Throughout its four-decade history, SNL has given us legendary POTUS impressions — from Dana Carvey as President George H.W. Bush to Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton (and Trump). This week’s announcement continues the sketch comedy show’s relatively new tradition of inviting non-SNL cast members to regularly portray political figures. It doesn’t always work out (see: Robert De Niro’s stilted impression of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III or Ben Stiller as former Trump attorney Michael Cohen).
Ahead of Carrey’s turn as the former vice president, we took a look at some of the show’s most memorable impressions, and ranked them from good to great.
10. Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden
Sudeikis, an SNL alum, is Carrey’s predecessor when it comes to playing Biden — and he does a fine impression playing the politician as a smooth-talking, salt of the earth fellow. “The teeth do a lot of work there for me,” Sudeikis joked of the overly large smile that accompanies his portrayal in a recent interview with Stephen Colbert.
But truth be told, we preferred him playing Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor — a long-running gig Sudeikis held before leaving the show in 2013. In a 2012 interview with Conan O’Brien, Sudeikis broke down the key to portraying Romney: “The voice that I’m doing is basically when Black stand-ups do a White guy voice, they’re doing that voice, like, ‘Oh, hey man, how you doing, buddy?’ ”
“Next thing you know, you’re on ‘Meet the Press,’ ” O’Brien riffed.
9. Rachel Dratch as Amy Klobuchar
Dratch — who made her Klobuchar debut during SNL’s parody of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s public Senate Judiciary hearing — was a natural fit to play the U.S. senator from Minnesota. “You get a call out of the blue, like, you kind of look like this person, so I was like ‘Yes, finally!’ " Dratch recalled on Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens Live.”
But the SNL alum says there really isn’t a trick to the impression. “It’s largely the wig and the look,” she told a caller on Cohen’s late-night show.
8. Alec Baldwin as Trump
Baldwin may hate parodying Trump on SNL, but viewers love it. When Baldwin hosted the show (for the 17th time) toward the end of Trump’s first year as president, the show earned its biggest ratings in six years. Sometimes, the script writes itself.
7. Maya Rudolph as Kamala D. Harris
Many SNL fans had Rudolph in mind to play Harris long before the SNL alum made her debut as the U.S. senator from California. When she finally appeared last September, in a spoof of a CNN Town Hall, Rudolph nailed Harris’s cadence while spoofing some of candidate’s most famous quotes. “That little girl, you just introduced? That little girl was me,” Rudolph told Cecily Strong’s Erin Burnett. “I’m not just that little girl. I’m also America’s cool aunt. A fun aunt. I call that a funt.”
Viewers loved Rudolph’s take on Harris so much that the comedian’s name started trending after Biden named Harris as his running mate. Rudolph, who happened to be taping an Entertainment Weekly panel at the time, declared the choice as “spicy.”
6. Matt Damon as Brett M. Kavanaugh
Damon first appeared as the now Supreme Court justice on SNL’s season premiere in September 2018. It was a complete surprise since the actor wasn’t hosting.
If you watch his performance, you can actually hear the audience’s shock when Damon first appears, but it quickly turns to excitement as Damon makes a few Kavanaugh-esque facial expressions. And when the actor starts talking in a volatile baritone (“I’m a keg-half-full kind of guy!”), well, you can see why he was asked to come back later that year.
5. Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton
We’re used to Kate McKinnon’s gold-star impression of Clinton, but it was Poehler who first captured the role during her time on SNL. She has returned a few times since leaving the show in 2008 — most notably, appearing opposite McKinnon’s Clinton in a sketch that found Clinton talking to a younger version of herself.
4. Larry David as Bernie Sanders
Who better to play the delightfully cranky Brooklyn native than another delightfully cranky Brooklyn native who happens to bear a passing resemblance to the U.S. senator from Vermont?
After David began parodying Sanders on the show, the two found out — via Henry Louis Gates Jr. — that they are actually distant cousins. Cue the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme.
3. Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer
When SNL needed someone to portray the bumbling White House press secretary, McCarthy eagerly stepped into the role. While notable for being an (appropriately) over-the-top impersonation, it was also notable because the president reportedly loathed the impression — largely because Spicer was being played by a woman. It probably didn’t help that the Emmy-winning portrayal often found McCarthy referring to herself as “Spicey” and, occasionally, using a motorized lectern.
Producers for the show told the Hollywood Reporter that part of what made McCarthy perfect for the part were her similarities to Chris Farley — the beloved SNL cast member who died of a drug overdose in 1997 — who many thought would have been the perfect person to portray Spicer.
“In a lot of ways, Melissa is the closest thing just in terms of sheer power and comedy physicality that we have to Chris Farley, and I knew Lorne felt the same way,” producer Erik Kenward told the Hollywood Reporter.
2. Will Ferrell as George W. Bush
Like Poehler, Ferrell first tackled playing the 43rd president while a cast member on SNL. But he has reprised the role several times since leaving the show in 2002. In 2018, as Bush’s approval rating soared, he returned to “Saturday Night Live” to remind his “fellow Americans” that he had been “really bad, like, historically not good” as president.
But Ferrell’s beloved impression hasn’t been limited to Studio 8H. He famously made the character the center of a Broadway play called “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush.”
1. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
How good was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin? Well, Palin never said “I can see Russia from my house,” but a fair amount of people thought she did. No, that would be her SNL doppelganger, who returned to her old stomping grounds (two years after leaving the show) at the request of the Internet, basically.
Fey recalled signing on after a number of people (including her husband, De Niro and Michaels’s doorman) noted the physical resemblance between her and Palin.