Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Taran Killam says Lorne Michaels pressed SNL writers to go easy on Donald Trump

Sia, Donald Trump, and Kate McKinnon
Photo: NBC

Saturday Night Live veteran and Single Parents star Taran Killam swung by Matt Gourley’s wonderful I Was There, Too podcast this week for a candid, amusing talk about his life and career. In it, he chats about his surprising turn in 12 Years A Slave and his underrated directorial debut, Killing Gunther, but most captivating are his insights into SNL, where he experienced no shortage of ups and downs across his six seasons.

Most troubling for him, however, was the show’s handling of presidential candidate Donald Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election. “Lorne was being so specific about what we could and couldn’t say about him,” Killam said, adding that Michaels continually downplayed Trump’s actions, comparing him to a “New York City cab driver.”


“‘I know him, I’ve seen him around at parties for years and years, and he just says whatever it is he’s thinking, and that’s his thing,’” Killam quotes Michaels as saying. “‘But… you have to find a way in that makes him likable.’”

Killam, who played Trump before Alec Baldwin took over, said Michaels shot down a proposed parody of a bonkers CNN interview with Trump—“‘It’ll be old news by then, and, you know, you don’t want to vilify him,’”— urging the cast to instead perform a light-hearted sketch about him and his wife, Melania, in their home. It was when Killam saw Trump’s name on a list of potential guest hosts that he realized why Michaels was being so careful.

Trump did end up hosting in November of 2015, and, with Gourley, Killam adds some more texture to his previous comments about the disastrous week. He also breaks out his very, very good Trump impression, which really makes us wish Baldwin had never taken over.

Elsewhere in the interview, Killam says that the culture at “changed quite a bit” when Seth Meyers departed as head writer in 2014, adding that Myers “was the last person there who I witnessed really collaborate with [creator] Lorne [Michaels], as opposed to just kind of do what Lorne says.” Michaels, he speculated, also grew “impatient” after the show’s landmark 40th anniversary celebration, when Killam says“it was back to this cast who’s all 40 years younger than you and aren’t as famous as Tina Fey.”


Listen to full episode here.

[via TVLine]


Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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