The Flip Wilson / Stevie Nicks review will be posted next week, but I thought I'd weigh in on the controversy over Donald Trump hosting the show. I'd be lying if I said that it didn't bother me that the show booked him: he did the show in 2004 and was adequate for a non-actor, but this was before he made racist comments about Mexicans and misogynistic retorts to Megyn Kelly for calling him on his sexism, actions which have only endeared him to a frightening group of the American electorate. I remember being upset that the show allowed Chris Brown to appear as musical guest in 2011, but this seems much worse.
I realize that the first duty of the show is ratings and advertising revenue for NBC, with comedy as the byproduct that hooks the audience in, but this move just seems so incredibly crass on Lorne Michaels' part. It's not just a political disagreement that fuels my discomfort: by booking Trump, the show is legitimizing a political candidate that incites hatred towards an ethnic group. This controversy, so far, is at least giving the show extra attention: it's drawing protesters, and a group is offering money to anyone who heckles Trump in tonight's show, an act that has some precedence on the show (Andrew Dice Clay and Sharon Stone were heckled during their monologues, but security were quick to act and both segments were replaced with dress rehearsal takes in reruns). Various media outlets, from the A.V. Club to Rolling Stone, have also weighed in and said that to give Trump this platform is a bad idea.
I'm more concerned about the quality of the show. I get the impression Trump's sense of humor about himself has only decreased as his presidential ambitions come closer to fulfillment, and there are reports that he's vetoing "more risque" sketches to avoid alienating Iowa primary voters. SNL usually does better when the hosts surrender themselves fully to the process, but whatever the writers come up with this week has to serve the extra agenda of having Donald Trump look good.
The backstage atmosphere at SNL must be interesting this week. I'm sure there are people on the show that see Trump as just another politician or celebrity they have the opportunity to meet while doing their dream job (which I don't fault them for), but I wonder how many writers, performers and crew members have to bite their tongues so hard that a combination of blood and spit will be seeping out of their mouths tonight.
I can't tell anybody what to do, and I'm sure that the NBC, Lorne Michaels, and Donald Trump will get their ratings no matter how many people they've angered by this arrangement. I likely won't be watching the show myself, but Trump has nothing to do with it: I'm going to a party.