Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
SNL will debut three new cast members this year, and none of them, nor longtime Trump impersonator Darrell Hammond, will be playing the least qualified presidential candidate of all time. Last year, there were some bumps as Taran Killam started out in the role, only to be nixed in favor of Hammond, who recently rejoined the show as an announcer. It made sense to use Hammond, an ace impressionist, over Killam, who always came across like a guy who had been told all his life he was an ace impressionist, but was, in fact, not. But SNL never really found a satirical handle on Trump, going after the same tired conversational tics and boilerplate arrogance. Then again, you can't blame the show for not taking him seriously as a candidate; by spring, they were stuck with Hammond's nonpartisan '90s-style spoofery to portray a monster. Over the summer, SNL impresario Lorne Michaels made a typically cronyish (but still odd) decision to replace Hammond with longtime friend of the show Alec Baldwin, just like the way Larry David stepped in to play Bernie Sanders, and Tina Fey appeared to play Sarah Palin back in '08. The difference, of course, is that both of those impressions were based on a popular consensus that the impressionist and impressionee looked alike. No one has said that about Baldwin; even the bloviating conservative he played on 30 Rock isn't really anything like Trump, because Jack Donaghy was funny, charming, handsome, and smart. Baldwin is always a delight on the show, but it's strange how light the regular cast is in political impressions. The only regular who has a really notable impression is Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton, which is more a spoof of her persona than her actual behavior, voice, or mannerisms. Then again, maybe it makes sense: The SNL cast has (finally) gotten a lot more diverse over the past few years, while Washington, to put it mildly, has not. You can't hire three or four more bland white guys just because most politicians are bland white guys. But you can get Alec Baldwin on board as a freelancer, apparently.