David Zurawik

Hillary Clinton survives her SNL visit mostly unscathed

Hillary Clinton in sketch with SNL's Kate McKinnon on "Saturday Night Live."

If you start from the premise that Hillary Clinton had no choice but to be on "Saturday Night Live" and try to look like she is on the inside of Kate McKinnon's brilliant impersonation of her, then the candidate's appearance was a success.

But, believe me, anything that worked in the sketch was all McKinnon's doing.


The premise of the segment featured McKinnon as Clinton in a bar letting her hair down over a few drinks after what she describes as having had a "hard couple of 22 years."

As she moves from a table to a seat at the bar, she starts chatting with a sympathetic bartender named Val who is played by Clinton.


The best moment of the sketch came when Clinton's Val said it was OK for McKinnon's Clinton to have taken so long to evolve to the positions she now holds on gay marriage and the Keystone pipeline.

"Nothing wrong with taking your time. What's important is getting it right," Clinton said.

"You could have supported it sooner," McKinnon said in reply, referring to Clinton's evolution from opposition to support of gay marriage.

It was gentle, but the timing and tone of the reply made it feel real in a way no other moment did. It was one of the only lines that didn't cast Clinton in a favorable or sympathetic light. I was surprised there were not more.

I was also surprised there was no mention of the email issues surrounding Clinton's use of a private server while secretary of state - very surprised given the ongoing FBI review of her actions and its prominence in the national converation about the 2016 election.

Clinton's strongest beat as Val came when she impersonated Donald Trump, saying, "Donald Trump? Isn't he the one that's like, 'Ugh, you're all losers.'"

Darrell Hammond, a former member of the "SNL" troupe, appeared in cameo as Bill Clinton who looks at the two and runs from the bar, saying, "My God, they're multiplying."

The sketch ended with McKinnon and Clinton singing, "Lean On Me."


Well, McKinnon singing and Clinton smiling and moving her lips a little.

The sketch was not in league with the one McKinnon did in April when Clinton announced - nor almost any of the great political SNL moments of 2008.

McKinnon blew up Clinton's much-hyped announcement video in April when she brilliantly mocked it in a sketch on the eve of its rollout. (Read that here.)

That's why I say, Clinton had no choice but to try and be part of the joke by appearing on "Saturday Night Live" this time.

Outside of that one moment on gay marriage, Clinton was treated far more gently than most candidates on SNL. Republican presidential candidates, meanwhile, took most of the hits in multiple sketches.

It was Clinton's second appearance. She also appeared in 2008 during her losing Democratic primary battle. Amy Poehler was impersonating her then.