Donald Trump (AP/Nati Harnik)

Donald Trump's "SNL" show unanimously trashed by critics: "A black hole of comedic antimatter through which no humor could escape"

Trump's show pulled in a three-year ratings high for "Saturday Night Live", but at a high cost to the brand


Anna Silman
November 9, 2015 10:30PM (UTC)

While Donald Trump’s “Saturday Night Live” hosting gig may have been a ratings bonanza, it was also a comedic dumpster fire, with critics unanimously agreeing that nobody came out looking good: Not Trump, not the show, not even Larry David, who scored a $5,000 payday for “heckling” Trump during the monologue — the most risqué moment in a show that took few risks and earned zero rewards. As our own Sonia Saraiya put it, summing up the general consensus: "it might have been easier—instead of tackling the distasteful task of writing comedy and playing nice with a racist oligarch—to simply not call him on the show at all.”

Here are some of the most scathing reviews:

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“Not only was Trump not funny during his meager 12 minutes of screen time on Saturday Night Live, he proved to be a black hole of comedic antimatter through which no humor could escape. Even the many sketches Trump did not appear in lacked any punch or bite, to the point where it feels safe to assume many of the writers and performers either didn’t want to waste their best stuff on an episode their friends would be studiously avoiding, or they took an intentional dive out of some sort of spiritual crisis.”
Joe Berkowitz, Vulture

“Instead, having chased ratings by casting the controversial candidate, “S.N.L.” stuck with obvious, anemic political riffs and apolitical sketches that were cringeworthy all around. Mr. Trump himself had said that he had vetoed some material he found too risqué (a prerogative of hosts in the past), so maybe he killed better material that we’ll never see. But “S.N.L.,” having cast a boisterous figure whose political raison d’être is “winning,” delivered an episode that did nothing except play not to lose.”
James Poniewozik, New York Times

“Despite earning "SNL's" best ratings since January 2012, according to Nielsen, the show that aired Saturday was one of the genuine duds in the recent history of the NBC late-night warhorse, and that's saying something. "SNL" didn't seem to know what to do with Trump beyond, mostly, a string of late appearances in sketches that sapped whatever meager power they had managed to muster.”
Steve Johnson, Chicago Tribune

"It was a very bad episode of Saturday Night Live. The jokes weren’t good, the sketches failed. Per usual, the pre-filmed bits were the strongest part. And it was disappointing because I think this season of SNL has improved vastly on previous years. But this episode was never going to work, and for the massive new audience that came to watch Trump, I don’t begrudge them not returning next week. We came for comedy, and we got an elaborate, sometimes funny commercial for Donald Trump."
Nate Scott, USA Today

“Some people tuned in for a shitshow, and it’s true that all the sketches featuring him were the most groan-worthy, but Trump himself got through it pretty spotlessly. Sure, there were a few biting jokes made about him on Weekend Update, but even Michael Che’s direct call-out of his racist nostalgia didn’t feel tantamount to the stage time Trump was getting. Jokes about his ego, mean tweets and feelings toward Mexico didn’t take him to task but instead reinforced his brand. The entire episode felt a bit like thinly veiled sponsored content — not that SNL is endorsing him for President — but they are willing to support his brand and attempt to humanize someone who doesn’t deserve it.”
Katla McGlynn, Splitsider

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“Donald Trump’s highly touted and almost certainly inappropriate hosting gig on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” turned out to be an anemic and halfhearted dud. The ratings were high — SNL’s best in years — but they come with a heavy tax on the show’s integrity.”
Hank Stuever, Washington Post

“In the end, the episode was as inoffensive as the writers and Trump’s advisors could make it—without being funny. Whatever their political views, viewers looking for a good episode of SNL didn’t get one. Trump supporters can fob off their disappointment in the quality of the show on cast and writers, but only the most blinkered could deny that the candidate came off as stilted, bland, and unprepared in the very little screen time he was given. (Someone has calculated his total on-screen appearance at 12 minutes, which actually sounds a little high.) I’m trying to think of another host in SNL history who was so shielded during the course of their episode, and, given his leaden timing and lack of commitment in the live sketches he did appear in, even Trump fanatics must have been relieved at how little he was given to do. “
—Dennis Perkins, The A.V. Club

“After all the nervous anticipation, the protests, and the bounties, the episode came and went with a giant thud. This wasn't just bad though—this was an instantly embarrassing misread across the board by the Powers That Be at SNL. Maybe Lorne Michaels begged Trump to host, or maybe some nameless NBC executive just got a big fat bonus for creating a media shitstorm that brought SNL its biggest ratings in three years—either way, the writers and actors hit a creative pothole.”
Ben Yakas, Gothamist

“In the end, no one came out looking good: Trump looked lifeless and disinterested when actually onscreen (which, let's be honest, was not much), and the show as a whole seemed depressed and lifeless thanks to his presence. This episode felt like a really smart, funny group of writers and performers going through the motions because the show must go on, even if they all would rather have been doing something, anything, else.”
Ryan McGee, Rolling Stone

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“But Donald Trump’s hosting gig on Saturday 7 November turned this bit of late-night entertainment into news-making political theater. The whole hour had to be watched to see what might happen and the entire hour, from start to finish, was nothing short of torture.”
Brian Moylan, The Guardian

Watch "lowlights" from Trump's 2015 SNL hosting episode

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Anna Silman

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