‘Saturday Night Live,’ With Help From Old Friends, Skewers ‘Morning Joe’

Posted January 14, 2018 2:18 p.m. EST

You get a guest star! You get a guest star!

This week’s “Saturday Night Live” did not start in its typical spot with a frowning Alec Baldwin as President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Instead, the cold open was a sendup of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” with Alex Moffat and Kate McKinnon playing outrageously flirty versions of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Mikey Day, as their co-host Willie Geist, was along as an awkward third wheel to a couple that announced their engagement last spring.

But the real stars of the sketch were alumni of “SNL” making guest appearances: Fred Armisen and Bill Murray.

Armisen returned as Michael Wolff, the polarizing author of “Fire and Fury,” the book about the Trump White House that has gripped Washington (and the country) for more than a week. When asked what he didn’t include in the book, Armisen offered up this: “baby races.”

“Trump would ask to have two babies placed in his office, usually of different ethnicities,” Armisen said. “Someone would put a bowl of Goldfish crackers on the other side of the room, and Trump would say, ‘A thousand bucks on the black one.'”

When quizzed by Moffat about inaccuracies in his reporting, for which the real Wolff has been castigated, Armisen was unapologetic.

“Look, you read it, right?” Armisen said. “And you liked it, you had fun? Well, what’s the problem? You got the gist, so shut up. Even the stuff that’s not true, it’s true.”

Murray showed up next as Stephen Bannon, the onetime chief strategist to Trump who was completely cast aside after he was quoted in Wolff’s book disparaging the president’s children. While Murray’s delivery was uneven, he did get off a few laugh lines, including telling the MSNBC hosts that he was working on developing a skin care product (“Blotch”) and a line of wrinkled barn jackets called “frumpers for guys.”

“I convinced this country to elect Donald and I can do it again,” Murray said. “Already auditioning candidates, got some prospects. Logan Paul. Martin Shkreli. The Subway guy, Jared Fogle, he’s back. He’s electable. It’s time for America to slide down the Bannon-ster.”

Rounding out the impersonations, Leslie Jones appeared as Oprah Winfrey, fresh off her Golden Globes speech that set off days of speculation that she might run for president in 2020. When asked if she was running, Jones said, “Well, I am a celebrity, so I am qualified.”

— ‘Weekend Update’ Takes On Trump’s Vulgarities

Colin Jost and Michael Che targeted the furor surrounding Trump’s disparaging words this week about Haiti and certain countries in Africa. The hosts responded with a mix of detached bemusement and resignation.

Che said:

“Can I be honest? When someone asked me, ‘Did you hear what Donald Trump called Haiti and Africa?’ I was like, ‘Oh, boy. Did it start with an ‘N’?’ But then I heard what he said, and I was like, ‘That’s it? I’ve said that about countries for not having a CVS.’ Here’s the thing. My job is to make jokes about the news. But Trump saying something racist isn’t exactly news anymore. It’d be news if Trump said, ‘You know what we need more of in this country? Haitians.’

“And by the way, he’s not the only one here that thinks like that. I’ve lived in this country my entire life and I’ve been asked to go back to Africa several times and it’s never been because they thought I’d enjoy it there. But Donald, you do realize how rich these places are in resources, right? I mean, they’re in bad shape because they’ve been robbed and exploited for centuries by Western powers. So the president of the United States calling Africa a shithole is like telling the kid you molested, ‘Boy, did you grow up to be weird.'”

Jost followed up and said: “It was reported that just before the election last year, President Trump’s personal lawyer arranged a six-figure payment to cover up an alleged affair between Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels. So at least there’s one storm Trump will pay for,” while a graphic of Puerto Rico flashed behind Jost.

He went on: “Let me just say what a thrill it is to be alive at a time where ‘Porn Star Blackmails President’ is like the fourth-biggest story of the week. At this rate, in a year from now, we’re going to see the headline ‘Trump Found With Dead Hooker’ right next to the crossword puzzle.”

Following the theme of Trump-related fatigue, Che added a joke later about Winfrey, saying “Many in the public are calling for a run at the presidency in 2020. Oh, can’t we just have a regular one for a while? Just a regular boring, old white dude president that smiles and shape-shifts into a lizard at night. I’m tired of all these fun ideas for president. I miss boring politics.” With all the chatter about Winfrey this week, there was no way that “SNL” was going to let Jones only play her briefly in the cold open. She returned during “Weekend Update,” alongside Chris Redd, who played Winfrey’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham.

Redd ended up being the best part of the bit, as he alternated between telling the audience that Winfrey was and was not running, based on the ambiguous statements Jones was making. And when asked what his role would be in the White House if Winfrey won, Redd said, with a surprised look, “No one’s ever asked me a question before!”

Jones did have two big laugh lines of her own. Referring to winning the vote of white women, Jones said: “Somebody needs to look these women in the eye and say, ‘You deserve my three favorite things: love, respect and a new panini maker. You get a panini! You get a panini! You get a panini!”

And when asked if anyone could beat her in the race, Jones did not miss a beat: “Yes. There’s one thing in my life that’s been able to beat me. Bread!”

— The Delightful Weirdness of Sam Rockwell

Sam Rockwell, this week’s host, has spent his entire career taking quirky roles. In the opening monologue, the show tackled the fact that he seldom plays leading roles in major movies.

It featured Rockwell, less than a week after winning best actor at the Golden Globes for his role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” making use of the whole set at Rockefeller Center as he found himself in various (clichéd) leading man situations — all while Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” played in the background.

Rockwell’s oddball brand was an ideal fit for “SNL,” even though a fine might be coming the show’s way. During his first sketch, in which he played a frustrated PBS host on a faux 1990s children’s show called “The Science Room With Mr. Science,” Rockwell tried in vain to patiently explain basic science to barely interested children. In his frustration, Rockwell let slip an expletive that was not caught by censors — at least on the East Coast. Certainly, he is not the first to do this in “SNL” history. Hello, Kristen Stewart and Jenny Slate!

Rockwell’s portrayal of Stanley Tucci — another talented actor often relegated to sidekick roles — in the digital short “Tucci Gang” was absurd and yet exactly what one would want Rockwell to do in this setting. And any sketch that celebrates Stanley Tucci is well received around these parts.