'SNL' recap: Donald Trump gets roasted, and Pete Davidson gets the night off

[This post has been updated to include a Twitter reaction from Donald Trump to last night’s Saturday Night Live episode.]

When you’ve been on the air for 44 seasons, you’re bound to repeat yourself. And so, for the third time in its history, Saturday Night Live sought comic inspiration for its Christmas episode from the holiday movie staple It’s a Wonderful Life. Back in 1986, Dana Carvey gave Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey an extreme makeover for a mock “Lost Ending” to the 1947 classic. And in 2010 — a mere eight years ago — Jason Sudeikis headlined the kvetch-a-thon “This, You Call a Wonderful Life?” which was heavy on Jewish humor. To make It’s a Wonderful Life relevant to 2018, the writers made the obvious call: Add a little Donald Trump.

Alec Baldwin’s POTUS got the black-and-white treatment for “It’s a Wonderful Trump,” which imagined a world where he never scored the keys to the Oval Office. Trump’s guide to this alternate reality is Kenan Thompson’s wish-fulfilling angel, Clarence, who escorted him into a Christmas party filled with well-wishers. And why wouldn’t they be wishing him well? In this reality, all of them are much better off, as evidenced by “those things” on their faces known as smiles. Sarah Sanders, for example, boasts about earning big bucks from a public relations client list that includes Ashley Madison and romaine lettuce growers. Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, has the glowing skin of a person not being eaten from the inside by lies, and is actually on speaking terms with her husband — and Trump’s chief Twitter foil — George Conway.

Trump’s family members are also flourishing ever since Hillary Clinton won the election by visiting Wisconsin. Freed from the responsibility of running the Trump Organization, Eric’s beefed up his intellect to the point where he’s able to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Meanwhile, Melania divorced herself from the Trump clan and found love with none other than former pizza magnate Papa John.

Once the SNL regulars paid their respects to Baldwin, it was celebrity cameo time. First, Ben Stiller returned as Trump’s disgraced lawyer turned convict, Michael Cohen, still very much his employer’s pal in this happier timeline. “We’re a team — like O.J. and Kato or Lyle and Erik Menendez,” Cohen said, adding how thrilled he was to finally be celebrating the opening of Trump Tower Moscow.

Up next was host Matt Damon, who reprised his season premiere appearance as new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Only in this reality, that seat went to Merrick Garland, allowing Kavanaugh to enjoy his beer in peace. “When I tell people I love beer, they find it charming and not like I’m threatening violence,” he remarked, before going on to gift Trump with — what else? — a calendar.

Robert De Niro’s Robert Mueller also had a gift for Trump … and no, it wasn’t the results of his ongoing investigation. Instead, he brought along pictures of the grandson he gets to spend more time with, “since I don’t have to investigate some idiot for treason.” With all of these tidings of good joy, you’d think that Trump would be happy to swap realities; instead, he proves once again that he’s not so good at this whole listening thing and decides the world is better off when his reality show is being broadcast from the White House and not on NBC.

Update: This sketch clearly touched a nerve with the real Trump. After a lengthy break from acknowledging SNL, he took to Twitter early Sunday morning to accuse the show of “one-sided coverage.”

SNL‘s cold open always attracts curiosity seekers, but on Saturday night all eyes were peering around Studio 8H for any sign of cast member Pete Davidson, who had posted a troubling note on his since-deleted Instagram account earlier in the day. “I really don’t want to be on this earth anymore,” the note stated. “I’m doing my best to stay here for you but i actually don’t know how much longer i can last. all i’ve ever tried to do was help people. just remember i told you so.” That post quickly went viral, as well-wishers — including his ex-fiancée, Ariana Grande — expressed concern about the comedian’s mental state and whereabouts. It was eventually reported that Davidson, who suffers from borderline personality disorder, arrived at SNL’s Rockefeller Center offices, where New York police officers met with him and performed a wellness check.

Davidson may have been in the wings for the Christmas episode, but his on-camera time was limited. His only sketch appearance came in a pretaped video about the search for a new Oscar host in the wake of Kevin Hart’s resignation. Davidson played Bohemian Rhapsody star — and presumed Best Actor nominee — Rami Malek in the sketch, sending up the actor’s famously intense screen presence. “Maybe something on and super high-energy,” he said in the video, while staring straight into the camera. “Does that work?”

Davidson notably skipped his semiregular appearance on “Weekend Update,” for which he generated headlines in November for telling jokes about Republican congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw that some felt were insensitive. Crenshaw went on to win his race and later appeared on “Update” alongside Davidson, who apologized for his remarks.

Davidson made his only appearance toward the end of the live telecast, introducing the final performance of the night from musical guests Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus, who were joined by Sean Ono Lennon for a stirring cover of his father’s seasonal classic, “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” (Interestingly, Cyrus was a tangential part of the Twitter feud that began between Grande and Kanye West earlier in the week, which Davidson himself weighed in on.)

Davidson also appeared to be absent from the farewells, as Cyrus, Baldwin and Stiller mingled with his castmates onstage and SNL signed off for 2018. All that they — and we — must want for Christmas is to know that he’s spending his holiday surrounded by friends and family.

Saturday Night Live airs on Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.

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