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SNL introduces a new Biden while parodying infrastructure negotiations in the season premiere

The Season 47 premiere of "Saturday Night Live" on Oct. 2 focused on President Biden's attempts to urge Democrats to compromise on his infrastructure plan. (Video: Hadley Green/The Washington Post)
3 min

Comedian James Austin Johnson’s “Saturday Night Live” career is off to a strong start, as the new hire kicked off the Season 47 premiere with a high-profile role: President Biden.

Johnson, who made an impression online with his impeccable viral impressions of former president Donald Trump, instead presented the show’s latest iteration of the current president in a cold open that began with Biden describing his summer as “bad — not Cuomo bad, but definitely not Afghanistan good.” He then parodied Biden’s attempts to urge Democrats to compromise on his infrastructure plan.

Joining Johnson’s Biden were moderate Democratic senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia (played by Aidy Bryant) and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona (Cecily Strong), the latter of whom Biden described in the sketch as looking like “all the characters from ‘Scooby-Doo’ at the same time.”

“What do I want from this bill? I’ll never tell, because I didn’t come to Congress to make friends — and so far, mission accomplished,” Strong’s Sinema said. Bryant’s Manchin introduced himself as “a Democrat from West Virginia. If I vote for electric cars, they’re going to kill me.”

Standing to the other side of Biden were liberal representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota (Ego Nwodim), who uncomfortably thanked Biden for “not calling me Kamala,” and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of “Nueva York” (Melissa Villaseñor), the self-described “Cruella of the Met Gala.”

“I wore a dress that said, 'Tax the rich’ and then spent all night partying with the rich,” Villaseñor’s Ocasio-Cortez said. “Oops.”

But back to the agenda. Ocasio-Cortez wants “at least $300 billion in clean energy tax credits,” whereas Manchin is “saying zero.” Same page, according to an increasingly desperate Biden. Everyone loves roads except for Sinema, who doesn’t want any roads because “chaos.” She doesn’t like water, either.

So what does she like?

“Yellow Starbursts, the film ‘The Polar Express’ and when someone eats fish on an airplane,” she responded. “As a wine-drinking, bisexual triathlete, I know what the average American wants. They want to be put on hold when they call 911. They want bridges that just stop, car falls down. They want water so thick you can eat it with a fork. And I will fight for that no matter what. Unless my foot hurts — then I’ll go back to Arizona.”

As soon as Amtrak Joe attempted to pivot to his personal favorite topic, trains, in came former New York governor, Andrew M. Cuomo (Pete Davidson), preaching … party unity?

“Us Democrats have had each others’s backs no matter what,” he said. “We’re like one big Italian family, and you know what Italians like to do? Hug and kiss and run their fingers up each others’ backs. Let’s all come together — whoops, bad choice of words there — and get this bill passed today. Just like me, it deserves a second chance. And a third chance. And up to at least 11 chances.”

And because all the Democrats are getting together, why not bring in Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer?

Alex Moffat played the New York senator, who appeared suddenly and warned viewers, “Next time you get an email from the Democratic Party with a scary subject line like, ‘It’s all over, Jennifer. Democracy is dead unless you donate $7 now,’ don’t panic too much. As Democrats, we’re all in this together.”

“We sure are,” Biden replied, “because fundamentally, we’re all the same.”

The episode — hosted by Owen Wilson, who took on characters ranging from a parody of himself to Captain Jeff Bezos in the fictional “Star Trek: Ego Quest” — returned to the infrastructure bill during the “Weekend Update” segment. Co-anchor Colin Jost noted that, during the last season premiere, they had to figure out how to quickly respond to Trump testing positive for the coronavirus.

“It was an exciting time for the show,” Jost said. “And, well, the big story this year? Infrastructure. I guess that’s an improvement on a survival-of-the-human-race level, but it’s not great for TV.”

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