It seems inevitable after all the media coverage that Saturday Night Live would take on Jussie Smollett. So, of course, it did this week with an ingenious angle: by giving Smollett a chance to lobby for a crisis-management lawyer to deal with his impending disorderly conduct charges, Shark Tank-style.
The sketch started out by introducing a panel of celebrity lawyers, all of whom elicit a collective groan. Pete Davidson played Michael Avenatti, Cecily Strong reprised her Jeanine Pirro impression, and guest host John Mulaney as Alan Dershowitz (who is currently in legal hot water of his own). Kate McKinnon also played Rudy Giuliani, who is less of a lawyer and more of a Gremlin. “Don’t feed me after midnight!” she jokes as she’s introduced.
Beck Bennett came out first, as disgraced Patriots owner Robert Kraft. In character, Avenatti hammed it for the camera, while Pirro complained about trafficked migrant sex workers taking jobs away from a “soft white American hand.” Giuliani, true to form, promised to “go on TV, contradict everything you’ve ever said, and then add some additional damaging information free of charge.”
Chris Redd played Smollett, who claimed he was attacked by “Donald Trump himself” right outside of the studio. Dershowitz asked it if was true, and Smollett acknowledged that it was not, and conceded that he is guilty of “breaking humanity.” As all the lawyers lobby to take Smollett’s case, McKinnon as Giuliani was momentarily absent from the sketch.
It’s a small, but noticeable touch from McKinnon. The Smollett story is deeply uncomfortable for everyone, but especially for LGBTQ+ people, many of whom regularly deal with violence and harassment in public. For McKinnon to stay quiet during this part of the sketch implies that perhaps she’s still processing the pain behind Smollett’s alleged hoax. Like Ellen Page, we all acted on the initial Smollett story with immediate empathy — which should be our first instinct and is nothing to apologize for.