Top 20 Funniest SNL Political Impressions

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Top 20 Funniest SNL Political Impressions

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
These "SNL" political impressions all come with high approval ratings. Our countdown includes Jim Carrey as Joe Biden, Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton, and more!
Transcript

Top 20 SNL Political Impressions


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 20 SNL Political Impressions.

For this list, we'll be ranking the funniest and most famous parodies of political figures performed on SNL.

Do you have a favorite? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!

#20: Matt Damon as Brett Kavanaugh


Sure, this may have been a once off impression. But Matt Damon surprised everyone with how well he nailed Judge Brett Cavanaugh's defensive demeanour during his high profile sexual misconduct hearing in 2018. The cold open sequence was certainly an ensemble piece, but the whole thing hinged upon how well Damon could deliver an impression of someone who was growing more and more irritated at a line of questioning. Eventually, the performance reached the crescendo of Damon shotgun-ing a beer before starting the show proper, kicking things off in note-perfect fashion.

#19: Fred Armisen as Michael Bloomberg



You don't always have to be running at two hundred percent to deliver laughs on the SNL stage. Sometimes, a little bit of subtlety goes a long way. This was definitely the case when it came to Fred Armisen's portrayal of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Armisen’s low-energy delivery was on purpose and on point. His semi-mumbling inflection was perfectly paired with Bobby Moynihan's volatile Chris Christie during a sketch about Hurricane Sandy. Armisen's return to the character during the 2020 US Presidential Race was similarly spot on.

#18: Will Ferrell as Janet Reno


Consider this one something of a forgotten gem when it comes to SNL political impressions. Former Attorney General Janet Reno wasn't exactly known as the life of the party when she served under President Bill Clinton, but you wouldn't know that if you just paid attention to Will Ferrell's impersonation. It didn't matter that Ferrell wasn't spot when it came to capturing her on a personal level. It was more about the idea of Reno in something as ridiculous as, say, a boxing match with Rudy Giuliani that made it funny. Plus, Ferrell's deadpan delivery and purse-lipped dialogue delivers giggles on their own.

#17: Beck Bennett as Vladimir Putin



Sometimes the easiest, most direct approach is best for comedic impersonations. Or, at least this seems to be the case when it comes to Beck Bennett, who absolutely nails his parody of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Bennett goes full tilt into James Bond villain mode here, portraying him as a devious, confident and self obsessed megalomaniac who never wears a shirt if he doesn't have to. Of course, it helps that Bennett has the look and facial expressions to pull it off - not to mention nailing Putin's manner-of-speech to hilarious effect.

#16 Norm MacDonald as Bob Dole


Norm Macdonald is a comedian's comedian; a man who has earned both respect from his peers and laughs from the audience. “SNL” fans were certainly laughing back when Macdonald was playing former presidential candidate and Senator Bob Dole on the show. Norm made it a point to emphasize Dole's habit of referring to himself in the third person, while also capturing Dole's pencil-holding, deadpan delivery. Macdonald was surly and grumpy, yet remarkably charismatic in his performance as Dole, and it's something we're still laughing at today.

#15: Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions


You can always count on Kate McKinnon to deliver a great impression. The gifted comedian just seems to have honed her talent at commanding accents, as well as her subject's personal idiosyncrasies. McKinnon is also just as accomplished at transformation, as evidenced by her multiple political impressions of subjects as varied as Kellyanne Conway, Rudy Giuliani and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It's her take on former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that had us rolling, however, thanks to the exaggerated Southern accent as well as Sessions' reportedly sycophantic relationship with President Trump. It didn't matter whether McKinnon was portraying Sessions on "Weekend Update" or parodying "Forrest Gump," her impression was always solid gold.

#14: Jim Carrey as Joe Biden


What can we say? Joe Biden just seemed tailor made for an SNL political impression, as evidenced by the numerous cast members and guest hosts who tried their hand at the former Vice President. Jason Sudeikis, Woody Harrelson and John Mulaney all did killer jobs with their respective impersonations. But our pick here is Jim Carrey, who’s portrayed Biden in a recurring role. Although not everyone saw the real Biden in Carrey’s energetic interpretation, we’ve got to give it up for Carrey's inner monologue during debate sketches with Baldwin's Trump. We love the machismo Joe; the exasperated candidate who's down for push up contests, name calling, and tagging in Kamala Harris to intervene on his behalf.

#13: Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford


Former President Gerald Ford was always athletic, but all it took was one stumble out of Air Force One to earn a reputation for clumsiness. This served as a perfect opportunity for SNL to cement their very first iconic political impression with Chevy Chase's classic, fan favorite portrayal. Chase took his physical comedy to the very limit, utilizing elaborate pratfalls to the point of actual injury, all to get a laugh. It worked, to the point where even the President himself was a fan, appearing on the show and even inviting Chase out to play golf!

#12: Darrell Hammond as Dick Cheney


Darrell Hammond is a master of impressions, and has successfully tried his luck impersonating a number of political figures during his tenure at “SNL.” However, it's Hammond's take on former Vice President Dick Cheney that stands alongside his Bill Clinton as one of the comedian's most well known parodies. Hammond hams it up and does his best to play with Cheney's public persona as the evil puppet mastermind behind the George W. Bush administration, while getting a lot of laughs in the process. That sneaky snarl, those side-eye glances, it's all part of Hammond's hilarious take on a polarizing man.

#11: Jay Pharoah as Barack Obama


It was Fred Armisen who first took aim at Barack Obama with his unique and slightly strange impression. But that performance was certainly improved upon once Jay Pharoah took over the role. Pharoah easily ticks all of the boxes when it comes to capturing Obama's cadence, phrasing and manner of speech, while at the same time capturing that certain level of political swagger the former president has. Jay Pharoah is a skilled comedian and impressionist, but this might be some of his best work.

#10: Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump


With his recurring impersonation of Donald Trump, Guest star Alec Baldwin has become a sort of de-facto cast member. Alec Baldwin earned rave reviews and laughs when he parodied The Donald on the campaign trail. So it made sense that the award-winning actor would return to the role once Trump took office. The sketches he features in never shy away from tackling controversial topics. But most importantly, Baldwin nails Trump's distinct inflections and mannerisms - the pursed lips, the improbable boasts, and the key vocabulary. At least, “a lot of people are saying” that Baldin’s impression is “tremendous”.

#9: Will Ferrell as George W. Bush


Don’t worry, we’ll get to Bush Senior later in the list. Will Ferrell first introduced his Dubya impersonation in 1999, to wild reviews. Presenting Bush Junior as naive, simple, and in over his head, Ferrell lampooned the President while also nailing his accent, squint, and … difficulties … with grammar. Once Ferrell left the cast, others tried to take on the mantle, but no one quite measured up to Ferrell. In fact, his impersonation was so good, he adapted it into the Broadway play “You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush”. Ferrell reprised the role a few times on SNL too, including in 2018, with an important message.

#8: Dan Aykroyd as Richard Nixon


This Not Ready for Primetime Player was notable for a couple of Presidential impersonations, including a memorable stint as Jimmy Carter during the early seasons of "Saturday Night Live." Dan Aykroyd also did a very successful impression of Richard Nixon, to boot, standing out amongst the myriad of other comics who were taking their shot at the infamous ex-President. Copying Nixon's idiosyncratic, hunched over gait and penchant for waving victory signs was the easy part. More challenging was trying to get laughs portraying a man who was so disliked and controversial. Aykroyd succeeded, however, going on to portray Nixon a total of ten times from 1976 to 1979.

#7: Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton


If Baldwin's Trump was good, then Kate McKinnon's parody of Hillary Clinton was even better. McKinnon's place as one of “SNL’”s funniest faces was already secure before she took on this role, but if anything, Kate's impression of Hillary has made her even more popular. Maybe it's McKinnon's ability to tap into Clinton's awkward public persona, or perhaps it was the laughs she got portraying how badly Hillary wanted to win the election. Or, maybe it was that somber cold opening in the wake of a Trump victory, where, in character, McKinnon sang a stirring rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Honestly, it was all of that and more: this was a brilliant performance.

#6: Dana Carvey as George H.W. Bush


It seems as if “SNL” icon Dana Carvey can impersonate just about anyone, but it was the world of politics that gave us some of the cast member's most memorable bits. When it came to his impersonation of George H. W. Bush, Carvey had a lot of material to work with during the course of Bush’s Presidency. But it's the comedian's uncanny ability to mimic the former president's voice and mannerisms, especially during monologues and debates that are probably best remembered. Oh, and in case you’re worried … don’t worry, there’s more Carvey ahead in the list!

#5: Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer


We return to another Trump era SNL impersonation for our next entry. Melissa McCarthy surprised everyone in 2017 when she appeared on "Saturday Night Live" to impersonate former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. The comedian’s natural affinity for physical comedy and mimicry brought the house down, and it wasn't long before McCarthy was making regular appearances as Spicer. Her impression was loud, colorful, and boisterous… and we loved every minute of it! Even Sean Spicer admitted that it was “kinda funny”. Although he said his boss didn’t see it that way ...

#4: Larry David as Bernie Sanders


If there was ever an SNL impersonation that left people wanting more, it was this one. Comedian and "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David seemed born to play Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, sliding into the role like a pair of old, comfortable shoes. Any SNL debate sketch was immediately enhanced by David's impression of Sanders' righteous indignity and anger, not to mention some good natured ribbing about the senator's age. His loud and boisterous freakouts never failed to get the audience roaring. As it turns out, the two are actually distant cousins - so maybe David had a bit of a genetic advantage here!

#3: Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton


Hillary's other half is up next on our list, this time portrayed by the much-missed Phil Hartman. The “SNL” legend had already impressed with his smart and satirical take on former President Reagan. Yet even that performance was eclipsed by his dead-on impression of William Jefferson Clinton. Hartman wasn't one-note in his work, and did his best to capture everything about Clinton: his affable charisma, his Arkansas accent, his taste for fast food, his relationship with Hillary, and his role as Commander in Chief. Above all else, though, it was just funny: a perfect impression from one of “SNL’”s greatest talents.

#2: Dana Carvey as Ross Perot


Former Presidential candidate Ross Perot may not exist front and center within the public consciousness much anymore. But there was a time where this self-made man was everywhere in the news. As a result, Perot's fiery third party campaign for the White House made for a perfect SNL parody from veteran cast member Dana Carvey. For starters, Carvey NAILS Perot's memorable laugh, as well as his quick manner of speech, strange non sequiturs and knack for sidebar colloquialisms. The impression also captures the zeitgeist of the time, this feeling that Perot might actually have a chance to lead a third party candidate to the highest seat in American public service. It doesn't matter that Perot wasn't successful in his bid, because Carvey's work here remains classic.

Before we name our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton
It's All About That Finger & That Pout

Bobby Moynihan as Chris Christie
New Jersey, Through & Through

Chris Farley as Newt Gingrich
Physical Comedy & Timing to a T

Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis
Squint & You Can Barely Tell Them Apart

#1: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin


It's one of the most beloved and most well-known political parodies in “SNL” history: Tina Fey as vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin. Fey won a Primetime Emmy award in 2009 for her portrayal of the former Alaskan governor. Her nuanced performance skewered Palin's lack of political prowess, and lightheartedly poked fun at her mannerisms and colloquialisms. It was a smash hit, and Fey would return to the role a number of times for “SNL,” securing the character as a high point in the show's long history of political comedy.
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