For this season of Saturday Night Live, the show's writers are faced with the daunting task of spinning an already farcical presidential election into satire.
But last night, the season 42 opener managed to do just that, with new Emmy-winner Kate McKinnon reprising her role as Hillary Clinton alongside SNL alum Alec Baldwin, who filled in for the recently departed Taran Killam with an on-the-nose Donald Trump impression.
If the success of SNL's political humor hinges upon the show's ability to successfully skewer both candidates, and not just the easy-target Trump, then McKinnon is a gift. Able to perfectly mime Clinton down to the last facial tic, her timing is impeccable, as was evident from the moment she entered for last night's cold open — hobbling out onstage with a cane amid a coughing fit only to tuck and roll into a Willy Wonka-esque entrance.
"I'm better than ever, let's do this!" McKinnon exclaims.
The rest of the sketch offered its support to the opinion that Trump foundered during the first debate, and set about highlighting his penchant for deviating from his prepared remarks.
"We should be talking about the important issues like Rosie O'Donnell and how she's a fat loser," Baldwin-as-Trump says after Clinton cedes her response time to him in the hopes of such a remark.
Jabbing at Trump's complaint that he experienced microphone problems during Monday's debate, Baldwin's character immediately turns the blame on Clinton.
"She broke it with Obama; she and Obama stole my microphone and took it to Kenya and they broke it," he says.
The sketch also features a sparring match almost identical to the one that played out on the debate stage on Monday, with McKinnon mimicking Clinton's speculation about why Trump has refused to release his tax returns while Trump interrupts her sporadically.
"He hasn't released his tax returns which means he's either not that rich," ("wrong") "not that charitable" ("wrong") "or he's never paid taxes in his life" ("warmer").
When Michael Che as Lester Holt asks "Clinton" why she is crying towards the end of the sketch, McKinnon's perfectly timed answer pretty much sums it up:
"This is going so well," she says, referring to Trump's unprompted reference to Rosie O'Donnell. "It's going exactly how I'd always dreamed."