Mikey Day became the latest “Saturday Night Live” cast member to take a turn at playing President Biden in an opening sketch that was nominally about a Halloween celebration at the White House, but was also a satirical commentary on whether or not Americans should have concerns about the president’s age.
In recent years, Biden has been portrayed by “S.N.L.” cast members and guest stars including Jason Sudeikis, Woody Harrelson, John Mulaney, Jim Carrey and Alex Moffat. Lately the role has been given to James Austin Johnson, who is also the show’s in-house impersonator of former president Donald Trump. (As “S.N.L.” looks ahead to the 2024 election, the show is perhaps setting the table so that it doesn’t end up with one cast member playing two characters in its presidential debate parodies.)
In any case, Day began the sketch in the Oval Office, telling the audience, “I’m not out of breath, I’m just excited, ‘cause Halloween is the greatest holiday in the world.”
He added, “The world is a pretty scary place right now. Wars, shootings, climate change, everything in the new Britney book. That’s why I want to put everyone at ease. And nothing puts people at ease like an 80-year-old man hanging Halloween decorations.”
Day gingerly made his way to a wobbly ladder placed behind the Resolute desk, and slowly began to ascend it, assuring viewers, “Relax, I’m not going to fall.” After a couple of steps, however, he changed his mind: “On second thought, let’s do that later,” he said.
After inspecting a severed arm that Day say was not a holiday prop but “an arm our dog Commander ripped off a Secret Service agent,” he noted that he loved Halloween. “In fact, a lot of my closest friends are ghosts,” he said.
As a bespectacled character played by Michael Longfellow entered the office, Day wondered if he was a White House aide who’d come to help with the decorations. No, Longfellow said, he was the newly elected Republican speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. “I’m now second in line to replace you, so I’m excited to see more of this whole ladder thing,” he said.
Wishing that someone could help convey the true meaning of Halloween, Day was visited by Christopher Walken, the actor and former “S.N.L.” host.
Walken, in his emblematically Walken-esque stop-and-start delivery, explained that he was the Spirit of Halloween. “The ghost of all Hallows past,” he said. “In South America, they call me Papa Pumpkin — I don’t know, maybe, I’ve never been.”
He also shared the claim that Halloween is really a holiday about camaraderie. “Meet the neighbors you don’t want to see again on any other day,” Walken said. “After all, you can’t spell ‘Halloween’ without ‘hello.’”
Opening monologue of the week
The broadcast was hosted this weekend by the comedian Nate Bargatze, who opened with a stand-up set that he used to familiarize viewers with his family and his upbringing in Tennessee.
He explained that his father spent the 1980s performing a magic act at county fairs where his closest competition was another act in which donkeys dived into a pool. “Pretty tough to keep people’s attention when my dad is like, ‘Is this your card?’” Bargatze said. “And everybody’s like, ‘Hold on, this donkey’s about to jump off this high dive.’” He also joked about the fact that he doesn’t read books because “every book is just the most words — it doesn’t let up.” He pleaded, “Put some blank pages in there. Let me get my head above water for two seconds.”
Questionable history lesson of the week
Bargatze’s laconic style of delivery was well calibrated to this sketch, set at a camp of American soldiers in 1777. At a critical moment when his men are demoralized, out stepped Bargatze as Gen. George Washington, attempting to rally them with a speech of questionable inspirational value.
“We fight for a country of our own,” Bargatze declared. “A new nation where we choose our own laws, choose our own leader — and choose our own systems of weights and measures.” He said he dreamed that “one day our proud nation will measure weights in pounds and that 2,000 pounds shall be called a ton.” A soldier played by Bowen Yang asked, “And what will 1,000 pounds be called, sir?” Bargatze answered, “Nothing. Because we will have no word for that.”
Another soldier played by Kenan Thompson asked, “In this new country, what plans are there for men of color such as I?” Bargatze just went right on with his speech: “Distance will be measured in inches, feet, yards and miles.”
Industry commentary of the week
For the sake of factuality, let’s provide a little context for the following Halloween-theme sketch. Earlier this month, the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union, which has been on strike since July, told its members not to trick-or-treat as characters from major studio productions and not to post photos of themselves dressed as these characters. Though that directive wasn’t aimed at the children of union members, SAG-AFTRA further clarified that point after some mocking and frustrated feedback from prominent members.
Nonetheless! This sketch features the SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher (Sarah Sherman) going door-to-door and telling young trick-or-treaters which costumes are and aren’t acceptable under these guidelines. (“Unfortunately, this year, you can’t be Yoda,” she said. “But you can be Hoda” — Hoda Kotb, the “Today” show co-host, that is.)
Sherman also offered a topical metaphor to describe the union’s negotiations with the Hollywood studios, comparing it to trick-or-treating: “You know how you go to the biggest house on the block and all the lights are off and they’re pretending they’re not home?” she said. “But you can see them through the window, eating Kit Kat bars? Dozens of Kit Kat bars? Billions of Kit Kat bars? Record numbers of Kit Kat bars? All us actors are saying is, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.”
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the new House speaker, Mike Johnson, and the ongoing trials of former president Trump.
After weeks of struggling to elect a new speaker of the House, Republicans gave up and just generated one with A.I. There’s no way Mike Johnson is a real person. He’s supposed to be a conservative Republican, yet he looks like every MSNBC host combined. I feel like the way Mike Johnson got elected is that after weeks of voting, Republicans got bored and they all wrote in the same fake name, and then they were like, wait, that’s a real guy?
Che picked up the thread:
Speaker Mike Johnson has also been called homophobic for supporting anti-L.G.B.T.Q. legislation and saying homosexuality is “bizarre” and “deviant.” Which are two fantastic gay clubs on the West Side, by the way.
Jost then continued:
Former president and current courtroom sketch model Donald Trump testified on the stand for the first time in over 10 years. And it’s fun that nobody is 100 percent sure which trial this sketch is from. It turns out it was from his civil fraud trial, where Michael Cohen testified against Donald Trump while Trump was in the courtroom. And I believe we have video. [The screen shows video of two rats fighting each other.]
Before its closing credits, “Saturday Night Live” displayed a photograph of Matthew Perry, the “Friends” star who died on Saturday, and who had hosted “S.N.L.” in 1997.