It must have been a nightmare for President Donald Trump. In early April, Dr. Anthony Fauci was jokingly asked on CNN’s “New Day” who he would want to play him on “Saturday Night Live.” A laughing Fauci responded, “Brad Pitt, of course.” On Saturday the infectious disease specialist had his wish come true as “SNL” opened its show with the actor — twice named by People magazine as “sexiest man alive” — playing the 79-year-old doctor.
Pitt-as-Fauci kicked off the show — the second filmed “at home” rather than in NBC’s famed Studio 8H to observe social distancing guidelines — sitting behind a desk in a suit and tie.
“Fauci,” who in real life has become something of a national icon for his work on the Covid-19 pandemic — first joked about the support he had received from “older women in America who have sent me supportive, inspiring, and sometimes graphic emails.” But then it turned to the real focus: Trump’s comments about the coronavirus.
“SNL” became in essence a translator for Trump’s comments about the pandemic, with “Fauci” telling us, “I would like to explain what the president was trying to say.” Next came a clip of Trump at a March 2 rally where he declared he had a “great meeting” with pharmaceutical company executives, adding, “they’re going to have vaccines I think relatively soon.” The show’s explainer: “Relative to the entire history of Earth, sure, the vaccine’s going to come real fast.” “Fauci” jokingly added. “But if you were to tell a friend, ‘I’ll be over relatively soon’ and then showed up a year and a half later, well, your friend may be relatively pissed off.”
Next up was a clip of Trump from February 28 where he stated that the virus would “disappear” and that it would be “like a miracle.” The Pitt/”Fauci” response: “A miracle would be great. Who doesn’t love miracles?!” He then quipped, “But miracles shouldn’t be Plan A…Even ‘Sully’ tried to land at the airport first,” referencing Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who safely landed a commercial jet in the Hudson River in 2009 after birds struck its engines.
Then there were Trump’s jaw dropping and potentially dangerous comments at Thursday’s White House press conference, where the president spoke of using disinfectant or light to kill the virus. First, “SNL” played Trump’s actual declaration, “I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute,” adding, “…is there a way we can do something like that, by injection.” We then cut to “SNL”‘s add of a speechless, open jawed “Fauci” staring at us in bewilderment.
That was followed quickly by a clip of Trump’s other now famous remark from that press conference, “Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, uh — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light.” We return to “SNL” to see a stunned, face-palming “Fauci” who comments, “I know I shouldn’t be touching my face, but…”
Later, “Fauci” remarked, “I’m going to be there, putting out the facts for whoever’s listening. And when I hear things like ‘the virus can be cured if everyone takes the Tide pod challenge,’ I’ll be there to say, ‘Please don’t.'”
This sketch was not just funny and poignant in calling out Trump’s misinformation, it was so much of what Trump hates rolled into one. The notoriously thin-skinned Trump has long been known to get angry about being mocked, but apparently “SNL” truly angers him.
Maybe it’s because Trump got bad reviews when he hosted the iconic comedy show in 2015 — the second time he’d done so — or perhaps it’s because he so desperately wants to be loved by Hollywood. In any event, as president, Trump has slammed the show on numerous occasions as being everything from “unfunny” to being part of the media’s total “hit job” on Republicans to suggesting there should be “retribution” against it. As a presidential candidate in October 2016, Trump even called for the show to be canceled for jokes that he viewed as unfair.
If that weren’t enough, Pitt, the Oscar-winning star of the “SNL” sketch, recently got under Trump’s skin. In February, during his speech at the Academy Awards, Pitt roasted the Senate for not allowing Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial the week before. (The expectation was that Bolton’s testimony would’ve been detrimental to Trump.) After Pitt’s speech, Trump told his supporters at a rally, “And then you have Brad Pitt, I was never a big fan of his. He got up, said a little wise guy thing. He’s a little wise guy.”
In addition, Pitt portrayed Fauci, a man who polls show consistently has a far higher approval rating (78%) than Trump (46%) when it comes to handling Covid-19. Trump can’t have liked seeing “SNL” use Fauci as a way to make America laugh at him.
The “SNL” sketch ended with Pitt breaking character, removing his wig and stating, “To the real Dr. Fauci, thank you for your calm and your clarity in this unnerving time.” Fauci deserves the praise, while Trump deserves the laughs at his expense. And as a nation, we deserve far better than Trump.
Editor’s note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.