SNL’s Presidential Town Hall Cold Open Is a Warning To the Past, From the Present

"Hello, and welcome to the second and worst ever presidential debate."

When the thing meant to be parodied is so ludicrous the reality is parody enough, what’s a sketch comedy show to do? When Alec Baldwin made his debut playing Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live’s season premiere earlier in the month, the impression was so spot on as to be almost not funny, discomforting in its accuracy. But still, it worked, and Baldwin and company’s lampooning of the first debate was well received.

And then came the second debate, one that sat like a large, undigested lump in the stomach. It was something, perhaps, that we wouldn’t want revisited, even in comedic form. That was the premise of the opening of the open, with SNL imposing what we knew after the fact over what we didn’t before the town hall pressed itself into our collective memory. “Hello, and welcome to the second and worst ever presidential debate,” begins ersatz Martha Raddatz, played by Cecily Strong.

“Before we begin, we just need to do one last thing,” continues ersatz Anderson Cooper, played by Alex Moffat. Go over the rules? Brief the audience? Nope.

They both tap a shot glass on the table and proceed to down its contents.

“Much better. Now let’s get this nightmare started,” says Raddatz.

If we knew then what we know now.

You can watch the entire sketch, including Bobby Moynihan‘s turn as Ken Bone and a recreation of Trump hovering over Clinton set to the Jaws theme, below.