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The George Santos Number That Brought ‘SNL’ to Life

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The now-former Republican representative George Santos was a perfect fit for the show’s satire.

Will Heath / NBC

Saturday Night Live loves to put a politician in front of a piano. Most famously, Kate McKinnon, playing Hillary Clinton, sat down in front of the keys and earnestly belted Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” following Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. It felt like a moment of contrition for the program that had invited Trump on as host during his campaign, to much criticism.

Last night’s episode had another political piano bit, but this time it was a lot less solemn. As George Santos, the now-former Republican representative who was expelled from the House this past week, Bowen Yang made like Elton John and crooned his own version of “Candle in the Wind,” retitled “Scandal in the Wind.”

“They’ll think of me as the modern Princess Diana and the modern Marilyn Monroe,” Yang explained before bursting into the song most commonly associated with both of those women and their tragic deaths. Yang, however, altered the lyrics for Santos’s defiance in the face of a mountain of allegations: “They crawled out of the woodwork / They whispered, ‘He used my donations for Botox’ and I said, ‘It was fillers, slut.’”

Santos was a perfect target for SNL in part because his fabrications and alleged behavior were transparently outlandish. He claimed that he was Jewish and then said he was actually “Jew-ish.” According to House ethics investigators, he used campaign funds on designer products, cosmetic enhancements, and OnlyFans. (Santos has generally denied the allegations.) Yang, openly gay like Santos, played him with catty excellence, like he was a cast member on a reality series.

Still, the fact that the Santos bit was the standout sketch on an episode hosted by Emma Stone was unusual. This season, beyond Yang occasionally popping up in the role of Santos, SNL’s political material has seemed especially lackluster. In October, the show quietly introduced a new version of Joe Biden portrayed by Mikey Day. Day replaced James Austin Johnson, who also currently plays Trump—an outgrowth of his wonderfully surreal rants as the ex-president, shot before he was even cast on SNL.

Anointing Day as Biden seemed like a subtle move in preparation for the coming 2024 election season, a sign that the show’s producer, Lorne Michaels, is not going to rely on celebrity appearances, as when Alec Baldwin would drop in as Trump during the latter’s candidacy and presidency to bloviate for a bit during the cold open. Day’s Biden hasn’t so far gained traction or felt significant—the main joke seems to be “He’s old,” with little nuance. No one seems to be aching for SNL to tackle Biden’s response to the Israel-Hamas war; thankfully, the show hasn’t tried. Yet there’s a particular toothlessness to Day’s Biden appearing alongside Yang in a fluffy suit (as Giant Panda Tian Tian) to try to skewer U.S.-China relations, as happened a couple of weeks ago.

The grand farewell to Santos also felt like an indication of how much the writers are going to miss having him as an object of ridicule, in part because ridiculing him was so simple. He was a bipartisan target, who ultimately lost the support of even his own party. He was also an inherently absurd figure whose fibs were largely harmless, mostly hurting his own reputation and the broader congressional institution (which is already tremendously unpopular).

Santos’s theatricality fit right into the SNL milieu—so even if he’s gone from Congress, I would bet he won’t disappear from SNL’s repertoire. Political satire requires having a strong, recognizable take on public figures, and since 2016, the show has struggled to find its angle on the era’s major characters (other than Trump). Yang’s iteration of Santos was immediately memorable, and that’s a hard thing to give up. As he sang in his number, “You all got to laugh at me, and I say, ‘Lucky you.’”




The now-former Republican representative George Santos was a perfect fit for the show’s satire.

Bowen Yang as George Santos on “Saturday Night Live”
Will Heath / NBC

Saturday Night Live loves to put a politician in front of a piano. Most famously, Kate McKinnon, playing Hillary Clinton, sat down in front of the keys and earnestly belted Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” following Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. It felt like a moment of contrition for the program that had invited Trump on as host during his campaign, to much criticism.

Last night’s episode had another political piano bit, but this time it was a lot less solemn. As George Santos, the now-former Republican representative who was expelled from the House this past week, Bowen Yang made like Elton John and crooned his own version of “Candle in the Wind,” retitled “Scandal in the Wind.”

“They’ll think of me as the modern Princess Diana and the modern Marilyn Monroe,” Yang explained before bursting into the song most commonly associated with both of those women and their tragic deaths. Yang, however, altered the lyrics for Santos’s defiance in the face of a mountain of allegations: “They crawled out of the woodwork / They whispered, ‘He used my donations for Botox’ and I said, ‘It was fillers, slut.’”

Santos was a perfect target for SNL in part because his fabrications and alleged behavior were transparently outlandish. He claimed that he was Jewish and then said he was actually “Jew-ish.” According to House ethics investigators, he used campaign funds on designer products, cosmetic enhancements, and OnlyFans. (Santos has generally denied the allegations.) Yang, openly gay like Santos, played him with catty excellence, like he was a cast member on a reality series.

Still, the fact that the Santos bit was the standout sketch on an episode hosted by Emma Stone was unusual. This season, beyond Yang occasionally popping up in the role of Santos, SNL’s political material has seemed especially lackluster. In October, the show quietly introduced a new version of Joe Biden portrayed by Mikey Day. Day replaced James Austin Johnson, who also currently plays Trump—an outgrowth of his wonderfully surreal rants as the ex-president, shot before he was even cast on SNL.

Anointing Day as Biden seemed like a subtle move in preparation for the coming 2024 election season, a sign that the show’s producer, Lorne Michaels, is not going to rely on celebrity appearances, as when Alec Baldwin would drop in as Trump during the latter’s candidacy and presidency to bloviate for a bit during the cold open. Day’s Biden hasn’t so far gained traction or felt significant—the main joke seems to be “He’s old,” with little nuance. No one seems to be aching for SNL to tackle Biden’s response to the Israel-Hamas war; thankfully, the show hasn’t tried. Yet there’s a particular toothlessness to Day’s Biden appearing alongside Yang in a fluffy suit (as Giant Panda Tian Tian) to try to skewer U.S.-China relations, as happened a couple of weeks ago.

The grand farewell to Santos also felt like an indication of how much the writers are going to miss having him as an object of ridicule, in part because ridiculing him was so simple. He was a bipartisan target, who ultimately lost the support of even his own party. He was also an inherently absurd figure whose fibs were largely harmless, mostly hurting his own reputation and the broader congressional institution (which is already tremendously unpopular).

Santos’s theatricality fit right into the SNL milieu—so even if he’s gone from Congress, I would bet he won’t disappear from SNL’s repertoire. Political satire requires having a strong, recognizable take on public figures, and since 2016, the show has struggled to find its angle on the era’s major characters (other than Trump). Yang’s iteration of Santos was immediately memorable, and that’s a hard thing to give up. As he sang in his number, “You all got to laugh at me, and I say, ‘Lucky you.’”

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