June 19, 2024

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“Was I the only one who was surprised that the presidents of the two biggest economies in the world met, and everyone’s just like ‘what’s up with the pandas?” asked the Bowen Lang portrayed Tian Tian the panda in tonight’s Saturday Night Live cold open. “There have to be bigger issues, right?”

It was a far question, and maybe the highlight of the first few minutes of the show.

Kicking off with another uneven Joe Biden press conference, with Mikey Day as the aged Commander-in-chief, this was not one of the sharper or more cutting cold opens that the NBC late night show has had since its Season 49 premiere on October 14.

Certainly, as geopolitical tensions seem to be well past the boiling point, POTUS’s mini-summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco this past week was realpolitik in action. Even more so, now that the Middle Kingdom are indicating they may lend more pandas to the US again after the National Zoo’s three giant pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and cub Xiao Qi Ji were put on a plane back to China earlier this month.

“I don’t know anyone in China, I haven’t been back since I was a baby,” Yang’s Tian Tian exclaimed with a concerned Uncle Joe standing nearby. “Now I have to make friends as an adult,” the smirking panda added. “How do I panda express this? I just want to eat bamboo, sneeze in a cute way and not have sex, okay?”

Day’s SNL Biden tried to pull focus back to him, but one question about his Middle East policy saw the President push things back to Tian Tian.

Which had mixed results in a widely mixed sketch – even with the usually spot on comic skills of Yang.

“I have to leave the country now,” Tian Tian said in response to a question from a James Austin Johnson portrayed journalist about returning to China. “If Trump gets elected in 2024 that would be a disaster …there might be a civil war,” he added, but still refused to commit to voting for nearby Biden – as polls indicate is the stance many Americans are taking even as the former Celebrity Apprentice host ramps up the racist and fascist talk and threats in recent weeks.

“I’m kidding, I’m a bear, I can’t vote,” SNL Tian Tian concluded in another rebuff to the offended Biden.

From Donald Trump in court again, Elon Musk amplifying antisemites again, the early reign of GOP Speaker Mike Johnson, and Taylor Swift’s athletic bounding backstage to Travis Kelce, the Lorne Michaels produced late nighter once again had near boundless cold open possibilities beyond the Biden misfire we got. Add to that, having the game for almost anything Jason Momoa hosting for the second time widened the opportunity for this 953rd episode of the Not Ready for Primetime Players – but alas it was not to be in this last SNL before Thanksgiving.

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