As it has increasingly since Alec Baldwin first smeared himself in orange makeup as Donald Trump back in 2016, S.N.L. outsourced its biggest impression of the night to a non-cast member and major celebrity. Matt Damon yelled, cried, and sniffed his way through a coked-out impression of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It wasnt exactly searing comedy—the sketch hewed fairly closely to a transcript of Thursdays Senate Judiciary hearing. But could Damons shouting performance have an impact on the audience that matters the most?
When the real hearing aired earlier this week, several pundits noted that both Kavanaugh and Senator Lindsey Graham appeared to be playing to an audience of one: President Trump. Kate McKinnon under prosthetics and sporting a thick southern accent underlined that exact point during her Graham impression saying that the senators screaming performance was also an audition for Trumps cabinet. Kavanaughs defensive and seemingly false testimony was almost Trumpian. Almost.
One thing Trump doesnt do when attacked is show any frailty and Damons impression of Kavanaugh underlined just how emotionally volatile the would-be justice was on Thursday. Trump will almost certainly see Damons appearance and this could be very bad for Kavanaugh.
Washington insiders believe that Melissa McCarthys popular impression of Sean Spicer was at least partially responsible for the former press secretary losing his position at the White House. “Trump doesn't like his people to look weak,” a source told Politico of the presidents reaction to McCarthys wicked, incisive performance.
Despite publicly supporting Kavanaugh, Trump was reportedly already displeased with his testimony on Thursday. “Hed rather see a man keel over from a heart attack, trying to restrain himself, than bawling in front of the nation,” Trump biographer Michael DAntonio, author of The Truth About Trump, told People. “He is just not a person who tolerates displays of emotion like this.” Kavanaugh was further made a laughingstock this week when a video splicing his testimony together with footage of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction went viral. Now its possible that Damons S.N.L. performance could further undermine Kavanaughs chances—especially if Trump decides hes no longer a horse worth backing.
As for the sketch outside of Damons appearance, it wasnt a particularly scathing piece of comedy. McKinnon, Alex Moffat, Cecily Strong, Beck Bennett, Chris Redd, Mikey Day, Kyle Mooney, and guest star Rachel Dratch all trotted out impressions of senators on both sides of the aisle. But perhaps that was the point, especially when compared to S.N.L.s 1991 treatment of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearing.
In that sketch, cast member Ellen Cleghorne appeared very briefly as Hill and Tim Meadows played the straight man as Justice Thomas. The punching bag in that instance were the senators as Kevin Nealon, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Dana Carvey, future (former) Senator Al Franken all took swings at various politicians. At that time, S.N.L. either didnt have or didnt recognize its potential to sway political minds.
So, in 2018, if S.N.L. has its way, the Damon impression will go viral and perhaps even have an impact on the right side of the aisle. As for the left side of the aisle, the S.N.L. sketch them with this ominous message from Damons Kavanaugh: “Just wait until I get on that Supreme Court cause then youre all going to pay.”
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