Saturday Night Live (SNL) recently returned to the studio, and its first episode back came with a parody of the initial debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, which was essentially salt in the wound that is 2020. Casting Networks has no political affiliations or stances, of course, but there seems to be an overall shared feeling about the initial presidential debate that transcends party lines. The SNL parody may actually have stated it best. “It was pretty fun to watch,” read the scrolling credits that began the skit. “As long as you don’t live in America.” Considering the comedic acting principle that comedy is often rooted in pain, we don’t blame the long-running series for capitalizing on the more-than-slightly-upsetting debate. Keep reading for our take on the actors’ ability to embody the politicians they impersonated.
1. Maya Rudolph as Senator Kamala Harris
During the SNL parody of the initial presidential debate, Rudolph took to the stage as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, which lands her on this list. From the quality and pattern of her speech to the use of her hands, the actor nailed the impression, reprising it from previous episodes. Rudolph’s portrayal of Harris even won her an Emmy this year, which speaks to her masterful ability to impersonate the politician. And Harris also seems to endorse the comedian’s work playing her on SNL. “I fully intend to make sure she [Rudolph] has a good eight years of work on SNL,” the senator told late-night host Seth Meyers.
2. Alec Baldwin as President Donald Trump
The actor has the advantage of having impersonated Trump for a while now. He ran through the major hallmarks of his impersonation during the presidential debate parody, which included pursed lips and his take on Trump’s voice and head movements while speaking. Kudos are in order for the actor’s ability to stay still for so long at the end of the skit to maintain the suspension of disbelief that he’d been put on pause. Like Rudolph, Baldwin has an Emmy win under his belt for the impersonation, supporting his mastery of it. But during a prop joke that involved an underwear mask, the actor’s character voice faltered, which puts him second on this list.
3. Jim Carrey as Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden
Carrey hasn’t had as much practice playing Biden as the other listed impersonators have with their respective political figures. But with that consideration aside, the actor’s impression left much to be desired. As the Los Angeles Times put it, “Carrey’s Biden was about 90 percent Carrey and about 50 percent Carrey as the Mask.” Some aspects of the impersonation rang true, such as his rate of speech and hand movements. But overall, it seemed like Carrey relied more on the costuming and lines than on actual character work. His take on Biden left us wishing for previous impersonators like Jason Sudeikis to step in.
If you’re itching for another skit with Rudolph as Harris, look no further than the latest episode of SNL, which parodied the recent vice presidential debate. Carrey also reappears in it as Biden, who transforms into the show-stealing fly from the actual event. And eventually, there will be another opportunity for Trump and Biden to go toe-to-toe again, so it’s a safe bet that a parody of that debate is on the horizon. Election years tend to be tumultuous, and coupled with the novel coronavirus, 2020 is likely one we’ll never forget. But with the rollercoaster of emotions that politics and a pandemic can bring, here’s to SNL and the art of comedy that helps get us through it.