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

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 the SNL 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.

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.

Giulia Heyward
Giulia Heyward is a weekend reporter for Digital News, based out of New York. She previously covered education and other national news as a reporting fellow at The New York Times and as the national education reporter at Capital B News. She interned for POLITICO, where she covered criminal justice reform in Florida, and CNN, as a writer for the trends & culture team. Her work has also been published in The Atlantic, HuffPost and The New Republic.