Almost exactly one year before he would be elected the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, appeared on Saturday Night Live. The appearance was controversial even at the time, drawing protests outside 30 Rock. As former SNL writers Seth Meyers and Michael Schur note on the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Trump’s appearance is in line with the show’s mentality to always keep the current cultural moment at the forefront.
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.
Trump’s ’04 Appearance on the Show Worked Well for Meyers and Schur
Bill Simmons: You guys were still at SNL in ’04 when Trump was there, right?
Seth Meyers: Yeah.
Michael Schur: Yeah, we wrote a sketch for him.
Meyers: "Donald Trump’s House of Wings."
Schur: Still one of the most enjoyable writing sessions I think I can remember.
Meyers: The best. It was so much fun. It was so great. He didn’t have a take of what sketches he liked and didn’t like. He kind of was just … trusted, I think, Lorne, probably?
Meyers: But he never understood why it was funny. The first time the audience laughed, you can see a genuine look of pleased surprise — it was a pleasant surprise.
Schur: He is a heat-seeking missile in that way, in terms of adulation. As the audience responded favorably, he then sort of puffed up and got happier, and then the sketch worked really well because of that, I think. … Weird days.
Would SNL Still Bring on Trump? It’s Possible
Simmons: The last year or so of SNL, if they could do one thing differently, dating back, I don’t know, 14 months. What do you think it would be?
Schur: I always hesitate to criticize any error on SNL that isn’t mine …
Simmons: I’m not saying criticize. I’m saying, if they had a do-over …
Schur: Well, if they had a do-over, I don’t think they have Trump on the show, I would imagine. I think that the blowback from that was justified and significant. I mean, maybe I’m wrong. Lorne’s thing has always [been] "Whoever is in the news is on the show." You don’t quibble with why they’re in the news.
Simmons: That’s why I didn’t mind it.
Schur: Yeah, I mean it’s like, Andrew Dice Clay came on the show [in 1990].
Simmons: It’s 42 years of that strategy.
Just Look at the Music Choices
Schur: The show tries to be agnostic about its sort of stances, as much as it can.
Simmons: Not just with life but with music, or whatever it is.
Schur: Yeah, that’s right. When I was there, when I first got there in the late ’90s, the only music was the Backstreet Boys and ’N SYNC and Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and those were the people around the show every week. And all the disaffected comedy nerds were going crazy. Because it’s like, "There’s all these great bands out there, why are we having ’N SYNC on the show every week?" But Lorne doesn’t care. Those are the relevant bands.
The show is supposed to be a reflection of the era. As it moves through time over four decades, it’s a reflection of the era. And you can go back in time and watch episodes from like the mid-’90s and go, "Oh right, that’s what was going on in the culture at this time."