The “Saturday Night Live” opening sketch has reliably become a showcase for the cast member James Austin Johnson — it’s simply a matter of which political figure or celebrity he’ll impersonate in the segment. This week the wheel was spun and it landed on former President Donald J. Trump, who on Wednesday visited the town of East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a train derailment that has led to a toxic chemical spill.
This week’s “S.N.L.” broadcast, which was hosted by Woody Harrelson and featured the musical guest Jack White, began with Johnson playing Trump as he addressed an East Palestine firehouse.
“It’s wonderful to be here in the town of East Palestine,” Johnson said. “Not a great name. But I had to come here and see these wonderful people who have been abandoned by Biden. He’s on Spring Break in Ukraine with his friend Zelensky in the T-shirt, very disrespectful. Zelensky things he’s rocking that ringer tee like Scott Pilgrim. But I’m here and I brought hats. Cameras and hats.”
Relating a story that he claimed had happened on his visit, Johnson said, “Earlier today a farmer came up to me, big fella, and he said, ‘Sir, we have nothing to eat because our dirt is poisoned.’ And I said, well, what are you doing eating the dirt? Don’t eat the dirt, folks. Don’t eat the dirt. You should be eating the cold McDonald’s I brought you. And the bottled water, Trump Ice. I’ll be honest, I just put my sticker on some Dasani.”
Indulging in a bit of Trump-style free association, Johnson said, “I was looking at your river and it’s so shiny. I’ve never seen water so beautiful. Beautiful rainbows and discolorations, it’s great. It’s wearing makeup. Fenty beauty water. Fenty by Rihanna. Rihanna. By the way, you know she was pregnant doing Super Bowl, can you believe that? I said of course she is, she’s not moving at all. It was just arms, right?”
He added, “But your train exploded and who do we blame? We blame Buttigieg. Pete Buttigieg. This was his responsibility. Unfortunately he was too busy being a nerd and being gay.”
Promising his audience a special guest, Johnson brought out Chloe Fineman, who was playing Emily Kohrs, the forewoman of a special grand jury in Georgia that was investigating election interference by Trump and his allies.
Kohrs drew attention for the quantity of news media appearances and interviews she made this past week. Johnson introduced Fineman by saying, “She’s an odd duck but we like her. She’s either seven or 40, we can’t tell.”
When he was unable to get the excitable Fineman to reveal the grand jury’s decisions, Johnson said, “Wow, we don’t like that. We don’t like that sound. Because she knows if I’m getting indicted.”
He added, “They almost had me and then this little horse girl comes in and saves the day.”
Concluding his remarks, Johnson said, “I’m gonna get out of here soon ‘cause the air is full of poison.” He speculated that this could somehow be a benefit for flatulent men. “Blame the train, right?” he said. “You’d normally blame it on the dog but they’re all dead now, aren’t they?”
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on President Biden’s trip to Ukraine and the political responses to the train derailment in East Palestine.
This week President Biden made a historic visit to Ukraine and met with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, where they greeted each other like two action figures having sex. While Biden was in Ukraine, Republicans criticized his delayed response to the Ohio train derailment. But Biden said he was just waiting to shoot the train down until it was over the ocean.
President Biden is being praised for his surprise visit to Ukraine by taking a 10-hour train ride from Poland. Big deal. You know who else takes a long-ass train ride through an active war zone? Every New Yorker. China is trying to help the war in Ukraine and proposed a 12-part plan for peace. The catch is, the 12 parts have to be assembled by children.
Jost then picked up the thread:
Donald Trump visited East Palestine, the site of the recent train derailment, because Trump usually tries to make himself look better by standing next to a train wreck. [His screen showed a photo of Rudy Giuliani.] The train that derailed was carrying highly toxic vinyl chloride, which I think is something Trump recommended as a cure for Covid. And while visiting the disaster site, Trump also gave out bottles of Trump brand water. Said residents, “Thanks but we’d rather drink the toxic train water.” I just love that Trump is the one who rolled back train safety standards when he was president and now he’s giving the victims bottles of water. What’s next? Is he going to visit all the migrant kids he put in cages and give them a gift card to Dave and Buster’s?
Delayed Gratification of the Week
Longtime fans of “S.N.L.” know that when a celebrity guest hosts the show for the fifth time, the occasion is usually marked with a little pomp and circumstance. But for Harrelson — who took nearly 34 years to finally cross that threshold, having made his first appearance as host in 1989 — there was seemingly no such celebration coming.
Harrelson halted his opening monologue a couple of times to extend his arms in expectation of a ceremonial jacket that never arrived. He also cheekily called attention to this when he set up the first musical performance from White, who was also appearing on “S.N.L” for his fifth time: “You know what,” Harrelson said, halting his introduction, “he’s been here five times, too. Does he get a jacket?”
At the end of the show, as Harrelson, White and the cast took the stage to say good night, Kenan Thompson said that on behalf of everyone at “S.N.L.,” he was proud to present a five-timers’ jacket … to White. Not to worry: Harrelson also got a jacket from Scarlett Johansson, Jost’s wife and a fellow five-timer herself.