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What the Hell Was SNL Thinking With This Week’s Terrible, Socially Oblivious Episode?

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SNL has always been hit-or-miss, even last season, which gave us Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer and some fantastic material based around Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin’s Trump. In between those political highs, however, there a lot of low valleys. It’s the nature of the show. But this weekend’s episode, hosted by Larry David, wasn’t just bad, it was baffling. Especially because over the last couple of seasons, the show has been riding high on newfound political relevance. So it made no sense at all that this week, in the midst of Hollywood’s sexual predator epidemic finally being made public, they would choose to basically dedicate an entire episode to jokes about sexual harassment and assault.

Things were off to a bad start this week with Baldwin’s Trump commenting on Harvey Weinstein, saying, “He could have gotten away with all of it, if only he’d gotten himself elected President.” That’s a solid joke, but it’s dependent on the irony of having accused sexual abuser Donald Trump make a joke about Harvey Weinstein, every drop of which is canceled out when it’s coming out of Alec Baldwin’s mouth.

This week, Baldwin inserted himself into the wrong side of the conversation on sexual abuse. If you missed it, the short version is that Alec Baldwin gave an interview in which he said he has “treated women in a very sexist way,” including overlooking them and “bullying” them. In the same conversation, he dives head-first into mansplaining how Rose McGowan hurt women by accepting a settlement from Weinstein. Actress Asia Argento called him out on Twitter, and he responded with an apology, though he still felt the need to explain what he meant—that “the settlement of such cases certainly delayed justice”—as if we didn’t understand him the first time. He also announced he’s taking a break from Twitter, while continuing to use his foundation’s account to insult Argento and Anthony Bourdain.

SNL may want to consider taking a break from Baldwin, or at the very least, not write him jokes about sexual assault.

Still, at least Baldwin’s joke was at the expense of Weinstein and Trump, not their victims or anyone else. That can’t be said for much of the rest of the episode. Larry David’s opening monologue was an extended stand-up routine which ended up being one seven-minute-long misstep. Jokes ranged from impressions of Quasimodo’s objectification of women to pointing out that most of the sexual predators being outed are Jews. There was also a bit about how he’s so “obsessed” with women that he wonders whether he would have been hitting on them if he had been imprisoned in a concentration camp.

This set Twitter afire with debates over whether a Holocaust joke was in poor taste, or if Larry David has a pass because he’s Jewish. Not being Jewish myself, I’m not going to claim to have an answer to that. I do believe that maybe this wasn’t the right time for a joke whose basic premise is “I’d take any opportunity to hit on women, no matter how tragically inappropriate.”

In another sketch, David plays a high school teacher who’s far too invested in his students’ sex lives. You know, comedy.

There were other sketches about politically incorrect PSAs and an older man (David) showing off his new young trophy wife which was basically just an excuse to have Larry David say “power bottom” a bunch. We’ve seen a lot older male comedians lately complaining about how “PC culture” is ruining comedy, and this entire episode seemed to be dedicated to that idea. And, like many of those other comedians, the “edgy” material they then put forward isn’t even funny. They only end up looking terribly out of touch with the world. Given Saturday Night Live’s recent success with political relevancy, this episode’s very existence doesn’t make much sense.

Once again, Michael Che and Colin Jost’s Weekend Update was the best part of SNL, something I never expected to be saying at all, let alone with any frequency.

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.