By Booking Donald Trump, ‘SNL’ Looks Like the Biggest Loser (Opinion)

SNL Donald Trump Controversy
Courtesy of NBC

Saturday Night Live’s” ability to remain a relevant source of comedy and satire over 40 years is an understandable source of pride. Yet the determination to skate along that edge occasionally means skidding over it, as the NBC late-night staple has done with this weekend’s booking of Donald Trump as guest host.

Trump, who has invited no shortage of controversies, can hardly be blamed for this one, taking advantage of such a high-profile platform while mounting a presidential campaign. Politicians – and especially conservative ones – have long used late-night TV to show off their lighter sides, proving they can have a sense of humor about themselves.

No, for all Trump’s talk about the U.S. becoming Greece, the hubris here belongs with “SNL” and its patriarch, Lorne Michaels, having opened a Pandora’s box from a public relations and simple fairness standpoint that won’t be offset by ratings, however huge they might be. The myopia goes beyond Trump’s immigration stance – which has angered many in the Latino community and prompted protests – to the question of showcasing him this way in the thick of a hotly contested primary race.

Featuring the Republican front-runner in many polls as host is more problematic than Hillary Clinton’s recent cameo, or even allowing Al Sharpton to host when he was running for president in 2003. Both can be second-guessed, but Clinton’s turn was relatively brief, and Sharpton had little chance of becoming the nominee — a case of “SNL” using him at least as much as the other way around. In more pragmatic terms, that dozen-year gap – in the context of the real-time furor that can be unleashed via social media – almost feels like a lifetime ago.

The pitfalls associated with tapping Trump, by contrast, have surfaced early and often, from questions about whether his appearance triggers equal-time rules for other candidates to the matter of why NBC Entertainment would publicly sever ties with him on “The Apprentice” and Miss Universe/Miss USA pageants during the summer, only to hop back into bed with him. Then there was this week’s flare-up over a video clip in which he mocked Ben Carson, previewing the problems associated with Trump potential using his perch to ridicule rivals, even in jest.

It’s simply hard to imagine the show’s brain trust being so out of touch as to not recognize the can of worms they were opening — and not incidentally, flinging at the feet of “SNL” and NBC’s beleaguered PR staff. And the time to debate the propriety of that would have been before Trump was booked, since dropping him afterward would have rightly looked (to Trump supporters in particular, and conservatives eager to find signs of media bias in general) like a craven act of caving in to criticism.

The irony is that when “SNL” books someone like Trump – who isn’t formally an entertainer – his or her footprint within the show is usually somewhat mitigated. It’s not like they can comfortably work him into as many sketches as they would someone with established comedy and/or acting chops, like Amy Schumer or Alec Baldwin.

As noted, the hullabaloo that surrounds all things Trump, coupled with morbid curiosity, will likely yield a significant ratings boost. Yet while the temptation will be to bask in the glory of those numbers, NBC and “SNL” come away from this misguided affair looking like the biggest losers.

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  1. Bob says:

    I cant believe they actually rehearse this crap all week and this was the best of what they came up with. Beyond not funny,PAINFUL to watch, I’m embarrassed for them.

  2. Brigitte matthias says:

    I thought I would watch out of curiosity, since the show is not very good anymore, but it was unbearably bad, I bailed during the opening. Why did NBC and SNL do this? A one time ratings bump? The show was obviously compromised by Trump’s bullying….it could have been very funny.

  3. youdont knowme says:

    Trump will be the only winner on the show

  4. Brimstone Haliost says:

    Its a good thing you entitled this as an opinion and not try to fling it in as a false fact turd fest as many of your brethren do. So sad that there are no more real reporters out there that just fall into whatever is going to make them popular. I would love to be a fly on the wall to the mass of Tear Laden Liberals when no one is around. The ones I have met seem to be the most hate filled out of any group, while disguising themselves as a “You all should love me” schlub

  5. I think it is great that NBC realized that ratings and serving the interest of their shareholders was more important that indulging in any dishonest attempts by the forces on the Left to portray Trump as an anti-Hispanic racist and get them to cancel his appearence

    Ultimately, I think Trump is 100% right – all the controversy is going to be great for ratings. And if Trumps presence on a stuffy old debate stage is good for 15-20 million viewers, just imagine how big the SNL ratings are going to be tonight.

    And as Variety knows better than anyone – Big ratings = Big Winners. So if anything you opinion on this is the Loser not SNL.

  6. chickenunderwear says:

    I predict that this will be one of the highest rated Saturday Night Live shows ever and that Donald Trump will use this as evidence that people want him elected President of the United States. I think it will be the highest rated show because people like looking at roadkill.

  7. He has tapped into the anger of the American public over the establishment politicians. They go up to Washington and lose their souls. They do not listen to the American people that put them there. Instead we have illegals flooding our borders and the politicians pandering to them while our Veterans are treated worse than dogs. They refuse to close our borders and deport illegals and allow left wing cities to give them everything.

    As someone living in California, I’ve seen too many illegals come in and damage our neighborhoods and towns. Crime has risen, property values have fallen, and the influx of minimum wage workers takes jobs from high schoolers..

    We can no longer afford to “split the pot” with everyone who wants a piece. America is struggling enough as it is. Most of us are making below living wage and just had our health insurance forcefully taken away. I make 60k per year and my healthcare is up to $400 per month; compare this to my $25/month car insurance (from Insurance Panda) or my $13/month renters insurance. Both private enterprise (take note, Obama).

    Trump is totally correct on this topic. Illegals are ruining this country and the president is allowing this to happen.

    The established politicians collect their monies and make fortunes on information they shouldn’t have. The courts are packed where our values and our morals are made a mockery of. This is why Trump is soaring in the polls. He has listened to the American voter.

  8. Bill Rocha says:

    Trump is the next Prez ! Bringing back the jobs for us Latinos in manufacturing!

  9. MorganManfree says:

    Please, continue to have Latinos, and “mainstream” journalists lambaste the fact that Trump is hosting. It will just make the episode even more popular (if that’s even possible).

  10. Bob Price says:

    SNL is a business. Booking controversial people gets ratings. Simple.

  11. r. white says:

    lighten up. It will be hysterical.

  12. Lucky says:

    Never been prouder to be Canadian :) What a disaster!

  13. alexdilolli says:

    It’s going to be YUUUUUUUUUUUUGE! Donald Trump is going to do the impossible this Saturday: Make SNL Great Again.

  14. Magical says:

    Obama on Letterman, Bill Clinton on MTV, entertainment TV has always been a platform for both parties over the last 20 years. Please. Your liberal is showing. Just because it’s SNL doesn’t make a difference.

  15. joe s says:

    another stupid opinion by a liberal jackass writer, Trump will win the white house

  16. George says:

    Most people who want this country back are running away from the “Democrat Republican” thing. Most of them no longer care about the Democrat or Republican tag and just go for the Independent deal. The Democrats chunked it way back when and now the Republicans are doing the exact same thing. People are fed up with politicians and the PC deal. We now look at the person and strip off the tag. This is why Carson, Trump are doing so good. My guess is Trump will win the White House hands down.

  17. You are right in your analysis, but it is even bigger than that. The biggest loser is the Republican Party. They have no idea what is coming. The demographics in this country tell us that the GOP will soon be heading for the trash bin of history. It doesn’t have to be this way, but they have chosen that side of history. Despite Trumps own analysis that “The Hispanics” and “The Blacks” and “the Women” love him and will vote for him, doesn’t add up… and worse, it’s not simply about this election, but about a massive shift hereafter. Truth is, the GOP will die off of self-inflicted wounds. They have no youth base coming up. All the appeals to race/hate, coded, uncoded or otherwise will result in losing power for the foreseeable future. So in the short term SNL wins… for a few days…after the dust settles, SNL, NBC and their advertisers will be the big losers. But over the long term: it will be the GOP.

    • bk (@sifc33) says:

      Im sorry Roberto, but dude where do you live? Have you ever traveled outside your strict community? For one, and just one of many examples, is the “frat culture” that has taken the world by storm. Well there is an uprising of strong-minded, highly educated, and very influential “youth” that are are staunch Repubs, and Ronald Reagenities. So to say the GOP is losing and headed for the trash bin, is not only inflammatory but drastically misinformed.

      Go to any youth Christian concert, either be Hillsong United or post-hardcore/screamo shows and they are a subculture looking for change. Might I remind you the general elections just took place, and I think it’s obvious they are anywhere but losing?

      Be it as it may, a true change is upon us and it’s in the form of social-media-aware individuals whom aren’t biased by “larger networks” and can ascertain and deduct information at a resounding speed.

      NBC here is showing they don’t need to kowtow to any one political party, rather they are truly independent of any bias and in some sense are completely “punk rock.”

      Bravo SNL, Bravo for the courage to stand up to the powers that be.

  18. Matthew says:

    Donald Trump is the favorite, preferred, candidate of self-professed white supremacists and white nationalists.

    Don Black, founder of Stormfront, said in a recent New York Magazine interview that Trump will have his vote.

    I’m relatively certain that white supremacists groups don’t usually even bother to *have* a preferred candidate? And yet, he is becoming a face for their movement.

    I’m not linking articles simply because that might cause my post to be held back as suspected spam. So I’ll simply say, Google “white supremacists for donald trump” (without the quotes) and filter through any of the numerous articles you want.

    If you are for Donald Trump and this doesn’t give you massive pause, I don’t want to know you.

    • Brimstone Haliost says:

      Interesting, so Matthew I am guessing you have a love interest that must be a diehard liberal and you are planning to finally get a piece tonight? I am wondering How I can get a job as a professional troll such as yourself?

    • Marissa says:

      Matthew, I’m sorry, but that’s pretty lame of you to make such an ignorant statement. Do not couple Trump supporters with white supremacist garbage. Sadly, they have opinions and a vote too, and if some feel Trump is their guy, then so be it. I’m supporting Trump and I’m socially liberal. Many people I know who are plan to support him. We may not agree on everything he says but we feel he sure as hell will be a great leader for this country. Do not pull racist card… It’s getting old and many are way over it!

  19. Steve Bowen says:

    Trump will be a ratings boost as well as a boost in American politics. He is calling out the ineffectual Washington politico from both parties. Variety lives is a close minded bubble.

    • Patricia says:

      Trump is being lied about by the Washington Cartel, and Dems are jumping ship to vote for him. Stupid people continue to believe the negative spin the GOP, THE DEMS, AND THE MSM bots put on him. Save America and our Constitution. Vote Trump!

    • George says:

      You do know people are sick and tried of the race card, right. It is no longer working so stop riding a dead horse. By the way Trump will be your next president.

  20. Chris Palmer says:

    no sir, our mr. trump is a winner…& you media types are the losers.

  21. Donald Trump is facing what he is cause many rich powerful people want a President who they can control.If he becomes President, he will be the 1st who have made it without donations and endorsements.This scares many people in power.

  22. Collette says:

    What a difference will be if Trump would it just said “illegal immigrants”, but no, he has to be racist about it and called all Mexicans rapes, murders and drug dealers, when we all know that is not true. That was his big mistake and that’s why he is not gonna win.

  23. 85wzen says:

    I don’t think SNL is losing anything at all. And it’s refreshing for someone/anyone to say something that is deemed wrong in America. It’s like Ice-T said about America: “You can say ANYTHING but you can’t say SOMETHING”. Cry me an F’n River!

  24. Sheev says:

    Cry some more liberal puke.

  25. cheryl55 says:

    NO. the BIGGEST LOSERS are those Hispanics who allowed their children….CHILDREN to make a video using the filthiest gutter language possible to downgrade Donald Trump? That has been shown on national television for a week. This is the character of SOME of these people!! Then they wonder WHY the American people have had with all the ILLEGALS and hearing that WE the taxpayers MUST pay for all the free programs sanctuary cities that HIDE the drug dealers and criminals while many AMERICANS have had to bury their family members from their crimes??? Then we pay to HOUSE them in OUR JAILS!!! The DECENT Hispanics who ARE legal and work right along side of the Americans who LOVE this country, have worked for it, built it up and have family members who have DIED for it WANT SECURE BORDERS AND WANT DONALD TRUMP!!! These people are NOT going to tell US where our candidates can be on television or WHO our President will be….NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!!!

  26. We deserve Trump ! says:

    This is a free country, isn’t it? Mr. Trump has every right to his opinion and his voice. If you do not wish to see SNL, don’t watch.

  27. BillUSA says:

    Puh-leeze!

    Saturday Night Live stopped skating the edge after Eddie Murphy left the show and has since become a hypocrisy of itself with its glad-handling of important issues when they aren’t avoiding them entirely.

    And will somebody please explain to me why the left has such a difficult time making a distinction between “legal” and “illegal” aliens? It isn’t hard, people. After all, you’re supposedly the smartest of us all….

    Just in case I’m wrong about that, the last comment was something called “sarcasm”. Look it up. It’s in the “dictionary”.

  28. These protests are totally absurd. Applying even a little common sense, the Trump comments were obviously about illegal immigration and the associated dangers of people entering the country with no screening.

    • And says:

      In this country people are seemingly incapable of understanding the difference between legal and illegal immigration. In fact – most LEGAL immigrants – like my own family – find it a slap in the face that illegals are allowed to “jump the line”.

  29. I disagree that SNL will come away as the biggest losers but more like the biggest winners. SNL has been slumping with their writers comedy not being up to par for a long time now and this will help boost them their ratings again. When I’ve watched SNL in the last couple of years I hold my breath and hope that’s it’s funny. I’m hoping the Trump episode will be good and funny and that he can laugh at himself and for us to laugh along with him, but not at him, because I like Trump a lot and think he has many good qualities and I hope those good qualities will make him sparkle next Saturday night and the shows a success for eveyone.

  30. Greene says:

    One of the WORST articles to ever appear in Variety. One-sided bullshit.

  31. Trump for President says:

    I would bet that SNL ratings will be the highest rated show ever. And they will continue to ride the wave for the next few weeks after.

  32. Perpetually Al Dente says:

    Whats funny is that the women who will be slamming Trump and conservatism in general Saturday night would be the first ones to service him if ever given the opportunity.

  33. kiro says:

    TRUMP 2016

  34. The Truth says:

    Lowry is dead right. Booking Trump to host SNL after separating ties from him over his anti-Latino comments is a ratings whore move par excellence.

    Even the staunchest liberals will find it hard to resist seeing Trump make an absolute ass out of himself, as he dependably does every time the camera turns his way.

  35. What a BS article
    TRUMP for President

  36. Helen Parnagian Corrigan says:

    Poorly written, incoherent diatribe making little sense to berate NBC for just doing what it does so well with SNL. This will be one of the highest rated segments in SNL’s history! Why be such a bad sport about this matter? Let the public decide what it wants to watch. Or has that become a censorship issue?

  37. Thomas says:

    Not your finest moment, BL. You’re better than politicizing. This is all about numbers…and SNL is going to have big ones this weekend.

  38. Caliann says:

    SNL November 7. On my calendar! Maybe the complainers, those wishing to stifle free speech and freedom of the airways will get lucky and Trump won’t entertain. This is about entertainment, right?

    • GKN says:

      Some people only want to stifle fascism and Nazism in our country, however eager you are to embrace it, and are appalled to see a show like SNL showcase it, however desperate they’ve (obviously) become to improve their ratings.

  39. Vicki Bomberger says:

    Article would be more credible if you at least admitted up front that you are a democrat and voting for Hilary. It seems all the politicians show up on late night there days. Your article isn’t even worthy to be news.

  40. kate says:

    This is why I rarely read this rag anymore…it’s way too biased! First off, where what this article when Hillary was on the show? Secondly, the Hispanics who are pissed off are the ILLEGAL ones! What part of ILLEGAL don’t you get? Trump has every right to be on the show. Michaels is smart to have him on. Besides SNL material sucks. This will give them more ratings than they had in years. Variety is the Biggest Loser here.

  41. David Sams says:

    It must really be a slow news day. Or, you must be married to someone on the SNL picket line.

    This was a brilliant move on SNL’s part. It’s all about eyeballs, you should know that after writing for Variety for all of these years.

    Biggest Loser? Unfortunately you, for writing this article.

  42. Ramon Flugenweiss says:

    Lowry has to get his “me too” moment so he has something to say to his fellow travelers when the topic of how much they hate the GOP comes up.

    What a proper little conformist BL has become.

  43. Jimmy Bob says:

    No respect and low class article. Rough day, Brian?

  44. IGary Bernstein says:

    This opinion is utter nonsense

  45. Rex says:

    Lowry’s bias clearly shows. Trump is no different than any other past controversial host. He has every right to host it and I bet anything more are going to watch than boycott it.

  46. rayantoky says:

    This opinion piece makes VARIETY look really bad. In fact I would go so far as to say they are the biggest loser in this story. The Donald gets his exposure and will make new friends, SNL becomes more relevant and the go to place to be, NBC mends fences and the Latino community will see that Trump’s statements will actually help the established legal residents do better without competition from undocumented hispanic folks. Oh, and Brian Lowry just painted himself with a big LOSER brush.

    • ooonaughtykitty says:

      rayantoky :: I agree with everything you said.

    • Damian says:

      NOPE…..I’d say the article is pretty accurate.

      • jason wirt says:

        I would say Damin get a clue most people that know anything would realize this country is on wrong path. You can’t spend more than you make. And the goverment makes nothing just spends. So get a clue Go Hillary for Jail 2016 and by the way Dave Ramsey has programs on finances maybe you should get clue this country is in trouble wake up. Go Trump fix this mess

    • DonDon says:

      I totally agree with you Ray.

  47. When you hate someone because of his or her politics, why not just say it instead of being a pitiful whiner about it, Lowry?

    • Henry says:

      Isn’t “tolerance” about respecting other people even WHEN you don’t share their views? Looking forward to seeing Trump on SNL, hopefully it will a good show for a change.

      • Patrick says:

        No tolerance is respecting soemone for who they are. No one is required to respect a racist misogynist. No one can top Trump when it comes to intolerance.

      • Henry says:

        By the way Skip Press, I am totally agreeing with you… hope that was clear.

  48. Jason says:

    What an unbelievable search for something to complain about. I’m a lawyer trained to construct arguments and can’t figure out what the argument is, perhaps because it is so weak. This is a smart move for both parties. I loathe NBC; perhaps that is why I’m neither shocked nor disappointed NBC would be self-serving or even sleazy. NBC has about 100 more important problems that deserve serious introspection.

  49. Mark Wilbur says:

    You are allowed your opinion and so am I. Your article doesn’t even make sense if people have an ounce of intelligence. SNL has had lots of controversial guests and in fact Trump hosted successfully in 2004 – making fun of himself the whole night!

    Doesn’t matter what candidate or professional they put on stage, they all leverage their platform and all have supporters and dissenters. So where was your critical article when Hilary was on? She broke federal laws while holding a high office, yet they still put her on! You didn’t have a problem with that apparently.

    I know Variety sits on the fringe of entertainment, but I have to believe you could find a couple people there internally that could explain the importance of eyeballs and ratings. If SNL screened hosts by the stupid things that come out of their mouths or the stupid things they’ve done, they wouldn’t be able to find a host!

    Bravo SNL!!

  50. c. hedum says:

    keep these lies coming…the more anti white anti ameeica anti trump propaganda u spew the more the world sees u kind of people for what u are…digging your own grave. pack a shovel. we wont forget

    TRUMP 2016

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