Considering how much material the Trump administration gives Saturday Night Live to work with each week, writing for the show isn’t an easy task. HuffPost talked to two Saturday Night Live writers about writing during an election season – and what it was like working with Donald Trump when he hosted the show in November 2015, in the middle of the campaign.
The two writers are Tim Herlihy, who was with show from 1993 to 2000 and was present for the 1996 and 2000 elections, and Bryan Tucker. Tucker is still with SNL, after joining in 2005, and a writer for the 2008, 2012, and the 2016 elections. Herlihy, who covered tamer elections, spoke about how political sketches didn’t necessarily “have to dominate the show” as they do now. “Now, if they did a Trump-less show, people would go bananas. That’s a lot of pressure to have [political material],” Herlihy said. Tucker said this election was especially “exceptional because so many people were paying attention to it, and because passions were so deep and there were just a lot of characters, specifically Donald Trump being the biggest character of them all.”
During the election, Tucker contended that the show tried to parody both Hillary Clinton and Trump. However, once the person elected is in power, it’s the show’s responsibility to make fun of them. “Our show is always trying to be a big tent, but before, we’re making a very concerned effort to parody both sides because America is paying attention so much to both sides,” Tucker. “But afterwards, when one side has so much power and one side has so little, we go after the people who have that power. We punch up.”
Herlihy, who worked with previous presidential candidates on the show, thought of Trump as a “joke candidate” and not someone who would win the Republican nomination. “He’s a public figure, and nobody thought there was a prayer of him being elected at that point,” Herlihy said. Tucker, however, was able to see how Trump operated when it came to deciding what jokes he would make and wouldn’t. According to Tucker, Trump only came with one security person, and decided everything himself.
“When we would present him an idea, he would just go from his gut and say, “I like that” or “I don’t like that.” Sometimes we could persuade him. Sometimes he would lean out of the door and ask his security guy, “Do you think this is funny? Do you think this is a good idea?” But that was, to me, an insight into him that I hadn’t gotten before: He really makes decisions by himself, and although he had people he was talking to throughout the week, there was very little back-and-forth with other people.”
The only sketch Trump wouldn’t do is one that involved him playing the Giving Tree. He didn’t enjoy standing in a tree with his head sticking out of it and the sketch itself didn’t get many laughs.
This year’s Saturday Night Live is now over, but the show’s record ratings clearly indicate viewers aren’t sick of political sketches.