After Saturday Night Live opted not to pick up the last year in his contract, Taran Killam quickly moved on, playing King George III in Hamilton as well as directing his first feature film Killing Gunther, starring Cobie Smulders and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the truth is, he’s probably going to be answering questions about SNL for the rest of his career—partially because he was on the show for six years, but also because it’s a major bullet point in the discussion of the normalization of Donald Trump ahead of his November 2016 upset.
As such, Killam talks about the controversial decision to have Trump host the show in November 2015 in an interview with NPR. The actor-comedian previously alluded to the strained table reads and rehearsals, and the many jokes that went over Trump’s combover. But now, with even more hindsight—not to mention SNL’s emergence as one of the most prominent cultural voices in the Trump opposition—Killam finds the now-weekly parodying of the toddler in chief rather hypocritical.
It certainly feels like there’s some hypocrisy there. I guess you could say, “Oh, they’re righting wrongs.” And I don’t even think it’s righting wrongs. I think the show tries to—and in particular, Lorne’s outlook is—play to both sides. Play to the masses, play to whatever the popular opinion is. But, boy, they could definitely mine some comedy out of owning up to it, huh?
In addition to objecting to Michaels’ “multiple sides” justification, Killam is just ashamed of having been part of the November 8, 2015 episode that The A.V. Club’s Dennis Perkins called the show’s “nadir.”
It was not enjoyable at the time and something that only grows more embarrassing and shameful as time goes on. I don’t necessarily put so much weight into [the idea of] Trump hosting SNL helping him become president, but there’s definitely something where it normalizes him and it makes it OK for him to be part of the conversation.
Killam regrets that the show didn’t consider “the implications that it had then and could have moving forward,” and in retrospect sees “nothing good I can take from that week.” He tells NPR that Trump is “not an enjoyable person to be around—he’s from a different class; he’s from a different way of life. There was never any common ground.”
You can read the full interview, including an anecdote about hearing Trump protestors during a table read, here.