Hosting ‘Saturday Night Live,’ Donald Trump fends off mock heckler
NEW YORK — Donald Trump hadn’t gotten far into his monologue before trouble occurred. An off-screen heckler interrupted with a cry of “Racist!”
But the heckler was comedian Larry David, who before Trump arrived on stage had been seen impersonating Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
“Larry, what are you doing?” Trump asked with a trace of exasperation.
“I heard if I yelled that they’d give me $5,000,” said David with a shrug, echoing an offer reportedly made by pro-Hispanic groups protesting Trump’s appearance.
“As a businessman,” Trump said, “I can fully respect that.”
Trump’s 90 minutes in the “SNL” spotlight followed weeks of growing anticipation, increasingly sharp criticism and mounting calls for him to be dumped from the show. But the billionaire developer and Republican presidential candidate hosted Saturday’s “SNL” as scheduled. And, at least in NBC’s Studio 8H, there was no more unrest — staged or otherwise.
In his monologue, Trump promised his appearance would be “something special,” while noting that many people had asked him why he accepted the gig. He said they had told him, “You’re brilliant, you’re handsome, you’re rich. The world is waiting for you to be president. Why?”
His answer: “I had nothing better to do.”
“But part of the reason I’m here,” he added, “is to show I can take a joke.”
In one sketch, Trump was willing to mock his penchant for tweeting insults about people.
“I hate to break it to you guys,” he told viewers, “but I’m not going to be in the next sketch.” Instead, off-camera, he live-tweeted comments that were flashed on the screen as “SNL” cast members performed:
“Cecily Strong is not a nice person.”
“Kate McKinnon was born stupid.”
“I love SNL … SNL loves me. But everyone in this sketch is a total loser who can bite my dust.”
Another sketch featured Trump in the Oval Office in 2018 — two years into his presidency — savoring his many successes.
By then, Syria is at peace. China is borrowing money from the U.S. Trump’s real-life daughter, Ivanka, is the administration’s secretary of the interior, and announces the Washington Monument will be covered with gold.
Did it all sound too good to be possible?
“If you think that’s how it’s going to be when I’m president, you’re wrong. It’s going to be even better,” Trump said, addressing viewers. “I said to the writers of this sketch, ‘Keep it modest.'” His preference, he insisted, was to keep expectations for his presidency low, not overpromise.
Until Saturday, just eight politicians had served as guest hosts in the NBC sketch comedy series’ 40 years. Only one of those — the Rev. Al Sharpton, in 2003 — was actively involved in a presidential bid at the time. (Hillary Clinton appeared in last month’s season premiere, but not as the host.)
The TV spotlight granted Trump fanned the flames of outrage sparked in June when he announced his Republican candidacy for president and described some Mexicans who are in the United States illegally as criminals and rapists.
Hours before the show’s 11:30 p.m. EST Saturday airtime, dozens of protesters marched from Trump Tower to NBC’s studio in Rockefeller Plaza, chanting in both English and Spanish and carrying signs. In Spanish, they chanted: “The people united shall never be defeated” and signs declared SNL racist.
“I feel like they’re giving him a platform,” said Hazel Hernandez, 26, who emigrated from El Salvador and now lives in Brooklyn. “I’m an immigrant myself, so I’m pretty outraged. I’ve been in this country for many years, and I’m outraged that they would let him host SNL. It’s upsetting.”
Trump’s comments last summer spurred NBC to sever its Miss Universe ties with him while declaring he would never return to his “Apprentice” role. But leading up to Saturday’s broadcast, NBC did not respond to the outcry against Trump that had built since “SNL” announced his host booking last month.
Typically outspoken, Trump welcomed the controversy, predicting it would only boost his audience.
It wasn’t Trump’s first turn as guest host. The billionaire developer and media personality presided in April 2004, a few weeks after he debuted as host of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”
This time, while Trump demonstrated once again that he could take a joke, he was running for president. The sketches — both with and without him — seldom let the audience forget it.
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