At left, Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on SNL (Will Heath/NBC); at right, Sean Spicer during a Jan. 31 briefing (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
No attempt to ridicule Donald Trump’s controversies — from his remarks about Mexicans to the “Access Hollywood” tape — could derail his successful road to the White House.
Trump acknowledged as much a year ago when he spoke about supporters so loyal that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
But that was candidate Trump. Now Trump is running the government as a president who cares very deeply about appearances — so much so that a “Saturday Night Live” sketch could affect how he does it.
Melissa McCarthy’s frustrated, unhinged parody of White House press secretary Sean Spicer on last weekend’s SNL unsettled the White House and bothered Trump, and her performance was seen as potentially hurting Spicer’s longevity in the job, Politico reported, citing people close to the president.
[Melissa McCarthy was the perfect choice to play White House’s Sean Spicer on SNL]
Yes, a late-night comedian’s performance could affect what Trump does as president — and this is exciting some anti-Trump comedians.
“I was just so excited to hear he was upset about it, because it feels like comedy is a weapon that we can use against them, that they don’t have,” said standup comedian Nikki Glaser.
McCarthy lampooned one of the most visible members of Trump’s White House, one who already faces scrutiny by the president himself. Trump watches Spicer’s press briefings and summons him later in the day for praise and criticism, the New York Times reported, citing a West Wing aide.
Image matters to Trump. Per that same Times story, Trump has directed staff to hold as many events as possible in the Oval Office, where he is obsessed with the decor. The window dressings were changed to gold curtains on Day One of his presidency. He’s used the phrase “central casting” to describe generals, potential running mates and possible Cabinet secretaries. During the transition, he sought to fill the most visible administration roles with not only those who can do the job, but people who also look the part.
“Presentation is very important because you’re representing America not only on the national stage, but also the international stage, depending on the position,” Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller told The Washington Post in December.
Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Trump on SNL got under his skin when he was a candidate, a president-elect and now as president. Trump has repeatedly discussed and tweeted about Baldwin’s impersonation, calling it mean-spirited and biased.
Late-night comics lampooning a president is nothing new, particularly on SNL. The NBC show has done a better job with some White House occupants than others, but if any other heads of state were upset by these portrayals, they kept their criticism private.
[Trump isn’t the first president ‘Saturday Night Live’ has skewered. But this feud stands out.]
Not Trump. And this signals an opening for professional comics opposed to his agenda.
“This is the world’s greatest roast with the most serious consequences in the history of our country,” said longtime standup comic Andy Kindler, who roasts the comedy industry in an annual address at the Just For Laughs festival. “This is a classic situation where the more the target shows weakness, the more the target needs to be prodded. That’s why I think Alec Baldwin is having the time of his life.”
“His comebacks are so weak,” Kindler added of Trump. “I hope it keeps going. I hope it makes him resign.”