Comedy is a mighty subjective thing, and it's unusual for one joke or routine to win immediate, universal acclaim.
Yet that was what followed Larry David's impression of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend. Just as the long-running sketch show's writers once realized that Tina Fey sort of looked like Sarah Palin and ran with it, they acknowledged that the co-creator of "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" looked a lot like Sanders.
The David-as-Sanders moment went truly viral. Within 12 hours, Sanders himself was joking about how, contrary to the sketch, he had multiple pairs of underwear. (The Washington Post's John Wagner, camera right, is among the people laughing along.)
But David is a latecomer to the Sanders parody genre. James Adomian, an absurdly funny L.A.-based comedian, has been polishing his Sanders for years.
"I always wanted to do Sanders," Adomian told me this summer. "When he ran for president, I just pounced on it. Ah-ha! Well, he’s running; everyone has to know who he is."
As Sanders grows into his role as 2015's surprise pop-political icon, someone has to be the definitive imitator. Here are the contenders:
Typical joke: "You gotta break the banks into little pieces, and then flush the pieces down the toilet!"
Hair: All natural, earned by 68 years of hard living.
Style: Sanders as your Jewish grandpa, engaging in the issues of the day because they confuse and annoy him. Banks are not merely destroying the middle class; they are paranoid, strange institutions that chain their pens to the desks, as if you're going to steal them or something.
Typical joke: "The top 10 percent of the top 12 percent controls over 40 percent out of the top 80 percent of all of the income that’s enjoyed by the bottom 4 percent of the top 9 percent of the bottom 9 percent."
Hair: Two white wigs, merged together.
Style: Sanders as a numbers-obsessed autodidact who, due to a factory accident, has cotton candy hair. He assumes he's going to lose and assumes that people find him boring — the "presidential candidate that everyone agrees with on everything but no one will vote for."
Typical joke: "We're gonna overhaul the whole thing. Here's how we're going to do it: Memes."
Hair: Bald cap and white wig.
Style: Sanders as ... a character in a comedian's highlight reel. He wants to be hip! He campaigns among Hispanic people — and talks about churros!
To put this in terms of Canadian musicians*, David's Sanders is Gordon Lightfoot. His melodies are familiar because you've heard them before; his lyrics are compelling because they're so unsurprising. Adomian's Sanders is Neil Young, as likely to produce a piano ballad as he is 20-minutes of soul-tearing guitar feedback, taking an approach to his art that rewards obsessiveness. Lee's Sanders is Nickelback.
*Don't forget to vote today, Canada!