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With no shortage of material to work with, Saturday Night Live satirized a packed week in American politics, reiterating themes imparted by critics for months.
— Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) January 22, 2017
The episode kicked off by lampooning Russia’s role in influencing the U.S. election.
Cast member Beck Bennett brought back smug shirtless Vladimir Putin, the star of Saturday’s cold open, to assuage America’s fears about their new president, in a speech carried by RT, a channel funded by the Russian government.
“You are worried that your country is in the hands of this unpredictable man. But don’t worry, it’s not,” he smirks.
Just look at Russia, suggests SNL‘s Putin, whose administration also started out on a road of skepticism.
“Many Russians were skeptical of me at first too, but today, no one seems to hear from any of them,” he says. “It’s like they’re gone.”
The same day millions of American women marched to protest an administration they believe threatens their rights, Bennett’s Putin says that we must simply look to the satisfaction of Russian women to ease our fears.
Enter Olya, Kate McKinnon’s subservient Russian character, reading from a scripted statement about how content she is under Putin’s leadership. Olya returns, from outside the window behind him, wearing a pink uterus hat, gesturing “I’m watching you,” at her leader.
SNL made fun of the low attendance of Friday’s inauguration, the central topic of discussion at the White House Briefing Room earlier Saturday evening, when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer accused media outlets of downplaying crowd sizes.
But what may have genuinely quelled American viewers more were diplomatic words from the week’s host, comedian Aziz Ansari. Ansari’s monologue fell in line with a larger trend among soapbox comedians, who aim to argue a broader social message first — to what’s often their already solid fan base — and to elicit laughter second.
As NPR Politics reporter Jessica Taylor notes, “The most nuanced takes on the election have come from stand-up comedians,” like Dave Chappelle’s hosting stint the weekend after the election and now, Aziz Ansari the day after the inauguration.
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“We’ve always been divided by these big political issues. It’s fine,” the comedian said. “As long as we treat each other with respect and remember