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‘Saturday Night Live’ Signs Off for the Season

In its final episode of the season, just before its cast members pack up their fright wigs and false teeth to head out on their summer vacations, “Saturday Night Live” gave its viewers what they presumably wanted: an opening sketch featuring James Austin Johnson as former President Donald J. Trump.

This weekend’s broadcast, which was hosted by Jake Gyllenhaal and featured the musical guest Sabrina Carpenter, began with Johnson recreating one of the many public statements that Trump has made during his criminal hush-money trial.

“I don’t like being in court because they say very mean things about me while I am trying to sleep,” Johnson said. “But I love being out here, in the hallway outside court, daring judge to imprison me. He gave me a gag order. I said, ‘That sounds like a challenge on RuPaul.’”

Describing the trial as “very eye-closening,” Johnson said it would likely end with him “being sent to a horrible place I do not want to go to — the White House.”

He added, “For me, much better to not win and say it was rigged and then get very rich raising money to stop the steal, and you never have to do president again. I like that a lot.”

With closing statements likely to come next week, Johnson said, “I’m not afraid to testify at all. I’m just not going to, out of fear. You see, they do a terrible thing when you testify, which is they write it down and we don’t like that.”

He then introduced a few of the candidates he said he was considering for his vice president on the 2024 Republican ticket, including Devon Walker as Senator Tim Scott. “I’m here to help Trump win the Black vote,” Walker said. “Specifically, my vote.”

His next potential running mate was Heidi Gardner, who came out as Governor Kristi Noem, holding a gun to a stuffed toy dog.

“I’m kidding,” Gardner said. “It’s a fake dog, but it’s a real gun.”

Johnson also brought out Michael Longfellow, who was dressed as the “Silence of the Lambs” character Hannibal Lecter, who Trump often references in his speeches. Johnson then asked for him to be taken away, saying, “He’s giving me Pence vibes.”

In closing, Johnson promised “the summer of Trump,” saying, “I’m going to be doing another Jan. 6, this time in July. It’s going to be fun to see all those guys back at the Capitol but this time in shorts.”

Can Jake Gyllenhaal sing? Have you already forgotten his lead performance in the 2017 Broadway revival of “Sunday in the Park With George”? We’re just going to assume it’s what “S.N.L.” had in mind when they cast him in this offbeat update of another Sondheim musical, “Follies,” playing the compère of a club who starts off singing what sounds like “Beautiful Girls,” but turns into a musical tribute to the most average, khaki-clad men this side of a J. Crew outlet store.

If you’re more into slow jams than Sondheim, you’ll appreciate Gyllenhaal’s vocal efforts in his opening monologue, where he was joined by Walker, Ego Nwodim, Kenan Thompson and Punkie Johnson in a sendup of Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.” In their sweater vests (and whatever the heck Gyllenhaal was wearing) they bid farewell to “S.N.L.” Season 49 and reminded Gyllenhaal that, no, this episode does not actually count as the start of Season 50.

We’ll give “S.N.L.” credit for this much: When they want to parody “Scooby-Doo,” they go all-out.

They got the colorful costumes and the set design of the classic cartoon crime caper just right; they brought in Carpenter, their popular musical guest, to play Daphne; and they whipped up a pretty credible animated Scooby in a matter of days. Did they do it all in the service of one extremely gross and lengthy punchline? Yes, they did that too. Don’t watch this one on a full stomach of Scooby Snacks.

Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che riffed on President Biden and former President Trump’s agreement to hold debates in June and September.

Jost began:

President Biden and President Trump have agreed to two debates this summer. For a preview of the debates, take a bottle of Ambien and Adderall at the same time. Biden posted a video challenging Trump to the debate, saying, “Make my day, pal.” To which Trump responded, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” Two phrases that are guaranteed to lock up the youth vote.

Che continued:

Donald Trump said that at the debates, he wants both of them to stand instead of sit. So that’s the status of our presidency: Standing is a feat of strength. I think we could learn a lot more watching them both try to get out of a bean bag chair.

When the actor Steve Buscemi was punched in the face in Manhattan earlier this month, he became the most visible recent victim of a random crime that has also happened to his fellow performers Michael Stuhlbarg and Rick Moranis. So it fell to “S.N.L.”, in a sketch presented as a would-be N.Y.P.D. news conference, to state the obvious: Stop punching character actors in the face.

Despite its good intentions (and its shout outs of versatile That Guy types like Stephen Root and Stephen Tobolowsky), the conference soon broke down into a debate over what constitutes a character actor. Because it’s the “S.N.L.” season finale, Jon Hamm was there to play himself — but only to make sure that he wasn’t personally at any risk.

“I can’t get punched,” Hamm said, “Without this beautiful face, I’m just a tall guy with a perfect body.” Relatable!

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