When Rosie O’Donnell tweeted that she’s “available” to play Saturday Night Live’s Steve Bannon, it unleashed a feverish round of “Omgggggg what a good idea. Do ittttt” tweets from the anti-Trump cognoscenti. A fan-generated image of O’Donnell as Bannon even started making the rounds online, with O’Donnell ultimately (and thirstily) making it her Twitter bio image.
All this O’Donnell-as-Bannon outcry makes sense. Our president has gone on the record at length about how much he abhors O’Donnell, calling her a “degenerate,” a “pig,” and “one of the dumber people in television.” If you want to hit the Donald where it matters to him the most—his self-image—you could cast O’Donnell as one of Trump’s closest advisors, thus shining a public light on the link between O’Donnell and Trump once again. Trump would no doubt tweet about it, calling Saturday Night Live “sad” and “failing,” and throwing in some barb about how O’Donnell is just a loudmouth with a grudge against him. He’s also not that into women dressing as men.
But here’s the thing: That’s the wrong move. Casting O’Donnell as Bannon—while perfectly sensible—is what Trump’s administration and supporters would expect. It wouldn’t sway anyone who, say, loved Melissa McCarthy in The Boss and might not have known who Sean Spicer was, and it certainly won’t hit Trump as deeply as if someone he may know or respect would step into the Bannon role instead. That’s why Saturday Night Live should shy away from all the Rosie-as-Bannon pressure, and instead, cast someone more storied, more respected, and less into jazz-like Twitter poetry than Rosie O’Donnell.
Take, for instance, a Robert De Niro. No stranger to SNL, De Niro is also an outspoken Trump hater, and though you’d have to bulk him up with some makeup and take away a bit of his New York accent to get his Bannon as sharp as it could be, lord knows if anyone could pull off acting like a manipulative, deranged back-alley dealer, it would be De Niro.
There’s always someone like John Goodman too, though Goodman played now-Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson on SNL in December. Goodman’s got the scheming shiftiness down pat, and with a wig, could easily act as the puppetmaster to Alec Baldwin’s Trump. Same thing with Jonah Hill, provided he could turn in a slightly more sinister performance than what he does most of the time. He was close in War Dogs, though, when he played a coked-out pussy hound who screws over his friends in an attempt to become a rich warlord.
There’s also an argument to be made that the casting of any celebrity undermines the effect of SNL’s parodies. Though the show’s ratings are up in part thanks to the sensational appearances of people like Baldwin and McCarthy, SNL lives and dies on its regular cast and their ability to transform into anyone from Steve Harvey to a brain-dead former porn star. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like SNL has anyone on the cast right now fully capable of harnessing their inner Bannon. Suggestions that it could be done by Bobby Moynihan or Aidy Bryant seem entirely (and horrifically) based on body type, and both work a bit too zany and broad to really bring the callous intensity held by the guy some people on Twitter are calling #PresidentBannon.
All this being said, if Rosie O’Donnell pops up on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live playing shirt-layering king Steve Bannon, it won’t be the worst thing in the world. It’ll draw Trump’s ire and pour a little more fuel on the fire that will hopefully eventually lead to him imploding into a spectacular heap of stuttering ash, but it’ll also feel a little empty, a little easy, and a little less than it could have been. If we, the people, are going to hit Trump in his public image, where it seems to hurt him the most, shouldn’t we put our full force behind every single jab? Casting Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon is the comedy equivalent of a fairly obvious and easily deflected jab to the face, whereas SNL—and the American people—should be going for the sneaky haymaker, ideally aimed right at the president’s tiny dick.