The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

SNL introduces a new Joe Biden after Jim Carrey announced the end of his stint

In its cold open Dec. 19, “Saturday Night Live” focused on Vice President Pence, played by cast member Beck Bennett, receiving his Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. (Video: The Washington Post)

Hours before the midseason finale of “Saturday Night Live,” comedian Jim Carrey, who played Joe Biden on the show for several episodes, announced he was retiring his manic impression of the president elect.

“Though my term was only meant to be 6 weeks, I was thrilled to be elected as your SNL President,” tweeted Carrey on Saturday afternoon. “I would love to go forward knowing that Biden was the victor because I nailed that s---. But I am just one in a long line of proud, fighting SNL Bidens!” (Those would include former cast members Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Nealon, John Mulaney and guest Woody Harrelson.)

Carrey’s announcement was most likely a welcome one for those fans who hadn’t particularly warmed to “The Mask” actor’s hyperactive take on Biden. But the comedian’s winter exit, of course, left open traditionally one of the biggest recurring roles on the show, which has lampooned presidents for decades with notable impressions such as Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump, Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush and Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush.

The cold-open answered the big casting question mark, but otherwise offered little in terms of what to expect from SNL’s Biden 4.0 in the future.

The show opened typically with a news brief about, what else, the coronavirus. This time, Vice President Pence, dressed in khakis and a short sleeved button down, was poised to receive the coronavirus vaccine to shore up public confidence.

“I’m sure all Americans are excited to see me, the guy who let covid spread everywhere, get one of the first vaccines,” said Beck Bennet as Pence. “Before we begin, I just want to reassure the American people that this vaccine is completely safe and harmless. And that’s why President Trump refuses to take it or talk about it.”

After getting the shot, Pence told his doctor that he “didn’t feel a thing” — a line taken straight from the real life vice president during his actual vaccine shot on Friday.

“Yep. It’s totally painless,” replied the SNL doc in the sketch.

“No. I meant for the past four years, I haven’t felt a thing. Just kind of watched the country burn.”

Later, Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris (played by Maya Rudolph) arrived to quite literally slap some sense into Pence when he mentions overturning the election results before then introducing the show’s new Biden.

Drum roll please.

Limping into the scene with a walking boot and cane like a presidential Willy Wonka, it’s SNL’s own Alex Moffat.

“Joe, you look different somehow,” said Pence alluding to the revolving door of Biden impressions over the years.

“I’m like Colonel Sanders,” said Moffat as Biden. “Every time you see me, I’m a different guy. There’s a good chance that by this time next year, I’m going to be Mario Lopez.”

With that Moffat’s Biden landed a few more one-liners before exiting the sketch. So far it seems his Biden’s slow, almost whispered, cadence most closely mirrors the president-elect’s actual speaking voice. The actor’s smoldering take on Biden, judging solely from this short introduction, plays off the president-elect’s potential for gaffes and stepping on land mines about diversity. Rudolph’s Harris made sure to usher Biden off screen just as he was getting super excited about Kwanzaa.

The show’s end of the year closer was helmed by former player Kristen Wiig, returning for her fourth stint as host just one week before her debut as the villain Cheetah in “Wonder Woman 1984.”

“I’m happy to say this is the last show of 2020,” said Wiig in her monologue. “Weekend Update” co-host Colin Jost would repeat that same parting sentiment later when he pointed out that when the show returns from holiday break, Trump might not be the topic du jour.

“Barring a reverse Christmas miracle,” said Jost, “this is the last weekend update with Donald Trump still in office.” While that may (or may not) mean fewer Trump jokes, it definitely pushes the Biden-Harris duo (Moffat and Rudolph) into the line of fire for the next four years.

Read more:

Why Jim Carrey’s Biden impersonation on SNL isn’t quite catching on