When Sarah Palin was named the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels noted that even his doorman said: “What a gift — you’re going to have so much fun with Tina Fey” portraying Palin.
On Tuesday, as Kamala D. Harris was announced as the vice-presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, many on social media endorsed former SNL cast member Maya Rudolph as their pick to return to SNL to portray the senator from California.
Even Rudolph, who was on a virtual Entertainment Weekly panel when the news broke, immediately reacted with “ruh-roh” and “Oh, s---,” and added, about the prospect of reprising her acclaimed turn: “That’s spicy.” (Through a representative, Rudolph declined further comment.)
Rudolph was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal, making her only the second SNL guest actress ever to receive a nod specifically for portraying a politician. Fey won the award in 2009 for playing Palin. (Rudolph will be up for three Emmys when the awards are announced Sept. 20 — she was also recognized for “The Good Place” and “Big Mouth.”)
Rudolph offered a memorable comic take on Harris three times last season, in sketches that parodied the Democratic presidential debates and town halls. The actress portrayed Harris as the fun aunt, or law-and order “funt,” who will “give you weed, but then arrest you for having weed.”
In one Democratic debate last year, Harris addressed presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden’s record on busing by saying: “You know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.” After Rudolph played Harris on SNL in September, the senator approvingly tweeted: “That girl played by @MayaRudolph on @nbcsnl? That girl was me.”
Rudolph’s name was popular Tuesday on Twitter.
NBA legend Reggie Miller tweeted: “So excited for Senator Kamala D. Harris as the VP pick, but ECSTATIC for @nbcsnl and @MayaRudolph.” Billy Baldwin, whose brother Alec portrays President Trump on SNL, tweeted: “Paging Maya Rudolph … Please report to the SNL writers room immediately.”
A big day for Maya Rudolph— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) August 11, 2020
The next step is to see whether Michaels and Rudolph decide to answer the call of the audience groundswell if and when SNL returns this fall. The series suspended creating live shows in March because of the pandemic and completed its 45th season in May with several all-digital episodes.
“I love going to the show. Any excuse I can get, I love,” Rudolph added during the virtual panel. “I just didn’t really anticipate traveling during a pandemic, but if there’s anyone who can work it out, I’m sure Lorne has some kind of invisible helicopter that can get me there.”
Harris’s nomination was historic for making her the first woman of color on a major-party national ticket, and Rudolph has made a bit of showbiz history of her own. In 2012, Rudolph — an SNL cast member from 2000 to 2007 — became SNL’s first actress of color ever to receive an Emmy nom for a guest role.
Vice-presidential nominees have historically provided a comedic gold mine for SNL. Besides Fey as Palin, two of the most memorable impersonations are the late Phil Hartman’s shouting impression of 1992 Ross Perot running mate James Stockdale, and Jason Sudeikis’s long-running impersonation of Biden as a veteran politician who plays to his blue-collar, “regular Joe” persona.
Besides any return of Rudolph, SNL also has not announced who will play Biden when the show returns.