The final episode of “Saturday Night Live” before Tuesday’s presidential election went much further than the show did in 2016.
Playing Hillary Clinton four years ago, Kate McKinnon looked at the audience and said, “We can’t tell you who to vote for, but on Tuesday, we all get a chance to choose what kind of country we wanna live in.” Vague enough, right?
Well, this week was a hell of a lot more specific than that.
As former Vice President Joe Biden, Jim Carrey took on a Halloween theme during the cold open and read a parody version of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”
The satirical poem ended thusly: “This daylight savings time, let’s gain an hour and lose a president!”
Can’t get much more explicit than that.
Alec Baldwin’s President Trump didn’t appear for a rebuttal, but Maya Rudolph’s Kamala Harris did and, in a throwback, McKinnon’s Hillary showed up.
It was a logical, if un-entertaining, end to more than a month of mostly clunker sketches sending up Biden and President Trump in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. There is one more episode next week, but it’s safe to say that whether Trump or Biden wins, it won’t be funny. At the end of last cycle, McKinnon’s Hillary sang a mournful version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Side-splitting.
The Poe sequence had nobody ravin’.
“I wanted to take your minds off the election by reading a scary story,” Carrey’s Biden began. “Once upon a midnight dreary, while Trump retweeted QAnon theories.” That, if you can believe it, was the funniest rhyme of the sketch.
The rest were belabored groaners.
“Still I will win, ‘cause I’m a baller,” Carrey said, failing to make the Joe Cool gag work yet again. “Just ask my running mate, Kamal-er.”
Once upon a midnight dreary… pic.twitter.com/u4rlUjXqQy
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) November 1, 2020
Rudolph’s Harris tried to sell a joke that in mispronouncing her name, Biden is cutely out-of-touch, but the audience was too busy rolling its eyes at the previous line to notice.
The Raven in this instance was Clinton. McKinnon shuffled in wearing a cape to warn Biden about her crash-and-burn run four years ago.
“Quoth the Clinton,” he said. To which McKinnon added, “We lost before!”
But then Season 46’s low-key MVP arrived. Not enough praise is heaped on regular cast member Beck Bennett for his phenomenal takes on politicians this year. “SNL” tends to get too caught up in exciting celebrity stars rather than celebrating the mega talents of its own cast.
Bennett, who has previously played a hysterical, vampiric Mike Pence, this time took on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The actor walked out with a Madame Tussauds-worthy face and bandaged purple hands, making reference to the senator’s mysterious recent change in appearance.
“Oh, God. What happened to your hands, lobster boy,” chimed in Carrey with a dumb line.
Then Bennett jumped in and saved it: “This is a very common condition called Old Man Purple,” he said.
“SNL” tried to make a splash this year by having an A-lister like Carrey join the show’s most frequent host, Baldwin, to make headline-grabbing election sketches. It worked! But for all the wrong reasons.
The reliance on big names only showed who the real stars are here: the sketch comedy’s cast of seasoned improvisers and comedians. Regardless of what happens Tuesday, in four years, lose the celeb drop-ins and use the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”