After the show's silence on the Harvey Weinstein allegations last week, the pressure was on for Saturday Night Live to tackle Hollywood's sexual assault problem.
People on social media quickly criticized the comedy staple for not addressing the glaring news in its earlier episode, after the New York Times' bombshell report dropped the previous Thursday. Many construed the void as a continuation of a pattern within the entertainment industry of protecting its Harvey Weinsteins and the Bill Cosbys. In fact, two Weinstein jokes had been cut because they reportedly didn't play well with the dress rehearsal audience: "It's a New York thing," Lorne Michaels told a Daily Mail reporter. But this Saturday, the show devoted ample time to the topic.
Acknowledging that it's "hard to make jokes about sexual assault," Michael Che resorted to softer targets, making fun of the movie mogul's appearance. "Doesn't he look like a well-dressed skin tag?" Che says in the Weekend Update segment. He did come around to sharper jabs, though, attacking Weinstein's excuse for his behavior: "It's not a mistake — It's like a full season of Law & Order." Colin Jost said that "he doesn't need sex rehab — he needs a specialized facility where there are no women, no contact with the outside world, metal bars ... and it's a prison."
An all-female roundtable sketch managed to wrench some funny out of the bigger issue: rape culture, and Hollywood's enabling of it. In a New York Film Festival panel featuring Marion Cotillard (Cecily Strong), Viola Davis (Leslie Jones) and Kate McKinnon's fictional aging actress Debette Goldry, moderator Aidy Bryant asks if there's some sort of "whisper system" practiced by women in Hollywood to warn one another of sexual predators. Yes, Goldry says: "The code was 'He raped me.' That way, if any men were listening they'd tune us right out." McKinnon strays from her character's tone as Goldry closes the skit on a serious note. "Violence against women doesn't just happen to famous actress, it's everywhere, damn it," she says. "It's about time we take it seriously. Pandora's Box is open now, and Pandora is pissed."
Predictably, Alec Baldwin's President Trump kicked off the cold open. In between addressing Puerto Rico, his "magnificent tax plan" and his feud with Rex Tillerson, Trump pauses several times to check in with Beck Bennett's Vice President Mike Pence. After the president claimed responsibility for Pence's walkout from an NFL game last week for kneeling players "disrespecting our anthem, flag and country," Baldwin's Trump pulls Pence's strings to boycott more events. At the direction of Trump, Pence walks out of an Indiana Pacers game, a Starbucks and a same-sex wedding. Trump commands Pence to inspect the Starbucks seasonal cups. It may be October, but — "Get out of there, Mike!" — the "Pumpkin spice is back" campaign still disrespects "our Lord and savior Santa Claus," Trump says. "We're going to start saying 'Merry Christmas' again."
Michael Che offers a rejoinder to this point on Weekend Update: "When we say 'Happy Holidays' we're not attacking Christmas, we're saying 'All Holidays Matter,' " Che says.
In a pre-taped It parody, Anderson Cooper finds out where Kellyanne Conway's been hiding — and what lands her back on TV. Sewer-dwelling Kellywise The Dancing Clown (and McKinnon at her best) begs the CNN host to "put me on TV," even morphing into Hillary Clinton to lure Cooper into the gutter. Flashing newspaper headlines like "Trump Re-elected To Second Term," this Pennywise tries to tap into Cooper's deepest fears.
Comedian and The Big Sick actor-writer Kumail Nanjiani used his first-time hosting gig to attack racism in his monologue. Islamophobia "is really having a moment right now," he says. It's "kind of like Will & Grace. It was huge a while ago, and then we thought it was gone and done — and now it's back and bigger than ever! Thursdays on NBC."
But Nanjiani jokes that his biggest problem with racists is their inaccuracy. "If someone yells at me, 'go back to India', I'd be like, 'that guy's an idiot'. But if someone was like, 'go back to Pakistan, which was part of India until 1947 and is now home to the world's oldest salt mine,' I would be like 'that guy seems to know what he's talking about. I'll pack my bags.' "
"Just because you're racist, doesn't mean you have to be ignorant," Nanjiani concludes. "An informed racist is a better racist."
SNL returns November 4 with host Larry David and musical guest Miley Cyrus.