Let’s start with something nice. Alex Moffat is funny as Eric Trump. I might disagree with the entire concept of his portrayal—depicting Eric Trump as a barely aware man-child is far too sympathetic and excusatory—but Moffat makes his Trump a guileless buffoon without any charm and without going too broad, which makes the performance funny if you’re able to divorce it from the real people and real politics it’s connected to. It’s still the wrong impression for this particular time and place, but that’s more on the people who write and produce the show than on Moffat himself.
The only other positive thing we can say about last night’s Saturday Night Live cold open is that at least Alec Baldwin wasn’t in it.
The second-to-last SNL of 2018 started the way far too many episodes have over the last three seasons: with a limp Trump administration sketch built around a celebrity cameo and impressions that don’t truly capture the people being mocked. Robert De Niro, an all-time great actor who is also unquestionably the least talented sketch comedy performer to have appeared in so many episodes of Saturday Night Live at this point, returned as Robert Mueller, this time playing the boogie man in Eric Trump’s closet. De Niro stomped over half his lines while Moffat gamely tried to keep everything afloat, and the central joke was less about any of this week’s specific revelations about Mueller’s investigation and more that Eric Trump isn’t smart and Mueller is doing his job. It’s getting a lot of buzz today, though, because this is the kind of thing that does well on the internet today, so dig in below.
SNL’s De Niro fixation remains baffling. Opinion is pretty much universal that the guy, bless his heart, is just terrible at this kind of comedy. People complain about SNL guests reading the cue card, even though the show intentionally directs them to do that; De Niro is one of the few hosts who has consistently struggled to even do that, though, and yet he’s hosted a handful of times and made multiple appearances as Mueller over the last two years. He might’ve been funny in Analyze This and Meet the Parents twenty years ago, but De Niro’s not ready to be a Not Ready for Prime Time Player.
Check out last night’s cold open below, and get ready for more would-be fun next weekend when Matt Damon hosts the last SNL of the year.