Melissa McCarthy steals the show as Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live

Grim Reaper-esque Steven Bannon encourages Donald Trump to tell Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull ‘your reef is failing’

After a brief absence, Alec Baldwin returned to Saturday Night Live this weekend with his now infamous Donald Trump impression, but it was Melissa McCarthy’s unexpected arrival as the White House press secretary Sean Spicer that was the show’s finest and most necessary satire this week.

McCarthy’s Spicer came out yelling at the assembled press corps, pounding gum and tossing out threats to the journalists while admitting that “I don’t talk so good”. It was an inspired piece of casting; McCarthy, who’s become a reliable SNL host in recent years, excels at characters who teeter right on the edge of sanity.

With Spicer, she’s found a perfect real world example of someone barely keeping it all together – addressing Trump’s prime time announcement for his supreme court nominee, he assured the press: “Everyone was smiling, everyone was happy, the men all had erections, and every single one of the women was ovulating left and right.”

Spicer even turned to prop comedy at one point, explaining the president’s fight against radical “moose-lambs” with stuffed animals and resorting to squirting a reporter with a water gun. With the celebrity cameo and the topical subject matter, it felt like a cold open – it even ended with a fake “Live from New York” – and probably should have been.

Instead, the real cold open focused on the president’s disastrous week of foreign phone calls, with a Grim Reaper-esque Steven Bannon encouraging Trump to tell the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, that “your reef is failing”, to trick the president of Mexico into paying for his border wall, and to brag about the size of his inauguration crowds to Angela Merkel, who answered the phone optimistically, “Is this my sweet Barack?”

It ended with a phone call to Zimbabwe, where a furious Robert Mugabe put Trump in his place, which harkened back to perhaps Trevor Noah’s finest Daily Show segment to date.

Other key sketches for the night included:

A pre-tape video from border control, now roughly re-edited to account for the seven countries that now require extra immigration vetting, “and maybe Australia, we’ll see”. The new dubbed voiceover cuts in to promise “there will be someone - NO ONE! - to help you” as visitors navigate the now insanely complex process of entering the US.

A seemingly innocuous take on bro-tastic football commercials, where a complacent wife (Vanessa Bayer) who promises to bake up some frozen foods for “her hungry guys”, turns sexy and quite sweet when she falls for her husband’s friend’s sister. “What’s your name?” asks the sister, guest host Kristen Stewart. “I’ve never had one,” Bayer responds quietly.

Despite a few cue-card reading flubs, Weekend Update had a strong showing. Colin Jost reacted to the judicial block on the president’s Muslim ban by noting that “getting temporarily blocked is just foreplay”, while Michael Che reflected on what it means to target radical Muslims: “I have a Muslim friend, he doesn’t eat pork and he doesn’t have sex with white women. To me, that’s mad radical.”


Elise Czajkowski

The GuardianTramp

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