Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump said he had a “lot of fun” hosting the iconic US sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” -- despite protests over his appearance and mixed reviews about his performance.
Wearing a dark suit, white shirt and red tie, Trump stepped on stage to cheers and in a nearly five-minute opening monologue that saw him flanked by two lookalikes, he insisted, “People think I’m controversial, but the truth is, I’m a nice guy.”
“It’s wonderful to be here. I will tell you, this is going to be something special,” he said.
Trump, a billionaire real estate developer who has never held elected office, leads in the polls along with Ben Carson for the Republican nomination for the 2016 race to the White House.
But the 69-year-old has courted controversy for his statements on immigration, promising that if he becomes president, he will expel immigrants who are in the United States illegally and build a wall along the US-Mexico border. He has also alleged that Mexico sends rapists and other criminals across the border.
That stance saw Latino community leaders hold a rally on Friday in Los Angeles calling on NBCUniversal to drop Trump from “Saturday Night Live.” And there were more protests on Saturday in New York hours before the show was broadcast, with dozens of demonstrators marching from Trump Tower to NBC’s studio in Rockefeller Plaza.
There were fears that audience members might seek to heckle Trump over his views and a Hispanic advocacy group had offered a $5,000 reward for anyone that called Trump “racist” during his closely watched opening monologue.
He indeed was interrupted with a cry of “You’re a racist!” -- but it turned out to be from comedian Larry David, who co-produced “Seinfeld.”
“Who the hell is -- oh, I knew this was going to happen,” Trump responded in what was clearly a scripted sketch. “Who is that?”
“I heard if I yelled that, they’d give me $5,000,” he added, to laughter and applause from the audience.
Other sketches saw Trump poke fun at his own bombastic personality and holding a cabinet meeting as US president -- with his daughter Ivanka as his Secretary of the Interior -- during which he is told the Islamic State group has been defeated.
People in Trump’s America are just “sick of winning,” he is told.
‘Nothing better to do’
Early in his monologue, he said, “Many of the great have hosted this show. Like me, in 2004.
“A lot of people say: Donald, you’re the most amazing guy. You’re brilliant, you’re handsome, you’re rich, you have everything going, the world is waiting for you to be president, so why are you hosting Saturday Night Live? Why?
“And the answer is: I have really nothing better to do.”
Another skit that quickly went viral, a parody of rapper Drake’s dance moves in his “Hotline Bling” video, featured Trump strutting his stuff.
On Sunday, Trump reiterated that he had vetoed a few skits, saying the show “gets a little risque.”
But he told CNN: “We had a lot of fun last night. It was well received and probably got very good ratings.”
Trump certainly got plenty of laughs from a sympathetic audience, and some positive buzz on social media, but that was not enough to satisfy Maureen Ryan, a TV critic with respected show-business daily Variety. “The fevered lead-up to Donald Trump’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ episode turned out to be more exciting than the edition of the show he hosted,” she wrote.
“Most of the sketches involving Trump were weak, timid or predictable.” The “racist” sketch with David was one of the few that worked, said Ryan.
Washington Post critic Hank Steuver called Trump’s hosting effort an “anemic and halfhearted dud,” and blamed NBC for giving him an extra campaign platform. “When and if boffo ratings reports come out Sunday, he will promote them as proof of his electability, rather than as evidence that anyone will slow down to gawk at a car wreck,” Steuver said.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, appeared on “Saturday Night Live” last month, playing a sympathetic bartender in a skit that was well received by critics and Clinton supporters.