How hard can it be to make fun of Jeff Bezos? For a moment last night, it looked like SNL was going to take a few well-deserved shots at the Amazon founder and CEO, a man who is worth over $100 billion and feels like a target ripe for mockery on a popular comedy show. They even got the casting and the look right: Host Steve Carell sported a bald cap, an ill-fitting suit, and a smug look of self-satisfaction on his face as he introduced a "message from Jeff Bezos." Time to roast the guy!
Except, that's not exactly what the sketch, which was somewhere between a commercial parody and a corporate announcement video, did. Earlier this week, the tech giant announced Long Island City, New York and Arlington, Virginia as the two locations of its new headquarters. This announcement came after a more than year-long search for a new home, which led to months of speculation in the press and lots of proselytizing from government leaders in different cities across the country. The final decision has sparked lots of criticism, particularly over the pricey tax incentives offered to the mega-successful company. Again, lots of material here.
While the SNL sketch did acknowledge the blowback from the HQ2 announcement -- "Everyone, except for the people who live there and the people who live in all the places we didn't choose, is thrilled" said Carell's Bezos -- the main focus was on Bezos's ongoing public relations feud with President Donald Trump. After pointing out that some folks have speculated that he was "somehow trolling President Trump," Carell goes on to say "that's simply not true."
We then get a bunch of limp Trump jokes, like the image of a drone with a Trump wig on it and a line about how any package going to a Trump building will "get delivered by hundreds of Honduran and Mexican immigrants." With each fresh dig, Carell's Bezos walks by different portraits, first of Toad (a months-old meme we won't get into here), then later of himself hanging out with figures like Trump supporter Kanye West, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. There's also a gag about turning an old Fred Trump building into a public urinal. Not exactly hard-hitting stuff.
Even for an SNL sketch, this one felt especially toothless, basically arguing that Bezos is the "cool" billionaire that the public should be rooting for instead of Trump. Along with a weak joke from Weekend Update co-host Colin Jost that accused New Yorkers of "complaining" because they didn't want to welcome their new corporate overlords and all the new jobs with open arms, it just felt like SNL didn't have anything interesting, provocative, or funny to say about Amazon. Why bother saying anything at all?