Saturday Night Life has long been known to have brutal but hysterical political skits. The NBC sketch comedy show isn’t afraid to make people angry with their on-point impersonations of the nation’s most influential politicians. Not every skit has been a total hit but when they nail it, they really nail it. Here are some of Saturday Night Live’s best political skits and impersonations.
Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
We’d love to be a fly on the wall of the White House as Donald Trump sat down to watch SNL’s unyielding, brutal impersonation of him on the campaign trail.
Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Trump is so spot-on that it’s difficult to tell the two apart, making it one of the most popular SNL skits in recent history. In fact, it was so good he was actually mistaken as the real Trump. Seriously! Keep reading to find out more.
Alec’s Impersonation Was So Good, He Was Mistaken as the Real Thing
We all knew Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump impersonation was good, but we didn’t realize it was so good that he would actually get mistaken for the real Donald trump.
Baldwin’s ratings on the show beat the ratings from when Trump hosted in 2015, and as if he didn’t need any more validation, it turns out that a Dominican newspaper mistakenly published a photo of Alec Baldwin impersonating Donald Trump instead of the real Donald Trump. El Nacional has since apologized for the flub, but can you really blame them? We prefer looking at Alec Baldwin, too.
His Portrayal of Trump Led to an Increase in Viewers
Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump is being heralded as the thing to save SNL (if SNL was struggling to get viewers in the first place). With so much controversy in the news, which is especially worrying considering that Trump’s only been in office for around 3 weeks, SNL has more material than ever before (and also more viewers).
SNL’s current season – season 42 – has the best viewership in over 20 seasons. The program is up 22 percent in total viewers since last year garnering 10.6 million vs. 2016’s 8.7 million. The show’s political commentary has been so successful that NBC is thinking about making a 30-minute spinoff of “Weekend Update” to air on Thursday nights.
Of Course, Donald Trump Wasn’t Pleased
While most SNL viewers are tuning in just to see Alec Baldwin’s impersonation, there’s one viewer who’s really not pleased. Donald Trump is pretty furious with how the series has depicted him and his staff.
According to The Washington Post, Trump was “rattled” by Steve Bannon’s depiction (he was shown as a grim reaper) and hated the fact that Press Secretary Sean Spicer was played by Melissa McCarthy because she is a woman. Trump has called out the show as “not funny” and a “hit job,” but was particularly rattled by these two skits.
Steve Bannon as a Grim Reaper
While most of progressive America and much of conservative America that does not approve of the president was leaning over in stitches after seeing White House chief strategist Steve Bannon portrayed as the Grim Reaper earlier this month, Trump was absolutely furious.
In the iconic skit, the boney Bannon manipulates Trump into making wildly inappropriate phone calls to world leaders including Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At the end of each conversation, Alec Baldwin’s Trump yelled “Prepare to go to war!” and hung up. The cold open was particularly poignant because it followed news that Trump abruptly ended his call with the Australian prime minister and reportedly said it was “the worst call by far.”
Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer
Melissa McCarthy, the funny woman heralded for her work on Bridesmaids and Tammy, returned to SNL with a hilarious, spot-on, gender-bending impersonation of Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In the hilarious cold open, McCarthy donned a short wig and an oversized suit and look surprisingly close to how Sean Spicer actually looks. The skit joked about Spicer’s (or “Spicey’s” as McCarthy nicknames herself) gum chewing and tendency to spout misinformation.
The skit made a powerful statement about Trump’s immigration ban when McCarthy condescendingly explained “extreme vetting” by holding up a blonde Barbie and saying she was “okay because she’s blonde.” She then held up the Disney Princess Moana and said “We’re going to read her emails and if we don’t like the answers, and we won’t, then boom! Guantanamo Bay.” Needless to say, Trump was really aggravated with her portrayal, though Spicer took it all with a grain of salt.
Alec Baldwin Promised He’d Stop Playing Trump under One Condition
When Alec Baldwin started impersonating Donald Trump while he was still on his campaign trail, Trump took to Twitter (is anyone surprised?) to slam the show.
“Just tried watching Saturday Night Live – unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad.”
Alec Baldwin was really ready to stop hurting Trump’s apparently fragile ego and offered to stop doing the impression under one condition. Trump had to release all of his tax returns.” Release your tax returns and I’ll stop. Ha,” he tweeted. Fortunately for SNL viewers everywhere, Trump never did such a thing and we get to enjoy Alec’s impression for seasons to come.
SNL Comment on Trump’s Twitter Use
One of SNL’s most poignant political skits of the last few weeks happens to be their commentary on Donald Trump’s Twitter use. In the skit, Alec Baldwin reprises his role as POTUS and Kate McKinnon plays a hysterical Kellyanne Conway (which we’ll thankfully get more of later).
In the skit, Trump begins retweeting a random kid in high school during a security briefing and says “God, Seth seems so cool. His Twitter bio says he wants to make America great again.” Kate McKinnon may play an enchanting Kellyanne Conway during the skit, but she’s definitely not a fan of Trump’s social media habits. She has said in the past that she believes Trump tweets so much to “distract the media from his business conflicts and the scary people in his cabinet.” Burn.
Kellyanne Conway’s Day Off
Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is undoubtedly busy. Who even knows the last time she had a day off?
Conway is known for looking pretty tired and quickly thrown-together in her media appearances, as well as saying some questionable things. This is exactly why SNL’s skit about Kellyanne Conway’s day off is so powerful. Some actually argue that Conway is, in fact, a distraction. She’s perhaps a way for the regime to tell the public, “Look at her! She’s blonde! She says really crazy things that are clearly untrue! Watch her!” And while they have us all watching her, they are off to the side doing truly scary things behind the scenes.
Bern Your Enthusiasm Tackles Race (and Germ) Issues
Before Donald Trump was ever elected, SNL was already ramping up their political content by covering stories related to the ongoing presidential race. This is when they brilliantly cast Larry David as Bernie Sanders.
In the skit, a Bernie Sanders rally turns into an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm when David refuses to shake Leslie Jones’ hand after she coughs in it. David says, “I am running for president. I do not shake disgusting hands,” and Jones loses it. Of course, since Jones’ character is black, Larry David’s Sanders is accused of racism. Hilarity ensues.
Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
SNL has come up with some hysterical political skits within our current election, but they also kind of nailed it when they took on Sarah Palin’s presidential campaign.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are an undeniable comedy powerhouse, but when they took on the roles of Sarah Palin and Katie Couric respectively, it was pure magic. Fey’s Palin is so incredibly spot on, it’s almost as good as Baldwin’s Trump. In the skit, she talks about her trip to New York City and a confused Katie Couric just blinks and sternly stares at the presidential candidate. Perhaps the best part of the skit is when Palin is asked what she actually plans to do in office. Palin, rather seriously, asks to “use her lifeline” and “phone a friend” as if she’s on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Hillary Clinton Bar Talk
Hillary Clinton was obviously frustrated with what was happening in 2016’s political election. Let’s be real – she won the popular vote but still didn’t get to be president. SNL brilliantly tackled Clinton’s frustration in the skit “Hillary Clinton Bar Talk.”
In the skit, Kate McKinnon plays a pretty glorious Hillary Clinton who’s sitting at a bar talking about her campaign woes. The twist is the fact that real Hillary Clinton (who’s a good sport about the whole thing) plays a bartender named Val. Clinton and McKinnon make a few witty whips about Clinton’s campaign struggles and couple brilliantly self-aware comments about the cool, young image Clinton tries to put off.
Hillary Clinton’s Third Debate with Donald Trump
By the time Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump got to their third debate, it was pretty clear the pair were far from friends. The friendly opponents weren’t even every friendly and it looked like it took all of Hillary’s effort to not roll her eyes at everything Trump said – especially as he continuously cut her off.
In this very politically aware skit, Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin reprise their roles as Clinton and Trump respectively. The pair duke it out over topics like reproductive rights and have a bunch of sharp zingers. McKinnon’s line about women’s issues is pretty iconic. “What two better people are there to talk about women’s issues – me, a woman who has had a child and has taken birth control, and him, a man who is a child and whose face is birth control,” she remarks.
Melania Trump famously defended her husband’s comments when a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape showed him bragging about sexually assaulting women. SNL decided to use his disgusting comments to their advantage and made a skit featuring a tired Melania growing sick of Trump’s negative press.
The skit portrays five of the most important women in Trump’s life – Melania, Ivanka and Tiffany Trump, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and Apprentice contestant Omarosa on black and white film, sitting in a limousine. The entire skit is a spoof of Beyoncé’s critically acclaimed album Lemonade, and the lyrics repeat “I’m not sorry.” Basically, it’s an SNL classic.
The Vice Presidential Debate
SNL did an excellent job at spoofing the Vice Presidential debate. The skit comes after Trump’s leaked “Access Hollywood” tape, and show Tim Kaine and Mike Pence duking it out over Trump’s comments. The skit is filled with the funny, hyper-aware quips we love about SNL’s political commentary.
“Hello, I’d like to thank you both for being here,” says the Debate’s host. “And also say that you look exactly like a before and after Rogaine ad.” Alec Baldwin’s Trump then makes an appearance on CNN to respond to his comments and shocks audiences when he repeats the infamous “grab her by the [expletive]” phrase that Trump actually said.
A Hillary Christmas
Saturday Night Live’s Christmas skit “A Hillary Christmas” brings back Tina Fey’s iconic Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler’s 2008-era Hillary Clinton.
Present day Hillary is tackled by Kate McKinnon, and Amy Poehler’s Clinton plays McKinnon’s ghost of Christmas past. The pair joke about Benghazi and McKinnon’s Hillary calls Bernie Sanders a “human Birkenstock” and admits “Mama’s got this presidency in the bag.” If only she knew. This is one of the few skits where you can tell the actors are having trouble holding back their actual laughter. When Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin shows up, Kate McKinnon almost loses it. The entire performance is iconic.
Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton Open
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are an epic comedy duo that there’s not a better pair we could possibly think of to play both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. In Saturday Night Live’s cold open, Hillary and Palin speak together about the 2008 election.
“I was so excited when I was told Senator Clinton and I would be addressing you tonight,” says Fey’s Palin. “And I was told I would be addressing you alone,” says Poehler’s Clinton. The pair spends the skit addressing the “very ugly role sexism is playing in the campaign” which is an issue Clinton admits she’s “surprised people suddenly care about.” The skit is so accurate that it’s really hard not to laugh.
Chris Christie Is a “Sad, Desperate Potato”
When Chris Christie began endorsing Donald Trump, the media definitely noticed how defeated and frankly, sort of frightened, the New Jersey governor looked standing behind him. Of course, leave it to Saturday Night Live to translate this into comedy gold.
In the skit “CNN Election Center Cold Open” Chris Christie stand behinds Donald Trump (unfortunately before Alec Baldwin took over the role) and looks absolutely terrified. When addressed by the future president, Christie actually ends up quoting Oliver Twist, and says “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Please, sir, may I have another?” Trump calls him a “sad, desperate potato” which is pretty much what the American public had been thinking.
Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks
While this skit doesn’t feature any of America’s most infamous politicians, it explores race relations between Trump supporters and people of color. The whole point of the skit is to prove that Trump supporters, who are often depicted as racist by the media, are not so different from the people of color they look down upon.
Tom Hanks plays a hillbilly Trump supporter in his best role since Sully. Donned in a “Make America Great Again” cap, he says “They told me a fella can win some money, so let’s win some money. Git-r-done.” The Jeopardy contestants field questions about Caitlyn Jenner, Tyler Perry movies (which Hanks loves because it helps him “laugh and pray” in 90 minutes). In the final category, “Lives That Matter,” Keenan Thompson (who plays host Darnell Hayes) simply says, “It was good while it lasted.” This is one of the most culturally relevant SNL sketches of all time.