Hours after its demise, the Chinese spy balloon was the star of the SNL cold open

The Chinese balloon became the subject of a sketch in the most recent episode of "Saturday Night Live" on Feb. 4.
The Chinese balloon became the subject of a sketch in the most recent episode of "Saturday Night Live" on Feb. 4.
Larry Mayer/AP

"Saturday Night Live" kicked off last night's show by spoofing the latest suspected threat to national security: a Chinese balloon.

The balloon, which the Biden administration believes the Chinese government was using for surveillance, became an internet celebrity when people began tracking its travels across U.S. airspace. China's Foreign Affairs Ministry said the balloon was for meteorological research and accidentally went adrift. But its presence led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a trip to Beijing amid rising tensions between the two nations.

The U.S. military shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday — a move that the Chinese government called an overreaction. Hours later, the downed balloon became the subject of SNL's cold open.

The sketch starts with Chloe Fineman playing the role of MSNBC host Katy Tur and detailing the criticism from Republicans who said President Biden should have authorized the balloon's demise sooner.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.

A Pentagon official, played by Kenan Thompson, struggled to keep a straight face as he retold the shooting while using a happy birthday balloon as a prop. The sketch ends with an exclusive interview with the downed balloon, portrayed by Bowen Yang.

Yang, who previously portrayed the iceberg that sunk the Titanic, quipped that Americans would miss his presence in the sky.

"You've made it very clear that I'm not welcome here, so good job," Yang said. "But let me tell you something: you're gonna miss this Chinese spy balloon — I mean, normal balloon, damn it."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.