On Oct. 11, 1975, NBC released a show called “Saturday Night Live,” which brought with it a revolutionary new genre that was based around sketch comedy. One particular recurring sketch within the first few episodes set a successful tone that the show, and many others like it, would continue. Cast member Chevy Chase sat behind a desk in a mock Oval Office and clumsily reported to the United States as the president and University alum, Gerald Ford. The era of television’s comedic presidential impersonations began with Chevy Chase hilariously capitalizing on the fact that President Ford unfortunately had a few accidents that made him appear clumsy and awkward — traits that “SNL” and Chase transformed into comedic gold. And all of this was received, both by the American public and by Ford, to some degree, in a positive and jovial way. 

And this sketch continued. Every president and presidential candidate following Gerald Ford was impersonated and recreated through several talented actors capitalizing on any trivial claim that could be stretched and overacted to make America laugh. From Dana Carvey as the WASP-y and nasally George H.W. Bush, to Kate McKinnon playing the almost robotic Secretary Hillary Clinton, “SNL” used the men and women seeking and holding the office of the president as a means of relatable comedy. It was all easy to write, easy to act and recognizable to every American. It suddenly became part of the job — when becoming president, you should expect your own comedic and moronic doppelganger to constantly satirize every potential choice you make.

So when the first episode of “SNL” following the election capitalized on the fact that the Trump transition was not running as smoothly as some had hoped, Alec Baldwin put his incredible acting skills and the seemingly endless amount of comedic material to use. He delivered a hilarious performance of our president-elect, frantically asking Siri, “How do I beat ISIS?” and realizing that the border along Mexico is actually 2,000 miles long.

And almost right on schedule, our president-elect dropped all other “adult” responsibilities surrounding the peaceful transition of presidential administrations, and fell again into his juvenile and bully-like Twitter rants in which he condemned the entirety of “SNL” and the poor impersonation they had presented of him. This trend, this ongoing sketch that satirizes the most recognizable position in the world, is crossing the line for our president-elect.

Yet, I view this single outburst of angry emotion from a 70-year-old billionaire as one of many that prove to serve as testament to the fragility of his ego and the focus of his actual attention. Throughout the entirety of his life, President-elect Trump has focused an unbelievable amount of time, money and effort toward the retribution of those who criticize his name, looks and actions. From the constant threatening correspondence toward Spy Magazine, which stated he was a “short-fingered vulgarian,” to the actual lawsuits he filed against comedian Bill Maher, who stated he would donate $5 million to charity if birther Donald Trump could prove his mother was not an orange-haired orangutan, Trump hunted down any critique of himself with every asset on hand. Anyone who damages his ego is a viable target, and as demonstrated by the “failing” New York Times in its piece, “The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter” — a list that includes every single major-party presidential candidate, entire nations, every major TV network, journalists, the residential lectern in the White House, a gold star family and my favorite, the pope.

And one could assume that all of those petty and ridiculous rants and immature verbal onslaughts usually ending in “Bad!!” would somehow guarantee that this insufferable 5-year-old would be deemed incapable of becoming president. Yet America has surprised us all again.

But now Trump and his fragile image of himself holds the most powerful office in the world. And the implications of this situation should be very clear. His pettiness and lack of affability toward comedic representations of himself have been blatantly demonstrated throughout the entirety of his public life. The man cannot stand an ounce of criticism — whether it be Alec Baldwin simply restating things Trump has said verbatim, or the pope saying that building walls is not the Christian answer to immigration issues, he has countered with some of the most deplorable and disgusting rhetoric within American political discourse.

So if it is even possible, set aside the other horrific factors that will become the Trump presidency. Set aside Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his blatant hatred toward women’s and LGBTQ rights. Set aside National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who believes Islam is an ideology meant to destroy America. Set aside Steve Bannon, a man who has been the voice for racists and white supremacists across the country. Set aside every disturbing thought associated with who and what will influence this future administration, and simply picture how Trump will respond to such goofy and comical criticisms from “SNL” when he has the power of presidency behind him.

Michael Mordarksi can be reached at mmordars@umich.edu.

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