On “SNL,” Joe Biden’s Victory Speech Takes a Meta Turn

Several meta turns, in fact

"SNL" Cold Open
Jim Carrey and Maya Rudolph on "Saturday Night Live."

Can a Saturday Night Live sketch accurately riff on something that took place earlier that night? On the latest episode, viewers found themselves with an answer to that question — once they could actually see the episode in question, that is. Earlier that night, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris delivered their victory speeches. At the time that they did so, Notre Dame and Clemson were playing a tense game of football — so tense, in fact, that it went into overtime, prompting a delayed start to SNL.

Last week’s cold open clocked in at under 10 minutes, and this one did as well — but over the course of its running time, it managed to hit a number of marks. The studio audience responded enthusiastically to Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden and Maya Rudolph’s Kamala Harris as they spoke; one got the impression that it was less about the deftness of the writing as it was seeing the two of them as proxies for the real-life figures they were playing.

And then the sketch cut to Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump, and things took the first of several odd and meta turns. Following a speech of his own, Trump uttered a line that echoed another cold open from 4 years ago. From there, Baldwin delivered what might be the apex of his time playing Trump, a moment both gloriously surreal and winkingly self-referential.

But the sketch still wasn’t over, and when it returned to Carrey and Rudolph, there was still one more punchline to deliver and one more bygone comedic moment to invoke. Comedy has always had its cathartic side, and that was definitely on display here on this deeply eventful night.

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