Donald Trump didn’t make an appearance on the first Saturday Night Live of his presidency, at least not in the guise of his TV alter ego, Alec Baldwin’s pouting, preening impersonation. But Trump’s presence dominated the show, from the cold open featuring Beck Bennett as a joyful Vladimir Putin to a video skit in which Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway sang a musical tribute to her newfound fame. This much was clear: The NBC sketch show has no intention of easing up on the new commander-in-chief, and at times seemed to actively position itself as a force of resistance.
SNL’s determination to keep being a thorn in the side of the 45th president, who’s complained on Twitter that its portrayal of him is a “complete hit job,” was crystallized in the opening monologue of the January 21st episode, delivered by the comedian and first-time host Aziz Ansari. For almost nine minutes, Ansari pondered the new president (“He’s probably at home right now watching a brown guy make fun of him”), Islamophobia in the media, and the alt-right, which he dubbed the “lowercase KKK.”
Warning against demonizing all Trump voters, Ansari instead focused on a particular subset, which he described as “these people that, as soon as Trump won, they’re like, ‘We don’t have to pretend like we’re not racist anymore! We don’t have to pretend anymore! We can be racist again! Wooooo!’” As he delivered the joke, Ansari offered the crowd a fist-bump, which slowly changed shape into a Nazi salute.