Live From New York: It's A Saturday Night Trumptroversy

Not everyone finds SNL's choice to have Trump host to be funny, but if Latino activists can mobilize voters, they'll get the last laugh.

If you cast your mind back to June of this year, you might remember how it came to pass that the National Broadcasting Company parted ways with the star of their "The Apprentice" reality show, Donald Trump. At the time, Trump was just wading out into the waters of his ersatz presidential campaign, propelling himself with controversial comments about immigrants that immediately secured him some modicum of affection with the GOP's nativist base and scorn from just about everyone else. All of which caused NBC to melodramatically declare themselves to be out of the Trump business.

Only: not exactly. For all the talk of "ties" that had been "cut," it was clear that not everyone under the Peacock's banner got the memo, as Trump continued to enjoy playing to NBC audiences from morning until late at night. And this week, Trump will once again return to NBC, taking a star turn as the guest host of the network's most durable franchise, "Saturday Night Live."

This week, the "So That Happened" podcast interviewed Julio Ricardo Varela, the digital media director of NPR's Latino USA and founder of, about the burgeoning protest of "Saturday Night Live" from the Latino community, and about Varela's recent column about it in The Guardian. (Segment begins below, at 40:20.)

It's a controversy not without substance, considering the fact that a planned primary debate on NBC's sister Spanish-language network Telemundo was a casualty of the complaints and in-fighting that arose after the GOP candidates failed to receive what they considered to be a fair hearing at October's CNBC debate. It wouldn't be unreasonable for Telemundo to wonder why its nominal corporate cousin, "Saturday Night Live," would choose this moment to honor one of the figures at the center of this fight instead of showing some solidarity.

This dispute is also something of a piece with a larger cultural debate that has engulfed comedy in general. As political comedy has grown in prominence, alongside the Internet's tendency to applaud stand-ups and sketch artists for their particularly cutting takes on social issues, what's been glossed over is that a comedian's first priority is often, simply, to be funny -- and not necessarily to spark important social change.

But while the antipathy the Latino community feels for Donald Trump and "Saturday Night Live" is real, the protests that have been launched against The Donald's hosting gig are less about shutting down Lorne Michaels' laugh factory, and more about ... well, just stealing some of Trump's shine and putting it to good use for the Latino community. As Varela writes:

With all the talk that Trump’s numbers would decrease, he is not going away anytime soon, as polls from Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida indicate. If the push to disinvite Trump from SNL is unifying Latino organizations around a common cause and – more importantly – is causing Latino voters to be more active in the political process, then the campaign is doing its job. Latino voters have some of the worst voter turnout numbers in the United States.

By focusing on a television show with failing grades when it comes to Latinos, calling out a network that has backtracked on its promises to Latinos and also never forgetting Trump’s anti-Mexican comments, there’s a greater possibility that in 2016 those lower voter turnout numbers will increase significantly.

What can I say? All's fair in politics and improv comedy.


This podcast was produced and edited by Adriana Usero and Peter James Callahan, engineered by Brad Shannon, with assistance from Christine Conetta.

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