Saturday Night Live’s cold open took aim at the latest Republican presidential debate as it parodied Donald Trump’s dominance despite the former president’s refusal to appear onstage alongside his rivals.
James Austin Johnson’s Donald Trump gatecrashed the debate stage and mercilessly mocked his rivals, who remained frozen behind him — just as they are in the polls.
The actors playing the five candidates then introduced themselves, while revisiting the biggest moments from Wednesday night’s debate in Miami.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, played by Molly Kearney, said his wife was letting him “try this one more time”, while Nikki Haley, played by Heidi Gardner, said she was “excited to look good in comparison”.
Ron DeSantis, played by John Higgins, was introduced as “Florida governor and owner of the world’s most upsetting smile”.
Devon Walker, as Tim Scott, made fun of the South Carolina senator’s sleepy debate performance and the surprise appearance of his mystery girlfriend Mindy Noce onstage.
“She is real, and I know her, and she is my girlfriend, and we met through dating, and for her I feel a real sense of human love,” the fake Scott said.
Vivek Ramaswamy, played by Ego Nwodim, said he would “like to begin by not answering your question and instead use this platform to say (Haley’s) daughter is on TikTok,” mocking a flashpoint from the actual debate when Haley called the businessman “scum”.
“Keep my daughter’s name out of your voice,” Gardner, as Haley, quipped.
“Almost said that right,” the moderator replied.
Around two minutes in, Johnson took centre stage as he reprised his recurring role as Trump.
“How adorable, they actually think they’ve got a chance. Sad in some ways, but in other ways, funny,” the actor said.
“Can you believe it, folks? Ninety-one indictments, four trials and I am still the best choice. They are all stuck behind me and there is nothing they can do about it, just like in real life.”
Johnson’s Trump then went after Ramaswamy, saying the millionaire businessman “checked a lot of boxes” as he was “rich and rude”.
“He’s a lot like me except for one thing that matters a lot to my horrible, horrible base. White. Sad. He’s going nowhere.”
The performer then broke the fourth wall, by mocking the actors SNL had chosen to play the candidates as evidence of their lack of staying power.
“Poor Ron De Santis, even SNL doesn’t think he has a chance. If they did it’d be like Paul Rudd or something in there.”
Addressing Haley, he said he called the former UN Ambassador a “birdbrain, but only in public”.
“She made some terrible points in that debate, I think, but I don’t know. I have trouble hearing women over 25,” Austin’s Trump said.
The fake Trump also mocked the former president’s recent gaffes, his criminal and civil trials, and his “sweet little middle aged criminal children”.
“So awful to bring in the family. It’ll be very sad when I pin it all on one of them. Probably Eric.”
Host Timothee Chalamet addressed the end of the writer’s strike in a musical opening monologue, while the musical guest was Boygenius.
Trump is leading the GOP primary field by 48 points, according to a Morning Consult poll.
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