On Tuesday, The Atlantic published a profile of Alec Baldwin, who's experiencing a late-career peak as he helps make Saturday Night Live appointment viewing with his cathartic impression of President Donald Trump. Writer Chris Jones shadowed Baldwin the week he hosted SNL in February and recorded the heavy-headed impressionist as he mused on his peculiar place in the political landscape.
As Baldwin has said before, it takes a lot out of him physically and mentally to do the impression, and he doesn't know how much longer he can do it. In the profile, he says that he wishes Trump would just appear on the show.
"If he was smart, he'd show up this week," Baldwin says. "It would probably be over. He could end it. If he showed up."
Baldwin would have liked -- and presumably would still like -- Trump to show up and demonstrate that he has a sense of humor about himself. If Trump appears on the show with Baldwin, he can take away some of the show's power by acting like Baldwin's impression is just a joke that doesn't bother him. Baldwin is suggesting that the comedic weight of his Trump impression comes from the fact that Trump hates it, and so Trump can make it less funny and therefore not worth doing if he approves of it.
Trump can tolerate mild ribbing -- he hosted SNL in November 2015 and was impersonated by Darrell Hammond and Taran Killam, though the show went easy on him then. He even sat for a Comedy Central roast in 2011, though comics were not allowed to joke about how much money he had.
But Trump has demonstrated again and again that SNL's mockery of him gets under his skin -- in October, after Baldwin's first appearance, he tweeted "Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks" and he reportedly lost respect for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer after watching Melissa McCarthy's savage impression of him.
The show will continue to hammer Trump every week, and Baldwin & Co. know he's watching. Perhaps there's an open invitation for Trump to appear; it would certainly be good for ratings, and Trump loves ratings more than just about anything else. The show wouldn't actually stop making fun of Trump if he appeared on the show. It couldn't. That would go against its satirical mandate. But maybe that would get Baldwin to retire the impression at least until You Can't Spell America Without Me, the book Baldwin is co-writing in character as Trump, is published.
There is one other way Trump could get Baldwin to lay off: release his tax returns.
Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 ET on NBC.