“Saturday Night Live” addressed two events in its cold open: Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election and the death of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Cast member Kate McKinnon played Clinton on the show throughout the election and she reprised the character once again for a tribute to Cohen. On a dark stage, McKinnon sang a somber, emotional rendition of Cohen’s most famous song “Hallelujah” as recognition of Cohen’s passing and Clinton’s loss. After the song was complete, she addressed the camera and said, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you,” before starting the show.
Though the performance was acclaimed by many, it nevertheless proved divisive in the aftermath of Trump’s presidential win. “SNL” has been harshly criticized for inviting Trump onto their show almost exactly a year ago, effectively normalizing and softening his bigoted rhetoric in the context of comedy. The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Feinberg says the show “squandered incalculable credibility” by allowing Trump to host the show last year. Both “SNL” and “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon have come under harsh criticism for treating the candidate jokingly in the months leading up to the election.