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'Saturday Night Live' won't topple Trump
Melissa McCarthy as Press Secretary Sean Spicer on "Saturday Night Live." - photo by Jim Bennett
Can SNL topple the Trump administration?

That question was the headline at a few days ago. CNN, if youre reading this, heres your answer: no.

Its not that "Saturday Night Live" hasnt been knocking it out of the park recently. Alec Baldwins President Donald Trump is pitch perfect and wickedly funny, and whoever was inspired to cast Melissa McCarthy as Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer deserves a huge raise. Her skits where she squirts the White House press pool with super soakers while chewing massive chunks of gum are hysterical from beginning to end, and, if reports are to be believed (, theyre very unnerving to Trump. One could be forgiven for thinking, then, that these biting bits of comedy may eventually take down their intended target.

They wont, and heres why.

In order for "Saturday Night Live" to topple Trump, it has to convince current Trump supporters that their president needs to go. But those people long ago learned that "Saturday Night Live" has nothing but contempt for them, and theyre probably not watching. If they are watching, theyre only tuning in to keep track of what the opposition is up to. Theyre not being entertained and theyre certainly not being convinced.

I have long been baffled as to why so many entertainers have no problem alienating half of their potential audience by picking political fights. When Meryl Streep stands up in awards shows and uses her acceptance speeches to bash Trump, she doesnt seem to realize that the 60 million people who voted for him dont appreciate her point of view and theyre probably far less likely to buy a ticket to her next movie. Perhaps she does realize that and doesnt much care, which is certainly her prerogative. But when you take up arms in a culture war, its only natural that the other side will view you as the enemy.

And more than almost any other show out there, "SNL" has definitely taken sides.

On the Saturday after election night, it opened with Kate McKinnon dressed as Hillary Clinton somberly playing Leonard Cohens Hallelujah at the piano. She was singing new lyrics written to express anguish over Clintons defeat. The tone of the whole thing was funereal and about as far from funny as it was possible to be. And when the song was over, she turned to the camera and said, Im not giving up, and neither should you.

Neither should I? Who was she talking to? Clearly, she wasnt talking to the tens of millions of people who were celebrating Clintons defeat. McKinnon didnt even try to pretend that any of them were part of the "SNL" audience. And if theyre not part of the audience, how are they going to be persuaded to change their minds about the president "SNL" is mocking?

Trumps victory has exposed the fault lines that have fissured popular culture over the last few decades. Watching television is a very different experience for Trump voters than it is for Clinton voters. The Clinton supporters are constantly reassured that theyre more enlightened than the benighted Trump troglodytes, whereas those supposed troglodytes get tired of constantly being the butt of the joke. When Trump won, those same supporters watched the Streeps and McKinnons of the world in full meltdown mode and they loved every minute of it. I think it says something ugly about our country that so many people delight in the political misery of the other side, but thats where we are. And thats undoubtedly where "Saturday Night Live" is. As it keeps preaching to the choir, it shouldn't be surprised that the people it is attacking arent paying attention.
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