Standing up to historically unpopular Trump drives Saturday Night Live to historic popularity


Donald Trump may be the least popular newly-installed president in the history of polling, but the dismal incompetence of Trump and his administration has been very good to Saturday Night Live. Ratings for the show have surged to a historic 22-year high on the strength of an episode that featured incisive parodies of Trump and his press secretary, in the face of repeated bullying from Trump.

Donald Trump's dismal disapproval numbers are spiking, and support for his impeachment is surging, but his unpopularity is good news for sketch comedy institution Saturday Night Live, which has soared to new heights by defying Trump's repeated attacks on the show.

SNL kicked off this week's episode with a cutting Oval Office spoof, but the highlight of the show was Melissa McCarthy's devastating spoof of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's surreal daily briefings, a sketch that reportedly triggered some gender-based hostility toward Spicer from Trump.

That episode propelled the late-night sketch show to the number two spot for the week in the key 18-45 demographic, and pushed the show's overall ratings for the season to a 22-year high, according to Variety:

The NBC late-night institution has been on a ratings roll since President Trump’s upset victory in the Nov. 8 presidential election. Saturday’s edition delivered a 2.5 rating in adults 18-49 in Nielsen’s 56 overnight metered markets, which cover 70 percent of U.S. TV households.

That was strong enough to make “SNL” the second highest-rated program of the week in the key demo, behind only CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” which scored a 3.3 in the metered markets on Thursday. “SNL’s” ratings will likely rise by double digits when delayed viewing is factored-in.

Overall, “SNL” viewership for the season to date is up 19 percent in adults 18-49 (3.5 vs. 2.9 rating) and up 22 percent in total viewers (10.6 million vs. 8.7 million) over the comparable period in the 2015-16 season. This marks the show’s strongest ratings performance in 22 years, since the 1994-95 season, according to NBC.

Variety credits buzz from the McCarthy sketch for a surge in West Coast viewership, and based on the sketch's 18 million (and counting) YouTube views, that sounds about right. It is already the ninth most-viewed clip on SNL's Youtube channel, and even the less-popular Trump cold open has cracked the top 40.

The show's ratings are even more impressive considering that 22 years ago, there was no competition from the Internet, and very little from a more limited cable and broadcast universe. And next week's episode, hosted by Trump-portrayer Alec Baldwin, is sure to continue their ratings streak.

Given the circumstances, Saturday Night Live's good fortune is our misfortune. But if there is a silver lining, it is that the show's strong performance is proof positive of the massive appetite for resistance that exists just weeks into the Trump era.