school’s motto, saying “U of P, we are a real university.”
When asked if antisemitic speech was considered inappropriate for the school, Thompson said, “My campus is the internet. So antisemitism is kind of our most popular major and our mascot is porn.”
Watch the clip below:
And now, testimony from three University presidents on the subject of antisemitism on college campuses pic.twitter.com/EtLFiEvM1z— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) December 10, 2023
The sketch came just hours after University of Pennsylvania president Elizabeth Magill resigned following backlash to her congressional testimony.
She appeared alongside MIT president Sally Kornbluth and Harvard president Claudine Gay on Tuesday during a hearing about rising antisemitism on college campuses that critics said was more about stifling criticism of the war in Gaza or any advocacy for Palestinians.
All three have been subjected to heavy criticism since. Gay apologized on Friday.
Following the relatively brief cold open, host Adam Driver performed a delightful piano song during his monologue. Watch that below: