Top 20 SNL Impressions Done In Front Of The Actual Person

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Top 20 SNL Impressions Done In Front Of The Actual Person

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These "SNL" impressions are even funnier when they're done in front of the actual person. Our countdown includes Bill Hader as Dave Matthews, Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, Jimmy Fallon as Jerry Seinfeld, and more!
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Top 20 SNL Impressions Done in Front of the Actual Person


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 SNL Impressions Done in Front of the Actual Person.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the funniest and most impressive impressions performed on “Saturday Night Live” in front of the celebrity in question.

Which of these do you think is the most impressive? Let us know in the comments below!

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


The 41st President of the United States was a popular target on “Saturday Night Live,” particularly from comedian Dana Carvey. Between 1987 and 2000, Carvey impersonated Bush a total of 39 times, and during the episode of October 22, 1994, he performed his famous impersonation in front of Bush himself. During the episode’s cold open, Carvey was interrupted and informed that the real Bush was on the line. The two then argued about the merits of Carvey’s impression before Bush threatened to watch “Tales from the Crypt” instead. It’s always fun to see a President with a sense of humor, not to mention one who can laugh at himself and his idiosyncrasies.

#19: Bill Hader as Dave Matthews


The Season 35 episode taking place on November 21, 2009 included Dave Matthews Band as the musical guest. To celebrate the occasion, Matthews performed in “The Mellow Show” sketch as Ozzy Osbourne. Opposite him was Bill Hader, playing Matthews. Hader hilariously impersonates Matthews’ speaking voice before launching into a winning parody of his music. But the real star here is Matthews himself. He is surprisingly great as Osbourne, both in the quality of his impression and his comedic ability. He also had the wonderful ability to poke fun at himself by referencing his distinctive voice and Hader’s meek recoiling of fear.

#18: Vanessa Bayer as Miley Cyrus


“The Miley Cyrus Show” was a recurring sketch on “Saturday Night Live” that saw Vanessa Bayer playing Cyrus and hosting a talk show. Various notable celebrities have starred in the sketch, including Anne Hathaway and Jeff Bridges. On March 5, 2011, Cyrus herself appeared playing Justin Bieber. She is an incredibly good sport, even though Bayer is performing with a greatly exaggerated version of her voice. Bayer also mockingly references Cyrus’s use of salvia, which she famously used in December of 2010 - just three months before this episode aired. The sketch even has an extra layer of meta-humor, as Jason Sudeikis impersonates Miley’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus, as the talk show bandleader.

#17: Abby Elliott as Zooey Deschanel


While she’s mostly grown out of it by now, Zooey Deschanel had a reputation throughout the late 2000s as a down-to-earth quirky girl. This element of Deschanel’s personality was parodied in the “SNL” sketch Bein’ Quirky with Zooey Deschanel, which saw Abby Elliott playing the titular star. On the episode of February 11, 2012, Deschanel herself appeared on the sketch playing Mary-Kate Olsen. She takes Elliott’s spot-on impression on the chin, as she nails Deschanel’s vocal inflections, folksy musical style, and unique expressions. It must be hard keeping a straight face while someone makes fun of your eccentricities, but Deschanel pulls it off.

#16: Vanessa Bayer as Rachel Green / Jennifer Aniston


Throughout her tenure on “Saturday Night Live,” Vanessa Bayer earned a reputation as one of the show’s greatest impressionists. One of her most popular bits was impersonating Rachel Green, Jennifer Aniston’s iconic character from “Friends.” During one “Weekend Update” segment, Bayer appeared as Green conducting a news segment on ‘90s nostalgia. The impression was simply incredible, and this was made obvious when Jennifer Aniston made a surprise cameo. The greatest bit is when Aniston and Bayer synchronize while performing Rachel’s mannerisms, as they sound exactly alike. At one point they even say “What?” at the exact same time, and it harmonizes like a beautiful piece of music.

#15: John Belushi as Joe Cocker


Throughout his career, musician Joe Cocker was known mostly for two things - his bizarre movements on stage and his gravelly blues voice. “SNL” icon John Belushi nails them both. Belushi’s impression of Cocker was well known throughout the industry. Paul McCartney asked Belushi to perform as Cocker at a birthday party, and Cocker told Rolling Stone that he thought Belushi was lip-syncing upon first hearing the impression. The two co-performed “Feelin’ Alright” on October 2, 1976, and it was like watching someone strut around in front of a mirror. Not only were they dressed alike, but Belushi proved uncanny as Cocker. The musical impression is a legendary bit of “SNL” history.

#14: Will Ferrell as Janet Reno


“SNL” loves to poke fun at politicians, and Janet Reno was no different. Reno was the first female Attorney General of the United States, serving from 1993 to 2001. Reno was far more high-profile than her predecessors, and Will Ferrell became known for his hilarious Reno impression on “Saturday Night Live”. He continuously starred as the Attorney General in a segment called “Janet Reno’s Dance Party”, which saw Reno dancing with a group of teenagers in a basement. However, Ferrell was going more for parody than outright impression, telling The Washington Post, “I just sound the way she looks.” Reno appeared on “SNL” on her last day as Attorney General, appearing for a dance party alongside Ferrell, to wild applause from the audience.

#13: Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek


This late, great host of “Jeopardy!” always had a good sense of humor - even when the subject was himself. Trebek appeared in two episodes of “Saturday Night Live”, including the May 18, 2002 episode in which he appeared opposite Will Ferrell impersonating him. Ferrell had become famous for his impression of Trebek in a recurring skit called “Celebrity Jeopardy!” Like his “impression” of Janet Reno, Ferrell is going more for parody than outright impression, remaining in his own voice but dressing as the famous “Jeopardy!” host - complete with his iconic mustache. Unfortunately, Trebek had shaved his mustache by this point, as he proved when he walked out to escort Ferrell from the podium.

#12: Mike Myers as Mick Jagger


It’s amazing to consider that even amidst the slew of talent found on early ‘90s “SNL,” Mick Jagger stands out as an impressionist master. Jagger was the musical guest for the episode airing on February 6, 1993, and he appeared in the “Weekend Update” segment alongside Mike Myers. Myers impeccably impersonated Jagger while Jagger was portraying his Rolling Stones bandmate, Keith Richards. Myers’s Mick Jagger is hilarious, even if it’s a little overly cartoony. He exaggerates many of Jagger’s traits, including his chicken arms, squinted eyes, and pouty lips. And while the impression is solid, modern viewers can’t help but compare his Mick Jagger character to Austin Powers. They’re essentially the exact same thing.

#11: Jim Brewer as Joe Pesci


This iconic American actor may be the nicest guy on the planet, but he will forever be linked to his intense gangster characters like Tommy DeVito and Nicky Santoro. Case in point: the recurring “SNL” segment “The Joe Pesci Show”, in which Jim Breuer played a violent and easily-offended Pesci who often loses his temper and assaults his talk show guests. During the April 12, 1997 episode, Pesci and Robert De Niro made surprise cameo appearances in the sketch, telling Breuer that his impression is both offensive and misleading. Pesci informed Breuer [“I am actually a very calm, laid back person”] before viciously beating him with the prop weapon.

#10: The Entire Cast as Jim Carrey


This legendary comedian and his various mannerisms are ripe for impression. Thankfully, fans get a lot of them in this Family Reunion sketch. This is a gold mine for any Carrey fan, featuring a slew of great impressions and recreations of all his popular characters. Taran Killam kicks things off with a spot-on impression that has Carrey subduing laughter, and various players show up doing the likes of Ace Ventura, The Cable Guy, and The Mask. But perhaps the greatest part is when Jeff Daniels shows up as Lloyd from “Dumb and Dumber.” Not only was it touching to see them reunited, but viewers could tell that Carrey was legitimately shocked and happy to see his old co-star.

#9: Eddie Murphy as Stevie Wonder


Eddie Murphy is an enormously talented man. So talented, in fact, that he teaches Stevie Wonder how to do a Stevie Wonder impression! The episode of May 7, 1983 aired a sketch in which Murphy plays a music producer coaching a Stevie Wonder impersonator for an upcoming event. Of course, the impersonator is actually played by Wonder himself, adding another layer of comedy to the whole routine. The impersonator isn’t very good, prompting Murphy to coach him on Wonder’s voice and mannerisms. It’s a great bit of back and forth, and it proves especially funny as Wonder does an intentionally poor version of himself. That is, until he shows everyone the true extent of his talent.

#8: Jimmy Fallon as Barry Gibb


An icon of disco, Barry Gibb is well known as a member of the Bee Gees. Perhaps the most famous aspect of Gibb’s music is his falsetto voice, which is often parodied in popular culture. For example, Jimmy Fallon did a great impression on the recurring “SNL” segment “The Barry Gibb Talk Show.” Fallon played the titular host, and he was accompanied by Justin Timberlake playing Barry’s brother, Robin. The sketch went out with a bang on December 21, 2013 when the real Barry Gibb joined Fallon and Timberlake for a brief performance. It was all good fun, if over a little too quickly. It certainly seemed like Gibb was having a good time, and it’s clear that he was enjoying Fallon’s impression.

#7: Cheri Oteri as Judge Judy


After finding success with the comedy troupe The Groundlings, alongside Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri was hired as a repertory performer on “SNL” for the 1995-96 season. She remained on the show for five years. In that time, Oteri became quite famous for her celebrity impressions - one of which was television legend Judge Judy. Judy Sheindlin cameoed on “SNL” on October 17, 1998, appearing in a sketch that saw Oteri impersonating the famous TV judge. Midway through the skit, Judge Judy appeared to rapturous applause and tapped Oteri on the shoulder, telling her to get her “bony ass” out of the chair so the real judge can take over. And take over she did, proving a great sport in the process.

#6: Jimmy Fallon as Jerry Seinfeld


Fallon is indeed an incredible impressionist, complete with a surprisingly huge arsenal of celebrities. After impressing Lorne Michaels with his aforementioned audition, Fallon debuted on “SNL” in September of 1998. One year later, he was doing an impression of Jerry Seinfeld… in front of Jerry Seinfeld. The two starred together in a Weekend Update segment, with Fallon dressed like Seinfeld. Fallon could barely get through his opening lines without laughing, but he managed to compose himself and perform one of the all-time great Jerry Seinfeld impressions. Close your eyes and listen, and it’s hard to tell who’s who!

#5: Cast Members as Adam Sandler


Now one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Adam Sandler got his start on “Saturday Night Live” in the early ‘90s. Nearly 25 years after his firing, Sandler returned to host and starred in a skit called “Sandler Family Reunion.” This skit had the cast doing impressions of Sandler and his characters. These included some absolutely killer impressions from Pete Davidson as Little Nicky, Melissa Villaseñor as Bobby Boucher, and Jimmy Fallon, whose absolutely amazing impression caused Sandler to break character. Fun fact - Fallon actually originally auditioned for “SNL” by doing an impression of Sandler for Lorne Michaels. The notoriously stoic Michaels broke down and laughed, and we can see why.

#4: Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton


This popular politician has long been a subject of “SNL” impressions, with Kate McKinnon, of course, doing an admirable job. But Amy Poehler will forever remain the Queen of the Hillary Clinton impression. Poehler had been doing a Clinton impression for years, and she performed it face-to-face with Clinton herself on the March 1, 2008 episode of “Saturday Night Live”. Clinton appeared during the episode’s cold open, when she was a candidate in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. After Clinton referenced Poehler’s famous impression, Poehler came onstage and proved that she’s one of the best in the biz.

#3: Andy Samberg as Nicolas Cage


On the February 11, 2012 episode of “Saturday Night Live”, Andy Samberg starred opposite Nicolas Cage in a Weekend Update segment subtitled “Get in the Cage with Nicolas Cage and Nicolas Cage.” Like the Seinfeld-Fallon segment, Samberg appeared dressed the same as Cage, complete with a hilarious receding hairline. The skit had Nicolas Cage playing a clone of Nicolas Cage so that he can appear in every movie ever made. Yes, Andy Samberg was playing the real Nicolas Cage. Confused? It doesn’t really matter. All that mattered was Samberg’s hilarious impression, and Cage’s expressionless face as he absolutely refused to break character.

#2: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin


Tina Fey will forever be admired for her eerily spot-on impression of Sarah Palin. Fey starred as Palin throughout the 2008 presidential election campaign, with a sketch of her and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton becoming a massive internet sensation. She would return to that well again and again on “SNL”. Palin actually appeared in the cold open of the October 18, 2008 episode, alongside Lorne Michaels, watching Fey’s impression on TV. She told Michaels that the impression was not realistic... before being approached by Alec Baldwin, who jokingly mistook her for Tina Fey. We can see how the mistake was made. The resemblance really is uncanny.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Alec Baldwin as Tony Bennett
The Crooner Loved This Take

Justin Timberlake, Andy Samberg & Bobby Moynihan as Beyoncé
A Hilarious Take on the Iconic “Single Ladies” Dance

Justin Timberlake as Jimmy Fallon
Timberlake Does Fallon on “Family Feud”

Jay Pharoah as Kevin Hart
Pharoah Plays Hart’s Son

#1: Cast Members as Christopher Walken


The legendary Christopher Walken has perhaps the most distinct voice in Hollywood, and has long been the subject of hilarious celebrity impressions. Like Adam Sandler, Walken was the subject of a family reunion skit, in which multiple cast members showed off their impressions. The skit got off to a great start with the fantastic Bill Hader, and remained consistently entertaining throughout. Some of the impressions were genuinely great (like the one from Jason Sudeikis), and others were hilariously sincere and also surprisingly spot-on (like Amy Poehler’s impression). It’s a hilarious tribute to one of “SNL’s” greatest and most prolific guest hosts.
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