Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jim Carrey and Alec Baldwin try to make SNL's debate as ridiculous as the real thing

Alec Baldwin, Jim Carrey
Alec Baldwin, Jim Carrey
Screenshot: Saturday Night Live

All eyes (that still watch network TV) were on last night’s Chris Rock-hosted Saturday Night Live premiere. Not for Rock—although, why not for Rock?—but for newest SNL superstar comedy ringer Jim Carrey to make his debut as the show’s in-house Joe Biden. (Hopefully for at least a four-year commitment.) Naturally, the show chose the recent presidential debate as the perfect cold open for Carrey to stride out in his Biden hair, makeup, wig, teeth, and avuncular hoarseness, since that thing was pure dark, apocalyptic comedy in the first place.

Of course, that meant a return as well for Alec Baldwin’s much-dissed Donald Trump. (To be fair, Baldwin’s buffoonish Trump hasn’t imprisoned any babies, sterilized immigrants against their will, or been credibly accused of sexual assault by more than a score of women—he’s just lazy comedy.) Facing off (after Carrey’s Biden whipped out a measuring tape and moved his podium out of the spittle zone) in front of Beck Bennett’s accurately helpless and ineffectual moderator Chris Wallace, the two extended-cameo political caricatures pretty much followed the nonsensical script from the actual debate. The writers attempted gamely to up the absurdity, with only occasional success, but that’s admittedly a tough bar to clear.

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Baldwin’s Trump interminably interrupted Biden with the volume and grace of a nap-deprived toddler told he can’t watch Spongebob, while doing some busy hand-work, throwing up a fingers-crossed oath that he took the COVID test he pinky-swore to take, and throwing down a double “OK” symbol when proclaiming he doesn’t even know how to signal white supremacists. (Hey, remember when a sitting president told gangs of neo-Nazi thugs—and overjoyed Trump boosters—to “stand back and stand by” on national TV?) In Biden’s case, Carrey was uncharacteristically (for sketch comedy) subdued, channeling Biden’s wonted laid-back style as he unsuccessfully fended off his opponent’s bloviating ejaculations, lies, and the occasional racist term while referring to his earpiece for some self-help relaxation tapes. (Courtesy of Harry Styles, for reasons.)

Still, things got off the rails pretty quickly, Biden finally snapping—as actual Biden did—for Trump to shut the hell up with all that noise. After Trump whipped out the laser pointer to distract Biden (here finally Carrey broke out some physical schtick), it was up to the episode’s other hotly anticipated guest star to step in and put her Converse down. That’s right, Maya Rudolph has also signed on to (again, hopefully for a long time) reprise her stellar Kamala Harris for her old show home, here adopting the only tone one could conceivably use on a pair of squabbling little boys such as Carrey and Baldwin’s Biden and Trump. “Let Mamala go to work,” Rudolph’s Harris told the embarrassed Biden before eliciting a reluctant apology from a cowed Trump. Later, Biden himself managed to corral the stampeding Trump by whipping out the magic remote control much of America was wishing they had last Tuesday. As Biden addressed the audience directly with Baldwin’s Trump frozen blessedly in place, he might be no Kamala Harris, but at least his slogan (“Make America Not Actively On Fire Again”) has a welcome ring to it.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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