We’re less than two weeks away from election day, so of course like every other episode this season the cold open of Saturday’s “SNL” mined the 2020 presidential race for material with a parody of the final (thank goodness) debate between Democratic candidate Joe Biden and Republican incumbent Donald Trump. Watch that above.
Naturally this meant the return of Alec Baldwin as Trump, joined by Jim Carrey who, in what is almost certainly a response to the widespread criticism last week, rolled out a near-total revamp of his Biden impression that worked pretty well. They were joined by Maya Rudolph, but instead of playing Kamala Harris she portrayed debate moderator Kristen Welker, who led the audience in a Debate Bingo drinking game. And even Kate McKinnon showed up for a brief joke referencing how Rudy Giuliani was publicly humiliated by the new “Borat” movie.
Now about the new Biden: Previously this season, Carrey has opted for an over-the-top version of Biden as doddering and slightly senile, which of course is how the Trump campaign wants Biden to be seen. Unfortunately, that portrayal bears zero resemblance either to his actual performances in the recent debates and town halls, or how even conservative viewers perceived him. And in fact, large majorities of viewers thought Biden won the final debate.
But as we noted above, viewers generally didn’t care for the “SNL” version. So it is that on this episode, Carrey debuted what amounts to a total reboot, playing Biden as an amped-up, still-old man swaggering around who, sort of like the real Biden, constantly drops catch phrases like “come on” that sometimes land, and sometimes don’t. In essence, the new version of Biden is competent instead of decrepit, still kind of ridiculous, but more of an audience surrogate for frustrations people might feel watching Trump’s uh, antics.
And of course, the cold open went in on some of those antics, like Trump’s weird comments about wind power, or his failed attempts to paint Biden as a criminal based on a widely debunked smear connected to Biden’s son, Hunter.
The sketch started out with Rudolph speaking for, probably, a lot of viewers: “I’m Kristen Welker and it is the honor of a lifetime to moderate the second and, praise Jesus, final presidential debate. Tonight we have a mute button because it was either that or tranquilizer darts, and the president has a very high tolerance for those after his COVID treatment.”
Then very quickly the sketch made clear how different the Biden portrayal. First, Baldwin’s Trump began addressing Rudolph’s Welker like she was a waitress. “Really, you’re taking really good care of us tonight. Now could you just tell us about the specials, please?” he said.
After some more jokes along those lines, Baldwin’s Trump got to the big issue of 2020, parodying some actual things IRL Trump said during the final debate. “Anyway coronavirus, so boring, right? I mean, but we’re doing terrific. We’re rounding the corner, in fact we’ve rounded so many corners we’ve gone all the way around the block and we’re back when we started in March.”
“Come on, man, we’re in the middle of a third wave,” Carrey’s Baldwin said. “Where I come from, if a girl gave you a third wave you were practically married. Doesn’t even know what time it is. It’s half past come on, man.”
Baldwin’s Trump then talked about his recovery from COVID, and “SNL” used the moment to mock one of Trump’s most frequent falsehoods, stories he tells involving people who call him “sir.”: “Look, I had it. It was very mean to me, but I beat it. And now the doctors say I can never die. And this virus said to me, ‘Sir, sir, I have to leave your body now,’ and the virus was crying. Very sad. He didn’t want to leave my body, and the point is we’re all learning to live with it.
Then Carrey’s Biden referenced one of the real Biden’s dunks from the debate: “Learning to live with it? We’re learning to die with it, man,” at which point he stared into the camera squinting like Clint Eastwood.
“Looks like Mr. Biden is so mad he’s Eastwooding it a little bit,” Rudolph joked.
The sketch continued from there, rattling off some of the greatest hits from the debate, like Trump’s weird (and oft-repeated) false claims about wind power, and the very different closing statements each candidate made. Like we said before, you can watch the whole thing above.