The buzz built all week. And rumors that Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would appear on Saturday Night Live — together — were finally confirmed just before the weekend.
But if you started watching SNL looking to #FeelTheBern, you might have had a moment of worry, at least at first. Sanders did not appear in the show’s cold open. He did not come on stage during Larry David’s monologue. He didn’t even appear in a pre-taped sketch all about him, called “Bern Your Enthusiasm,” where David, playing Sanders, loses the Iowa caucuses by annoying just enough voters in the way only Larry David (or Bernie Sanders, or Larry David — we’re confused) can. It was smart, and with a cameo by a coughing, no-hand-wiping Leslie Jones, it touched on Sanders’ lingering inability to attract widespread support from black voters.
But Sanders finally did appear, in a skit where he and Larry David play two men on a distressed ship headed to America, arguing over who gets into lifeboats first during a storm. Sanders’ character, Bernie Sanderswitzky, rails against Larry David’s character when he tries to get preferential treatment because he’s rich. “I’m so sick of the 1 percent getting this preferential treatment,” Sanders says, alluding to one of his central campaign messages. David says that all sounds like socialism. Sanders corrects David, and replies, “Democratic socialism.”
In the bit, Sanders’ character also made light of his Jewish heritage, joking that he’d change his last name, Sanderswitzky, when he gets to America, “so it doesn’t sound so Jewish.”
Sanders’ campaign played up the senator’s appearance on Twitter. Near the start of the show, he tweeted out a fundraising appeal, with a Curb Your Enthusiasm reference. “We need your vacuum pennies. Chip in a few,” read the tweet, with a link to donate.
Overall, there wasn’t a lot of Sanders’ performance to judge. His cameo was definitely shorter than Donald Trump’s a few months ago, and seemed to have even fewer lines than Hillary Clinton as Val back in October. After his appearance in the steam ship skit, Sanders did return to the stage as David introduced musical guest The 1975. “It’s pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good,” Sanders told David, when asked how his campaign is going.
And at the end of the show, when the band plays and all the cast hugs and shakes hands, Sanders appeared again, soaking it all in, smiling. No curmudgeonly “Bern Your Enthusiasm” Sanders present at all.