Alec Baldwin Visits ‘SNL’ to Defend Himself
Alec Baldwin got into some trouble on a plane last week. Playing something called Words with Friends on his cellphone, he was told by a flight attendant that all phones had to be turned off for safety. Baldwin, unaccustomed to obeying the same rules as common folk, continued to play Words with Friends, whereupon American Airlines set him and his luggage back down at LAX, after much delay and inconvenience to his fellow passengers. Then he went on SNL’s “Weekend Update” this Saturday to complain about it, sort of, in a cleverly oblique manner: he played the pilot, Captain Steve Rogers, issuing a direct apology to “Mr. Alec Baldwin,” “on behalf of everyone at American Airlines.” (The real pilot, in the meantime, has responded to the segment. He is not amused.)
This isn’t the first time Baldwin’s used SNL to answer a controversy. In 1994, he addressed the controversy elicited by his infamous “Canteen Boy” sketch with Adam Sandler, and proceeded to perform a brief scene from a faux politically correct version of the sketch, in which the language has been euphemized but the substance remains the same; and then, just a couple months ago, in the season opener, he addressed the controversy elicited by Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy Balls ice cream, a flavor inspired by an old sketch from the show featuring Alec Baldwin.
Each of these other instances occurred during the monologue and on a show Baldwin was hosting, and pertained to a controversy the show itself had generated, which makes this new one somewhat sui generis. It was pretty funny, too—it was funny enough, almost but not quite, to neutralize Baldwin’s obnoxiousness during the original incident. At the beginning of his riff, before he really got going with it, Seth Meyers, who had introduced Capt. Rogers from the anchor chair, said, “Alec, are you sure this is the right way to handle this?” But Baldwin gave him a “Yeah, yeah, keep going,” and continued on his way.
Capt. Rogers said that “Mr. Baldwin is an American treasure, and I am ashamed at the way he was treated”; he reminded the audience that Baldwin had been playing “not any game, mind you, but a word game, for smart people”; and he said that the idea that electronic devices can interfere with a plane’s communication abilities is just “a cruel joke perpetrated by the airline industry,” while ruing that they would have been able to perpetuate the joke, except that “Alec Baldwin was just too smart for us.”
Baldwin has earned the right to travel this route, using SNL as if it were some kind of public-access platform; he’s certainly logged the frequent-flyer miles. Only three people have hosted the show more than ten times: John Goodman, Steve Martin, and Baldwin. Baldwin has hosted more shows than any of them, at sixteen. The first time he hosted was in 1990—when current players Jay Pharoah and Abby Elliot were not quite three years old. He’s probably performed in more sketches—certainly more sketches prominently—than some of those in the cast.
Don’t think Baldwin doesn’t understand his status on the show vis-
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