Saturday Night Live has never hesitated from going after its own people. David Spade took a swipe at former cast member Eddie Murphy for no particular reason in the 1990s, reportedly enraging Murphy for years.
Louis C.K. used to write for SNL and hosted the show several times before last week’s episode, when the scandal-plagued comedian was skewered in two separate sketches — “the guy who always jokes about masturbating [but] wasn’t actually joking.”
So anticipation was understandably high for a roasting of Al Franken — one of the show’s original writers and stars who is now a U.S. senator and was recently accused of groping and forcibly kissing a woman.
Sure enough, SNL didn’t spare the senator, though it dispensed with his scandal in a few lines during the “Weekend Update” segment in the back half of the show.
“I know this photo looks bad, but it also is bad,” Colin Jost said, as the screen flashed a photo of a Franken clawing at the covered breasts of a sleeping Leeann Tweeden in 2006 — about a decade after he left SNL. “I know this photo was taken before he ran for public office,” Jost added, “but it was also taken after he was a sophomore in high school.”
(When Tweeden released the photo Thursday, she called it violating, embarrassing, belittling, and humiliating. Franken apologized and called it disgusting.)
Before turning the “Weekend Update” to other news and Thanksgiving puns, co-host Michael Che added: “And without even looking you can bet President Trump called out Al Franken, and not Roy Moore, who’s accused of way worse, by the way.”
Moore, the Alabama candidate for a U.S. Senate seat, has been accused of sexually assaulting teenagers. SNL devoted an entire sketch to the Republican last week. For the past month, the show has been aggressively mocking celebrities accused of sexual misconduct, and some viewers had expected more than a one-off mention of Franken. Cast member Alex Moffat, after all, can impersonate the senator. But instead of playing Franken in the cold open, he played a dim-witted Eric Trump accompanying his brother Donald Jr. to meet WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a parking garage and proving almost too stupid to be trusted with stolen Democratic emails.
Other alumni from the show have been divided over how to handle the accusations against Franken. At least three stood up for him, according to the New York Times, including Jane Curtin, who starred with Franken in the show’s early seasons.
Curtin compared the accusations to “the red menace” panic against Communists and “good people being dragged into it.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, “SNL” cast-member-turned-late-night-host Seth Meyers called the photo of Franken and Tweeden “horrifying.”
On this week’s SNL — after four songs and half the show — the “Weekend Update” hosts gave their take on the scandal in four jokes lasting 70 seconds.
“It is bad,” Jost said, but not as bad as Moore. Then it was on to Kate McKinnon reprising her impression of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Thanksgiving puns and the rapper “Lil Doo Doo,” and a porn shoot gone wrong.
Not the hardest-hitting episode in the show’s history, certainly. But SNL proved it would spare no friend, even one who goes all the way back to the show’s beginning.