SNL returned last night for its 44th season, and true to form, the series used its sketches to tackle the most topical news of the moment. During the season premiere, that meant kicking things off with a cold open of surprise guest Matt Damon playing beleaguered Supreme Court hopeful Brett Kavanaugh.
Given how central Kavanagh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee has been in the news this past week, it’s not surprising SNL would build skits around it. In the past two years especially, the show hasn’t shied away from political sketches, and it certainly wasted no time with season 44.
The premiere started at the mock judiciary hearing, with Alex Moffat’s Chuck Grassley introducing “hero” Brett Kavanaugh — aka Damon — who’d been “shadowboxing in the men’s restroom for the last 45 minutes.”
Damon came in hot, blustering, “What?! Let me tell you this. I’m going to start at an 11. I’m going to take it to about a 15 real quick. First of all, I showed this speech to almost no one — not my family, not my friends… This is my speech. There are others like it, but this is mine. I wrote it myself last night while screaming into an empty bag of Doritos.”
The extended sketch highlighted some of the major moments from the real-life judiciary committee hearing, including Senator Amy Klobuchar (played by SNL alum Rachel Dratch) questioning Kavanaugh about drinking too much.
Other members of the committee included in the cold open were played by SNL’s Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Mikey Day, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon (as Senator Lindsey Graham).
In general, Damon’s cold open seems to have been a hit with the Twitter crowd.
— Matt Neglia (@NextBestPicture) September 30, 2018
“Guess what? I’m not backing down, you sons of bitches! I don’t know the meaning of the word stop!”
— Ali A. Rizvi (@aliamjadrizvi) September 30, 2018
— Don West Photography (@Florida_Photos) September 30, 2018
Matt Damon as a bitter, sniffling, yelling, very guilty Brett Kavanaugh is…
— Christian Greco (@ChristGrec) September 30, 2018
— Ross Gerber (@GerberKawasaki) September 30, 2018
Of course, nothing is ever unanimous in the court of public opinion. Some people pointed out controversial remarks Damon made early in the rise of the #MeToo movement, as well as his purported friendships with both Harvey Weinstein and Casey Affleck.
The audience going wild over Matt Damon – who supported Casey Affleck and said problematic things about sexual assault – playing accused sexual assaulter Brett Kavanaugh is making me uncomfortable. #SNL
— Jillian Sederholm (@JillianSed) September 30, 2018
Oh so because Matt Damon portrayed Brett Kavanaugh on #SNL, we’re just going to completely forget his constant critique of the #MeToo movement; and that he tirelessly defended people like Louis C.K. and Casey Afflick? Cool.
— Liberty (@libbyarnold94) September 30, 2018
On a related political note, the other most buzzed-about aspect of the premiere proved to be Kanye West’s appearance. First, there was the already infamous bottle performance.
— Riley Wallace (@specialdesigns) September 30, 2018
After performing a few songs, the rapper then went on an anti-media, anti-liberal, pro-Donald Trump rant when the cameras stopped rolling. Naturally, the diatribe was caught on smartphone and shared online.
In response to the episode (and, specifically, West’s contributions to it), the POTUS posted a tweet claiming the show was little more than a “political ad for the Dems” but that MAGA-hat-wearing West was great and “leading the charge.”
SNL's new season continues next Saturday at 10 p.m. on NBC.