Perhaps predictably, Santa Claus struggled to come up with answers for some well-educated kids on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. On the show’s cold open for an episode hosted by James Franco, Keenan Thompson played a mall Santa who had to field uncomfortably adult questions ranging from the topic of sexual harassment scandals to the Republican tax plan. The sketch opens with an excited boy asking Thompson’s Santa for a Mega Bloks Dinosaur and Lazer Tag. “And,” he adds, “can you tell me, what did Al Franken do?”
“Okay, wow, let’s see. I think I can handle the Mega Bloks and the laser tag.” Santa replies, clearly flustered, before turning to his elf helper, “Can you take the Al Franken thing, Sugarplum?”
“No,” responds the elf. “And, in this climate, can you just call me Amy?”
Thompson’s Santa passed off one kid after another as they asked him increasingly uncomfortable questions, including, “is President Trump on the naughty list?” and “why do [football] players kneel during the National Anthem?” When he asked one boy who’s been closely watching the news if he’d like a toy for Christmas, the boy answered, “Oh, you mean toy like the one Matt Lauer gave to his co-worker?”
The cold open was the highlight of an episode that grappled with the cultural confusion of the moment and seemed designed to comfort adults struggling to look forward to the holidays after what has been, for many, a difficult and disappointing year. Though the sketch namechecked politicians, it wasn’t explicitly political, which may have been why it worked. The concern for parents isn’t that politics have become poisonous but that everything else has become politics.
Santa gets it.