One of the saving graces of this death march of an election season has been the regular presence of Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon in our lives, providing much-needed light-poking at the endless stream of ridiculous content coming from the presidential candidates' respective campaign cycles. Baldwin's Donald Trump (impetuous, unflappably arrogant and utterly devoid of self-consciousness or remorse) and McKinnon's Hillary Clinton (at times awkward and alien, other times cocky and vengeful) were both fully realized, fully committed performances that reflected the oft-unpretty realities of the figures they portrayed, while hilariously bringing less-obvious elements only teased in their public personas screaming to the surface.
Together, they made beautiful satire, in a handful of Saturday Night Live sketches that helped us maintain some semblance of sanity throughout the lunacy of the run-up to Nov. 8. Here are the six bits that Baldwin and McKinnon appeared in together this autumn -- three debates, two breaking-news cut-ins, and one music video parody (with McKinnon playing a different woman in Trump's life) -- ranked from worst to best. We can only hope that we still have the capability to find the humor in them come Wednesday.
6. The Final Pre-Election Cold Open
The final McKinnon/Baldwin sketch of the pre-election era is pretty great for its first six minutes, with Cecily Strong's Erin Burnett continuing to harangue Clinton about her infamous missing emails, even as Trump shares open embraces with the FBI, Vladimir Putin and the KKK. (Trump: "No, I don't know the KKK. I mean, what even is a 'K'?") The moment is undercut by the segment's misguided finale, though, in which McKinnon and Baldwin break character (and the fourth wall) to join hands and run out of the NBC studio and into the unsuspecting arms of Trump and Clinton supporters in Times Square -- sending a muddled message and dulling the bite of much of what preceded.
Still, you could hear the nationwide SMHing at Trump's incredulous response to being informed by Bennett that Twitter was not, in fact, a confidential site no one but him could read: "Really? And I'm still in this thing? America, you must really hate this lady."
Unforgettable Moment: Clinton running down the list of things that Trump has ruined for America: "Kindness, decency, Tic Tacs, Skittles, Taco Bowls, father-daughter dances, buses, bright red hats, the word 'great,' the color orange… men…"
Having already taken on "Formation" half a year earlier, SNL set their sights on the second-most-famous song on Lemonade to give voice to Trump's wife of a decade, Melania, via a parody of "Sorry." With Strong in the lead role of embittered bride and Clinton nowhere to be found, McKinnon instead appears in Melania's supporting cadre of Trump femmes as the candidate's fed-up campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, singing, "Always screwing up/ Expecting me to clean it up/ Said I'd stick with you 'unless'/ Think we've gotten to 'unless.'"
The clip is certainly well-done but could use more of McKinnon and Baldwin, the latter of whom only appears mostly in framed photographs -- until the end, when he shows up to put a stop to the females' shenanigans: "You look very nice, but... let's go. Tiffany, you wait here."
Unforgettable Moment: McKinnon finally getting to unleash a "You're fired" -- hand motion and all.
4. The Third Debate
Like the rest of us, SNL seemed exhausted with the presidential debates by the end of Round Three, and even guest star Tom Hanks (as moderator Chris Wallace) practically begs for release by sketch's close. Before largely running aground, though, there were plenty of classic moments to be had in this one: Clinton completing her winning "Trump Bingo" card with his use of "bad hombres," Wallace having to admonish "settle down, entire planet" after Trump's comments about his level of respect for women, and perhaps best of all, Trump's response to Wallace's assertion "it has become very clear that… you're probably going to lose": "Correct."
Unforgettable Moment: Trump rattling off his roster of heavy-hitter endorsements: "I've got Sarah Palin. I've got Chachi. And get this, I've even got the best Baldwin brother: Stephen Baldwin."
3. The Second Debate (Town Hall)
Allowing for the most physical comedy of the set, SNL's take on the town hall-style second debate begins with Trump and Clinton circling each other like sumo wrestlers -- and giving each other the mutual "too slow" handshake fake-out -- and peaks with Trump stalking Clinton from behind as the Jaws theme plays in the background. You also get Hillary mastering her casual approachability ("Let me start by walking over to you, just as I practiced… Right, left..."), Trump expounding upon his great affection for children ("I love them so much, I marry them"), and of course, 15-minute-celebrity Ken Bone (played by Bobby Moynihan) setting off the meme party to the strains of 2 Unlimited. ("Now Ken, you're not gonna turn out to be a weird little creep or anything, are you?" "Mayyybeeee...")
Only complaint: Major missed opportunity for an Internet-wish-fulfilling karaoke duet.
Unforgettable Moment: Clinton accepting the challenge to say one nice thing about Trump: "I do like how generous he is. Just last Friday, he handed me this election."
2. The VP Debate
After a wisely brief check-in on the relatively dry vice presidential debate -- Mikey Day and Beck Bennett certainly have the general mannerisms and countnenances of Tim Kaine and Mike Pence down, but they wouldn't have had a ton to work with beyond the 90 seconds they get -- this cold open cuts away to CNN's Brooke Baldwin (Cecily Strong again) interviewing Trump about his leaked comments on the Access Hollywood bus. (While Baldwin attempts to mumble around his exact quote, Trump leans into his lapel mic to intone clearly: "Grab them by the p---y.") He apologizes, and sends his wishes to victims of Hurricane Matthew, but before CNN has chance to move on, his hot mic catches him envying the storm, "tearing through all of that hot Miami p---y..."
Meanwhile, at Clinton's headquarters, the Democratic candidate is in the midst of popping bottles and celebrating with her staff, barely able to contain her shoulder shimmying as she feigns outrage at Trump's comments. "Well, y'know, it's my reward, Brooke, for every single thing I've been through over the last 30 years," she ultimately can't help gloating. "Whitewater. Benghazi. Mary J. Blige singing into my face for a full hour last week." All that really stands between between this sketch and our No. 1 spot is the overuse of Trump's running "apple-ogize" faux-apology, which missed the mark about as widely as Clinton's failed "Trumped-up trickle-down economics" burn did IRL.
Unforgettable Moment: Trump, offering a final message to female voters: "If you give me a chance, I promise, I can do a whole lot more than just grab it. I can also bop it, twist it and pull it."
1. The First Debate
SNL never quite topped their spin on the first Clinton vs. Trump showdown, and it's hard to blame them: The first debate produced so many jump-off points for parody (Trump's sniffling, Clinton's faux-catchphrasing, the unnecessary discussion of Alicia Machado) that the show could barely find room for all of them in 10 minutes. Meanwhile, it was clear within minutes that the two actors were both perfectly cast and evenly matched, with Baldwin nailing Trump's accusatory, free-associative rambling ("She and Obama stole my microphone, they took it to Kenya…") and McKinnon bringing to life Clinton's tough-sell relatability ("Laborers like my own human father… who, made, I guess, drapes? Printed drapes, or sold drapes, or something").
"Can America vote right now?" Clinton requests at one point in the debate, now over a month old. If only, Hillary.
Unforgettable Moment: Trump deflecting Clinton's questions about his treatment of Machado by asking that the debate focus on the important issues: "Like Rosie O'Donnell, and how she's a fat loser, and everyone agrees with me, and I just wanted to bring that up in a presidential debate, right at the end, of my own volition, good idea, I did it."