While Presidential candidate and professional Larry David impersonator Bernie Sanders’ not-so-surprising appearance on Saturday Night Live last night was spoiled ahead of time, Sanders still provided some curmudgeonly chuckles. Appearing alongside the real David as a principled, rumpled immigrant to America, and lecturing David’s lifeboat-grabbing “rich prick” (as David described himself in his monologue), Sanders continued this season’s trend of having Presidential candidate drop-ins integrated into actual sketches. Which is, as it turns out, a much wiser (by a factor of all the numbers in existence) tack than turning over the entire show to a humorless blowhard candidate and his joke-writing team.
However, it was Larry David’s resurrection of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David that stole what turned out to be a very good episode. Or rather, it was Larry David playing Bernie Sanders as Curb’s Larry David in the pre-recorded sketch “Bern Your Enthusiasm.” (You might want to construct a flowchart from this point on.) As a distinctly more Larry-esque Bernie than the Bernie Larry’s been portraying in cameos on SNL this season, this Bernie partakes of that Larry’s irascible unwillingness to overlook his own needs and whims, even if it means losing the Iowa caucus.
Refusing to shake supporter Leslie Jones’ hand at a rally (she coughed on it) and to pop supporter Aidy Bryant’s shoulder back into place after a car accident (what is he, a doctor?), the sketch’s protagonist inevitably sinks his chances of victory. Standing alongside his campaign staff (including Cecily Strong’s Susie Essman, Jay Pharoah’s J.B. Smoove, and Taran Killam’s Bob Einstein, all terrific), Bernie discovers that his razor-thin defeat in Iowa comes at the hands of those very hands (and arms) he just couldn’t bring himself to touch. Like Louis CK’s revelatory “Lincoln” sketch, “Bern Your Enthusiasm” sees a host mapping his signature series onto an SNL premise and producing an all-timer.