One Night Only: Alec Baldwin is less of a roast, and more of a celebration, because the actor's philantropic efforts, his close familial relationships, and his award-winning performances receive more attention during the special than, say, his many scandals and embarrassing moments. But outside of his paparazzi-attacking and acting accomplishments, Baldwin is also known for politics — both his outspoken liberal beliefs and his penchant for playing conservatives like Jack Donaghy and Donald Trump. But when Bill Clinton roasted Alec Baldwin on One Night Only, it was actually more of a tribute than it was a comedic performance.
The former President makes a few cracks during his speech, but they aren't really at Baldwin's expense, but rather, Donald Trump's, equating Baldwin's journey from college politics to a soap opera (The Doctors) to the forty-fifth president's slip from reality TV to the highest office in the land. But aside from those cracks, most of President Clinton's speech instead highlights the less controversial side of Alec Baldwin, the charitable do-gooder who supports Highbridge Choir, a group of South Bronx students. The Highbridge students' performance of "Blackbird" is probably the emotional high point of the night, because of Baldwin's history with the group.
Frankly, the tribute is perhaps a little too glowing. It's one thing for Ireland Baldwin to make light of the voicemail where she was berated as a "rude, thoughtless little pig," and perhaps less so for A-list stars like Julianne Moore and Robert DeNiro to call Baldwin an unambiguous force for good when Baldwin's past controversies make him problematic. Given that Baldwin has practically become synonymous with controversy, the uncomplicated presentation of him during One Night Only: Alec Baldwin feels a little incomplete, especially because the night was ostensibly supposed to be a roast. But it's less of a "roast" and more of a celebration, climaxing with a handshake and a pat on the back from a President of the United States.