Sometimes the simplest "Saturday Night Live" sketches – the ones with no pratfalls, no elaborate costume changes, barely a change in tone of voice – are the ones with the sharpest bite.
With little more than a bald cap and a pair of filled-in eyebrows, SNL guest host Steve Carell transformed into Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos to insist that, no, he was not trying to troll President Trump.
Yes, Amazon's two new headquarters are set to be in Queens and Northern Virginia, which happen to be Trump's birthplace and a stone's throw away from the White House, respectively.
But the choice of locations had nothing to do with the president, Carell-as-Bezos said in an SNL sketch titled "Message From Jeff Bezos."
"Sure, he attacked me repeatedly on Twitter," he stated softly, as an upbeat melody played in the background. "But I chose our locations because they were ideal for growing business, not just to make Donald Trump think about how I'm literally 100 times richer than he is."
He then diedpanned that Amazon "needed access to a young, educated workforce," which was why a new satellite office was now set up in Palm Beach, Fla., Directly across from Trump's private Mar-a-Lago estate.
Carell-as-Bezos also riffed on "his" 2013 purchase of The Washington Post. While (the real) Bezos owns the newspaper, which operates independently from Amazon, Trump has often conflated the two, leveling false attacks against both entities on Twitter.
On SNL, the fake Bezos could not help but take a dig at Trump, opening a mock-up of the print version of The Post – literal fake news – that featured an unflattering photo of the president playing tennis.
"I also love our Style section," Carell-as-Bezos announced, smiling.
Anyway, he continued, he was not there to talk about Trump. He was there to unveil a new Amazon delivery option: "Amazon Caravan."
"Any package going to any Trump building will get delivered by hundreds of Honduran and Mexican immigrants, and I'll pick up the bill," he explained, a clear jab at Trump's escalation of fears surrounding caravans of Central American migrants heading to the U.S. border
He paused, before sneaking in a barb about Trump's multiple business bankruptcies.
"Unless you order 'The Art of the Deal.' That costs more to ship, because it's heavier," Carell-as-Bezos said. "I guess it's the only book with four Chapter Elevens."
Several nonverbal digs at Trump also were sprinkled throughout the sketch, such as when "Bezos" walks past framed pictures of prominent figures, including Nintendo's Toad. (This Style section reporter is not going to attempt to explain that reference in here, a family publication.) "Bezos" also showed off drones outfitted with "completely random" hairpieces that will look familiar.
And SNL's writers squeezed in a final joke at Trump's expense, centered on the president failing to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day.
It's no surprise that SNL chose to skewer Trump, something the show has done weekly since the president took office. The decision to do it through "Bezos," though, felt like more of a convergence of necessity: Carell as guest host, a slew of Trump jokes at the ready and an obligation to at least mention Amazon's newsy week.
If anything, the sketch was a missed opportunity to level sharper criticism at Bezos and Amazon. The recent announcement that the retail behemoth had selected a region of Northern Virginia (curiously rebranded as "National Landing") and Long Island City as its new headquarters locations sent up red flags in both communities, with critics arguing that the arrival of the twin HQ2s could worsen income inequality, traffic and infrastructure problems, and other ills.
Meanwhile, cities that Amazon courted but ultimately did not choose were left wondering whether they had been bamboozled by false hope. Some in the rejected cities seemed relieved, citing the outsize tax breaks Amazon would have required and reviving criticisms over poor working conditions at Amazon's warehouses.
The SNL sketch barely scratched the surface of those controversies, though there was fleeting mention in the beginning that the HQ2 announcement was not well received by everyone.
"Amazon just announced the location of its two new headquarters in New York and Virginia," Carell-as-Bezos said. "And everyone – except for the people who live there and the people who live in all the places we did not choose – is thrilled! "
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