It was the kind of moment Saturday Night Live history was made of: an unannounced guest appearance so perfect that it took even the live audience a few moments to register what was actually happening. “Next, on C-SPAN, the daily White House press briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer,” a voiceover announced. Then, a person who looked uncannily like Spicer walked onstage to a makeshift podium, presumably causing many viewers at home to squint and look more closely at their televisions. Is that … ? Could it be … ?
It took a few insults delivered in a trademark shriek to hammer home that this really was Melissa McCarthy, in drag, capturing the unquestionable essence of a political figure whose public image so far has largely revolved around belligerence, alternative facts, and cinnamon gum. As soon as the assembled audience figured it out, they began cheering, causing McCarthy’s Spicer to berate them once again. “Settle down, SETTLE DOWN!,” she screeched. “Before we begin, I know that myself and the press have gotten off to a rocky start. And when I say rocky, I mean Rocky the movie because I came out here to punch you. In the face. And also I don’t talk so good.”
It was the particularly genius kind of casting only Saturday Night Live could have dreamed up, with McCarthy’s physical resemblance to the White House press secretary coming off at first as a little unsettling. But beyond that, her interpretation of Spicer—half preschool bully, half unhinged authoritarian caregiver—instantly seemed to stick, joining a list of memorably spot-on SNL performances. Like Tina Fey’s “I can see Russia from my house!” as Sarah Palin and Alec Baldwin’s pursed mouth and beetling glare as Donald Trump, McCarthy’s scene wildly exaggerated the characteristics that Spicer has thus far displayed while nailing the fundamentals of his id.