In a recent episode, “Saturday Night Live” sparked controversy with its cold open, which satirized a Congressional hearing on antisemitism in higher education, just hours following the resignation of University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill. The skit, framed as a C-SPAN broadcast, featured portrayals of the presidents of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT by cast members Ego Nwodim, Heidi Gardner, and Chloe Fineman, respectively, as they appeared before the House Education Committee.
The sketch, however, did not resonate well with the audience, receiving minimal laughter. Social media users quickly criticized the segment, accusing it of trivializing the serious issue of antisemitism on college campuses, especially in light of recent events since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began.
The skit featured newcomer Chloe Troast as Rep. Elise Stefanik, lampooning her questioning style in the hearing. Troast’s portrayal of Stefanik included a comedic yet pointed interrogation of the university presidents regarding their stance on antisemitism, with questions delivered in a confrontational style reminiscent of comedian Billy Eichner.
Responses from the portrayed university presidents were satirized for being vague and evasive, drawing further criticism from viewers. The sketch also took a jab at Congresswoman Stefanik’s political alliances and public statements, with Troast’s character humorously suggesting that hate speech is more fitting for political and online platforms than academic institutions.
Notably, the skit attempted to add humor through Kenan Thompson’s portrayal of the president of the online University of Phoenix, who was willing to agree with Stefanik’s line of questioning.
The segment, however, was largely deemed a misfire by viewers and commentators on social media, with many calling it one of the worst cold opens in the show’s history due to its lack of humor and perceived insensitivity to a serious topic. The real Rep. Stefanik also responded to the news of Magill’s resignation with a brief and pointed comment on social media.