Near the end of NBC‘s Saturday Night Live (SNL) winter finale, we were treated to the last thing I ever expected them to do: a sketch about Brexit. This is unexpected. My first thought was, “Why would they do this?” Most Americans don’t know or care about Brexit. They don’t think Brexit would have any meaningful impact on their lives. By American standards, Brexit, as big a disaster as it is for the UK, is a pretty obscure subject for a network comedy show to even touch.
Did they have another sketch planned but decided not to do it? Perhaps it was the last show of the year and the writers and cast just decided, “Oh, what the hell” and threw it in. This means they had a few days to write the sketch, prepare the set, costumes and then rehearse to get ready for a live broadcast.
For me, this is one of the weirdest sketches SNL ever did because I certainly wasn’t expecting it. It’s about a country and cultural references that are not commonly known in the US. Thinking on it further, it makes some sense for them to do it: New York City is one of the most Anglophilic places in America and the writers of SNL are longtime fans of British comedy. In this age of the internet and instant newsfeeds and searches, it would have been very easy for the writers to find out all the main points they needed to know to write a functional comedy sketch about Brexit.
What’s unusual here is American comedy writers commenting on British current affairs and pretty much getting how absurd and ridiculous it all is. There are already ample writers in the UK snarking about Brexit on a daily basis. Hats off to the SNL writers for reminding everyone–and for some viewers telling them for the first time–that it was David Cameron who brought about the whole Brexit mess in the first place. Kudos to the make-up department for giving him a prosthetic forehead so large it’s two steps away from making him look like a Klingon. It’s clear to me that Kate McKinnon watched videos of Teresa May‘s tragic attempts at dancing to look hip and “with it”. Given that McKinnon has portrayed John Sessions and Rudy Giuliani as evil elves, May might be getting off easy here. Not by much. Just a wee bit.
Even before this SNL sketch, it was already like we’ve been watching May as the star of a real-life, real-time version of the BBC political comedy The Thick of It. She was a disastrous Home Secretary who introduced a lot of policies that have impacted citizens’ lives horribly before she even became Prime Minister. Becoming PM puts more intense scrutiny on her than ever–she has become a meme of ridicule in the UK. One commentator in The Guardian calls her “Maybot” for the robotic way she talks and her cringing lack of spontaneity.
Just a few days ago, May flew to Brussels to buy some time on her vote — and got stuck in her car! It’s as if even the universe can’t resist giving us a metaphor for her career and Brexit!
Given all the slapstick comic mishaps May has lived through since she became Prime Minister–all of them preserved on video and forever on the internet–she must think she’s living in the 5th Ring of Hell, now complete with the dubious honour of being portrayed and mercilessly trolled by McKinnon.
I actually feel a bit bad writing all this, like I might be bullying the poor woman here, but then I remember that she is the leader of the United Kingdom who is messing up the lives of millions of people there, and I stop feeling bad.
Pro-tip to Americans: because of the anxiety and uncertainty over how Brexit is going to turn out, the value of the Pound Sterling is currently dropping like a stone. If you want to go on holiday in the UK, now is a cheap time for it.