In the weeks since President Trump appointed Jeff Sessions to build a white supremacist police state—excuse me, I mean “serve as attorney general”—Kate McKinnon’s impression of the man has been getting better and better. When she debuted it a month ago in a cameo, it was hilarious but essentally a makeup job and an accent. Last week the cold open was framed around Forrest Gump, and the fusion of Sessions’ mannerisms and Gump’s intelligence seems to have unlocked something strange and wonderful, because this week, McKinnon burned the house down. Her Sessions has less and less in common with the man himself by the minute; instead, she’s using him as an excuse to explore the Senator Claghorn/Foghorn Leghorn comedic universe, seeking an answer to the question, “What if Br’er Rabbit were extraordinarily stupid?”
Playing against Alex Moffat’s straight man (as ex-SNL cast member Sen. Al Franken), McKinnon gave Sessions the taste for mischief his elven features suggest, dialed his intelligence down even further, and created a spectacularly funny comic character. The Sessions we saw on a park bench last week might have eaten a pie made from Octavia Spencer’s poop, but he wouldn’t have tried to pull off this week’s “oathin’ hand” stunt. Relatedly, last week’s Sessions wasn’t as funny. Similarly, the real Jeff Sessions isn’t in the habit of blurting out inconvenient truths like “I’m a danger to the country” (well, not usually); while McKinnon has always used this in her Sessions impression, she hit that note again and again this week. It gets laughs (make it through her delivery of “And I helped!” with a straight face, I dare you) but she also gets a certain hysterical edge to the laughter that’s something new. (Claghorn and Legorn both inspire this occasionally now, but it’s not the target their creators were aiming for.) McKinnon’s Jeff Sessions would make a great recurring character, except for one catch: Every week Kate McKinnon plays Jeff Sessions on Saturday Night Live marks another week Jeff Sessions spent as attorney general of the United States of America. McKinnon was born to play trickster gods, and as of this week, she’s invented a magnificent one. Too bad a throwback like Jeff Sessions inspired it.