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‘I can see Russia from my house!’ From Barack and Bush to Bill and Biden (and Sarah, too): Notable ‘SNL’ political impersonations

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 23, 2020

Alec Baldwin, as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and Kate McKinnon, as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, perform on the 42nd season of "Saturday Night Live" in New York on Oct. 1, 2016. Trump tweeted Oct. 16, 2016, that the show’s skit depicting him this week was a “hit job.” Trump went on to write that it’s “time to retire” the show, calling it “boring and unfunny” and adding that Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him “stinks.”  (Will Heath/NBC)
Alec Baldwin, as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and Kate McKinnon, as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, perform on the 42nd season of "Saturday Night Live" in New York on Oct. 1, 2016. Trump tweeted Oct. 16, 2016, that the show’s skit depicting him this week was a “hit job.” Trump went on to write that it’s “time to retire” the show, calling it “boring and unfunny” and adding that Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him “stinks.” (Will Heath/NBC)

Since the show debuted in 1975, the writers and performers at “Saturday Night Live” have skewered the latest in national and international politics week after week. With a new season kicking off a month before the presidential election, you can guarantee many a headline will make its way onto TV screens courtesy of “SNL.”

And especially with the report last week that Jim Carrey will be impersonating former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Until the Oct. 3 premiere of an astonishing Season 46, here’s a look at just some of the many memorable political impersonations from “SNL.”

Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump

Though many “SNL” cast members have portrayed Trump over the years, including Phil Hartman, Darrell Hammond, Jason Sudeikis and Taran Killam, the current president has been portrayed since 2016 by Alec Baldwin, a 17-time “Saturday Night Live” host. Rumor has it, Baldwin’s “30 Rock” co-star Tina Fey suggested “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels hire Baldwin for the role. Baldwin has been seen as Trump in sketches parodying presidential debates and the Billy Bush tape controversy and meeting with the likes of Mitt Romney (played by Sudeikis) and Vladimir Putin (Beck Bennett). For his portrayal, Baldwin has won a Critics Choice Award and an Emmy.

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

Speaking of Fey, the comedienne and actress returned to “SNL” in 2008 after having been a cast member from 1997-2006 to portray Sarah Palin, the then-governor of Alaska and nominee for vice president. Many viewers weren’t at all surprised that Fey was chosen to play Palin given the strong physical resemblance. Fey had a knack for taking a line Palin actually said, usually ridiculous in and of itself, and twisting it into an even funnier quip. Case in point: “I can see Russia from my house!” Fey won two Emmys for her portrayal of Palin, one alone and the other shared with Amy Poehler, who portrays Hillary Clinton.

Amy Poehler and Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton

Nine performers have played Hillary Clinton on “SNL”: Jan Hooks, Janeane Garofalo, Vanessa Bayer, Ana Gasteyer, Poehler, Kate McKinnon, Drew Barrymore, Rachel Dratch and, in one sketch, Miley Cyrus. But Poehler, who portrayed Clinton the longest, from 2003 to 2008, and McKinnon, the current Clinton, have each brought something special to the role. Clinton has appeared alongside both Poehler and McKinnon, which must be at least a small nod of approval. As previously mentioned, Poehler has taken home an Emmy for her portrayal of Clinton. McKinnon has won and been nominated for multiple awards for her work on “SNL,” her Clinton impression likely having something to do with her accolades.

Phil Hartman and Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton

Hartman was the first cast member to bring Bill Clinton to life on the “SNL” stage, and he did it 18 times over two years. After Hartman’s departure, Hammond picked up the Clinton drawl and ran with it, portraying the former president more than 90 times through sketches about his presidency, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his relationship with Hillary. Hammond doesn’t stop his political impressions at Clinton, though. Throughout his time with “SNL,” Hammond also has played Al Gore, Trump, John McCain and Dick Cheney.

Will Ferrell as George Bush

Many of Will Ferrell’s characters and impressions are still quotable years after he left the show, but perhaps none are more memorable than his time as then-President George W. Bush. Ferrell played Bush from 1999 to 2002. In 2001, Ferrell was nominated for an Emmy for his work on “SNL,” and it’s a safe bet his run as Bush was partly behind the nomination. In 2009, Ferrell brought Bush to Broadway in the show “You’re Welcome, America. A Final Night With George W. Bush.” The play, which Ferrell wrote, was nominated for a Tony for best special theatrical event. Ferrell brought the role back to the “SNL” stage in 2015 during a cold open and again in 2018 while hosting. Since Ferrell left “SNL,” Bush has been portrayed by Chris Parnell, Hammond, Will Forte and Sudeikis.

Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden

Woody Harrelson and John Mulaney have both given it a shot, but Biden on “SNL” belongs to Jason Sudeikis. Sudeikis began portraying Biden when he was vice president, playing alongside Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama or Fey’s Palin. Sudeikis has more recently reprised the role in sketches about the Democratic debates, so it will be interesting to see Carrey take over the role. Fingers crossed there will be more Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris, too.

Jay Pharoah and Fred Armisen as Barack Obama

Jay Pharoah and Fred Armisen both nailed then-President Obama’s cadence, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing the Rock Obama during a handful of sketches. If Biden is elected, chances are high Obama will make at least one appearance giving Biden advice. It’s anyone’s guess who Michaels will tap for Obama’s return to the “SNL” stage.

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