It was telling that Saturday Night Live began the first sketch of its new season in the middle of the Senate’s recent hearings on the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And revealing, too, that the cold open was concerned entirely with Kavanaugh and not Christine Blasey Ford, who was mentioned but not depicted in the sketch.
“We’ve heard from the alleged victim, but now it’s time to hear from the hero,” said Senator Chuck Grassley (Alex Moffat). Ford, who has said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school, didn’t really come up again. The focus was on the judge himself, overflowing with juvenile bluster and played by Matt Damon, the latest in SNL’s long line of celebrity guests taking on topical roles. Two days after a genuinely wrenching moment in American political history, the country’s biggest comedy show returned to the airwaves and attempted to wring some satire from it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost all of the jokes were at Kavanaugh’s expense. His gale-force defense from Thursday was translated into a tour de force of entitled whining by Damon, who played the judge as a perpetual 17-year-old, still enamored with his wild summer of ’82. “I’m a keg-is-half-full kinda guy,” Kavanaugh explained, sticking up for his friends “P.J., and Squi, and Handsy Hank, and Gang-Bang Greg, which you know the liberal media is gonna find some way to spin.” It made sense for SNL to concentrate its mockery on Kavanaugh’s angry performance, rather than on the riveting, dignified testimony given by Ford. But the show also risked turning the nominee into a harmless, cartoonish buffoon, defanging him before the week is out.