The last time RuPaul was on “Saturday Night Live,” America hadn’t even impeached its second president yet. Now the country has gone three-for-three on presidential Senate acquittals, and RuPaul has graduated from the punchline to a 1993 cross-dressing sketch titled “What’s That?” to a charming full-blown host whose studio audience is well-versed in his drag vocabulary. This weekend, the longtime “Drag Race” host, both in and out of drag, joined musical guest Justin Bieber to give the “SNL” episode a throwback feel, including a Bop It sketch, that was only overshadowed by Shadow Inc. and the disastrous Democratic caucuses in Iowa.
The politics-heavy show sidestepped President Trump’s acquittal by the Senate, Pete Buttigieg claiming premature victory in Iowa, and other debris from the political whirlwind with its Democratic debate cold open. Moderated by George Stephanopoulos (Mikey Day), the first debate sketch of the year brushed by the topics of the day before offering a few topical zingers spread thinly across the sprawling cast of candidates.
Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis) and Bernie Sanders (Larry David) got the best of the bunch, as David’s intense, technophobic Sanders ranted like a true “Curb Your Enthusiasm” escapee. He explained that his private jet usage is really for the other passengers’ sake, considering his frequent bathroom usage and loud chewing, and that he probably wasn’t going to do anything about his army of Bernie Bro internet trolls.
Biden had more assurances, explaining that early poll numbers shouldn’t cause any fears: “Joe Biden’s gonna do what Joe Biden does best: sneak up from behind.” Sudeikis’ slang-slinging, out-of-touch Biden closed with a meandering anecdote culminating in a left-field “Cool Runnings” reference as the former vice president claimed to have given Jamaica’s first bobsled team.
This was the last off-the-wall gag because zipping between the plethora of candidates — rushing Colin Jost’s deadpan Buttigieg to deliver a one-liner about not being as spicy as mayonnaise, for instance — including a brief pre-recorded appearance of Fred Armisen’s Michael Bloomberg, who sponsored the debate, left little time for anything but the most timely jokes.
Amy Klobuchar (Rachel Dratch), or as she called herself, “the other half of the New York Times endorsement,” attempted to link herself to an uninterested Elizabeth Warren (Kate McKinnon) through a reference to Shakira’s and Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl performance, complete with tongue-trilling zaghrouta. Andrew Yang (Bowen Yang), armed with a money gun, tried to stand out from a field looking to “out-poor” one another, while Tom Steyer (Pete Davidson) expressed his love for all involved because he was “tripping balls right now.”
The cold open may have been overwhelmed with candidates, but the Weekend Update was equally packed with all the Trump it left out. The scumbag clarity of Cathy Anne (Cecily Strong), the woman who screams outside Michael Che’s window, necessarily cut to the core of the acquittal and Trump’s subsequent victorious speeches with gross out gags aplenty. After the earlier brouhaha “SNL” roused regarding the trial, this final act to the saga was a deflated piece of closure made secondary to the series’ dedication to the Democratic race.