Alec Baldwin debuted his much-anticipated character impersonation as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during this past weekend’s Saturday Night Live premiere episode — the iconic sketch show’s highest season premiere ratings in eight years.
NBC announced its decision to select Baldwin to impersonate the GOP nominee last Wednesday with a promo on social media, just days before the show’s 42nd season premiere, and little more than a month before voters choose between Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Baldwin — a 16-time guest host of the show — took over the impression played last season by announcer Darrell Hammond and for a short time, the now-fired Taran Killam.
For the Oct. 1 premiere — hosted by Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie with musical guest The Weeknd — the NBC sketch show opened with its parody of the first presidential debate, which occurred on Sept. 26. Emmy winner Kate Mckinnon reprised her role as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and “Weekend Update” co-anchor Michael Che played moderator Lester Holt.
SNL’s interpretation on the debate played up Trump’s inability to stay “calm” and “presidential” and Clinton’s intense preparation for the debate and attempts to come off “relatable.”
At one point, McKinnon’s Clinton realizes the more make-believe Trump speaks, the better her odds of winning the debate. So she gives him her speaking time and he doesn’t disappoint.
“The thing about the blacks is that they’re killing each other,” Baldwin’s Trump says. “All blacks live on one street in Chicago. All on one street! It’s called Hell Street. And they live on Hell Street and they’re all killing each other.”
When asked if she has a response, fake Clinton reenacts the little shimmy of joy Clinton made during the actual debate, then answered, “Not a response, more of a request. Can America vote right now?”
In another politically-themed sketch, there was also a Team Donald v. Team Hillary Family Feud bit on the SNL premiere, which had Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon), Ivanka Trump (Margot Robbie), Gov. Chris Christie (Bobby Moynihan) and Vladimir Putin (Beck Bennett) take on Bill Clinton (Darrell Hammond), Sarah Silverman (new addition Melissa Villaseñor), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Cecily Strong) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Larry David).
In addition to the debut of Alec Baldwin as Dondald Trump, this past weekend’s SNL return included several other big audience draws, including Larry David’s reprisal of his Bernie Sanders impression and the premiere of three new cast members — Mikey Day, Alex Moffat, and Melissa Villaseñor — who joined the show after after SNL let go of six-year veterans Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah in August.
SNL’s anticipated season premiere showed a 29% ratings increase over last year’s season premiere episode, according to early Nielsen measurements. The sketch show’s Oct. 1 episode also ranks as its highest-rated season premiere since 2008, an election year when Michael Phelps hosted with musical guest Lil Wayne and alum Tina Fey appeared as then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.