SNL's Latest Sketch About President Trump Selling Bibles Shows How Much Has Changed Since Alec Baldwin Left

 James Austin Johnson as Donald Trump selling Bibles in a suit on SNL.
James Austin Johnson as Donald Trump selling Bibles in a suit on SNL.

If news of President Trump selling Bibles sounded like a Saturday Night Live sketch to you, we can now officially confirm you’re right. The popular sketch comedy show decided to turn the politician’s latest money-making scheme into a quasi infomercial, and the whole thing is just as outrageous as you might expect.

The sketch was given SNL’s coveted cold open slot, and judging by early reaction on social media, it was absolutely the right choice. The outrageous sales pitch, which comes complete with pictures of Donald Trump inserted into his copy of The Bible, has been viewed on YouTube almost 4X as many times as any non-Weekend Update sketch. You can watch the whole thing below…

Once upon a time, it was a guarantee we’d get a Donald Trump sketch during every single Saturday Night Live episode. The audience’s appetite for all things Trump-related during his first Presidential run was ravenous, and Alec Baldwin was ready to deliver every week. Now, almost a decade later, the general public isn’t quite as hungry for Trump jokes, and with James Austin Johnson boasting a more accurate and less over the top impression, the long-running sketch comedy show is a lot more choosy about when to use it. Thankfully, The Trump Bible was the perfect excuse.

I also think it’s a really fitting example to use to explain how much has changed about how Saturday Night Live treats President Trump. When Alec Baldwin was involved, every single element of the sketch was often turned up as loudly as possible. From his facial expressions to how evil he was depicted as being, it was always as aggressive as possible. Trump was presented as an almost Rasputin-like villainous caricature. Check out this example of an SNL press conference from seven years ago, which includes a much more absurd and outrageous version of the politician...

Now, the show/ James Austin Johnson prefers to take the gist of Trump’s over the top personality and just turn up the heat like thirty percent. That’s why this Bible sketch, while obviously fake, has so many turns of phrase that feel more authentic than what we would have gotten 8 years ago. “Made from 100% Bible” is a great example of that, as is Trump dismissing the women who started the sketch because they didn’t have any more lines. It’s all a lot more subtle. That doesn't mean every single element is realistic or authentic. Obviously the pictures in The Bible are very exaggerated, but the overall tone the show is going for with this is way more grounded.

I have a strong preference for exaggerated realism. I think things that have a connection to reality have the ability to be much more impactful and biting. That's probably why I really enjoy what Johnson and SNL are doing with the Trump impressions, but I suspect the more grounded nature is why these more recent sketches haven't caught on as much as Baldwin's more bombastic version.

Regardless, this sketch was terrific, and it makes me excited to see what Saturday Night Live has in store for the coming election. With more than six months to go until the voting, it’s unclear how much the show will ramp up its political coverage, but whatever they do, hopefully it’ll be as culturally relevant as it has been in the past.

Saturday Night Live will return the next two weeks with all new episodes and some spectacular guest hosts. Next week, returning cast member Kristen Wiig will do the monologue, and the week after, fans will get Ryan Gosling, who is riding high right now after the whole world loved his “I’m Just Ken” performance at the Oscars. Both should be terrific episodes, and chances are, Johnson's Trump will show up at least once too.