“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn racism,” Larry David might as well have shouted at Donald Trump during his Saturday Night Live monologue. Of course, David’s literal words seemed to say the opposite: “You’re a racist!” he yelled off-camera. But David, fresh from reprising his popular parody of Bernie Sanders in SNL’s cold open, was only pretend-heckling.
What David was actually doing was defusing SNL’s controversial choice of Trump as host, just as Sanders’s dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail controversy during the first Democratic debate inoculated her from the whole GOP-generated Benghazi boondoggle.
As SNL was being broadcast, the streets around 30 Rock were filled with demonstrators denouncing NBC for selling out to the man who called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug-dealers, and threatened to deport 11 million people and tear apart tens of thousands of families. Lorne Michaels’s late-night franchise was going for Trumpesque ratings (and by and large, it got them), but it was also starting to skid into a back-handed endorsement of the billionaire bigot who apparently laid a heavy hand on the script (more about that later). Larry David was there to reassure us that everything is kosher when it’s in the interest of holy humor.
After hearing someone cat-call him a racist, Trump said, “Oy, oy, I knew this would happen. Who is that?”
As the camera cut to David, he repeated, “Trump’s a racist!”
“What are you doing, Larry?” Trump sighed, as if disciplining an unruly child.
“I heard if I yelled that they’d give me $5,000,” David said with a shrug.
“As a businessman, I can fully respect that,” replied Trump. “That’s OK.”
So, after making the point that protest is just a cunning form of self-interested capitalism, Donald Trump magnanimously forgave the famously wealthy co-creator of Seinfeld for stooping to make a buck. And from there on out, any attempt at humor touching on Trump’s xenophobic bigotry fell flatter than a steam-pressed birth certificate.
The offer of five grand to any audience member who called Trump on his racism on live TV was for real. Deport Racism, the Latino rights group that put out the bounty, claimed victory after the show, and apparently it’s sending Larry David a check this week. “It may have been a joke,” DeportRacism.com campaign director Luke Montgomery said on Sunday, “but it got the point across in a huge way that Trump’s attacks on American children who are US citizens, calling them ‘anchor babies’ and threatening to change the US constitution because their parents are brown and Latino, is racist. Larry David is our hero.”