Was Willing to Fire on Himself
By Steve Johnson,
Chicago Tribune - 4/5/04
Donald Trump hosted NBC's "Saturday
Night Live" over the weekend, and while he didn't make anybody
forget about Phil Hartman, or even Jon Lovitz, the developer-turned-reality-TV
star acquitted himself well enough to avoid a trip to the comedy
He did it mostly by being willing
to make fun of the Trump luxe image, in one sketch asking a cast
member playing Trump, "Who did your decorating, Saddam Hussein?"
and then saying, "My hair's supposed to look like this,
I'm a janitor."
Asked to host because his "The
Apprentice" is the surprise hit of the television season
(and an NBC show to boot), Trump seemed marginally looser while
blatantly reading cue cards with the rest of the "SNL"
gang than he does pretending to be real on his "reality"
He also did a much better Donald
Trump caricature, just by being himself, than "SNL"
master impersonator Darrell Hammond pulled off in a couple of
stabs at it. Hammond's version of Trump came off like Chris Matthews
under gastrointestinal duress.
But The Donald is certainly
not a natural actor, no matter how hammy he may be in his public
persona. Trump as the pitchman Saturday for Trump's House of
Wings chicken restaurant could be used in an infomercial school
how-not-to video. The yellow suit was funny, though.
Trump as a dad withholding affection
from his son on the cable-access show "Fathers & Sons"
was probably his best work. This relative triumph was the only
time -- during a show that used him heavily -- that he wasn't
playing himself or close to it.
He also did a fine job introducing
the musical guest, reggae legends Toots and the Maytals and saying
so long at the end.
And you've got to like any host
who can inspire the local furniture company advertising during
"SNL" (Walter E. Smithe) to try its own "Apprentice"
"SNL's" writers seemed
to get the self-inflated essence of Trump and "The Apprentice,"
though they were most inspired in lampooning another NBC "reality"
show (an ad for "Fear Factor Junior," with kids). Only
one Trump/"Apprentice" sketch really nailed the man
or the show.
The opening scene of Trump and
his "Apprentice" cohorts having to fire a "Saturday
Night Live" cast member was a clever idea (Amy Poehler:
"I didn't come on `SNL' to make friends. I came to win.")
but more about "SNL" than "The Apprentice."
And the Weekend Update opening
amid cheesy Trump glitz, faux marble and a fountain, was dead
on. Ditto for Maya Rudolph's brief impersonation of "Apprentice"
But the one that sparkled was
the re-imagining of "The Prince and the Pauper."
Hammond, as Trump, is unhappy
in his riches. Not even firing a little girl brings him pleasure
anymore. But the janitor (Trump), he notices, looks just like
him. Amid comments about the hair and the decorating, he proposes
they change places for a month. And as soon as the janitor takes
the throne, he has the original prince killed.
Seamlessly melding pop culture,
literature and the guest host's image -- and having an actual
ending rather than just a stopping point -- it was a reminder
of why people keep watching "SNL," in spite of everything.