Tag Archives: saturday night live

Top 5: Saturday Night Live Presidential Impersonators

Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell, George W. Bush

Today is Presidents’ Day here in America, where we remember our leaders, long for the days of statesmen past and stare with horror at the contenders for 2016.  What helps Americans deal with absurd politicians?  Merciless humor.  From Mark Twain to Will Rogers and on to Saturday Night Live, political satire is an ingrained part of the American psyche.  We don’t exactly require our presidents to be funny, but they’d better be able to take a joke.

Chevy Chase, Saturday Night Live, Gerald Ford

Saturday Night Live, over it’s four decades plus of sketch comedy, has produced some of the funniest political humor of the century.  It’s impersonators of candidates have literally impacted elections.  After John McCain’s disastrous choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate in 2008, SNL’s Tina Fey so accurately and witheringly mocked the former Alaska Governor that both she and McCain ended up going on the show to try to stem the damage (didn’t work).  SNL never really got a handle on Obama.  Aside from his halting speech pattern, they never seemed to get an angle on him.  The current cast is pretty weak, so I don’t think we’re going to see anything as glorious as Fey’s Palin, Amy Poehler’s Hillary Clinton, Darrell Hammond’s Al Gore, just to name a few brilliant impersonations that didn’t achieve the Oval.  Here are my five favorites over the course of the show, and their best work.

1. Phil Hartman (Ronald Reagan & Bill Clinton)

4. Chevy Chase (Gerald Ford)

5. Dan Aykroyd (Richard Nixon & Jimmy Carter)

R.I.P. Don Pardo (1918 – 2014); SNL Will Never Sound the Same

300px-SNL1980s

It’s unsettling how true it is that deaths come in threes.  Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and now legendary TV voice Don Pardo have all left us in a week.  Pardo was the voice of Saturday Night Live for every season but one, continuing with the show long after he’d retired from NBC.  I can’t hear anyone else introducing the guest host.  It doesn’t seem right.  Full obituary from The Wrap below. Continue reading R.I.P. Don Pardo (1918 – 2014); SNL Will Never Sound the Same

My Favorite Scene: Newsradio Season 2 (1996) “Bill’s Cane”

One of the most tragic celebrity deaths of my lifetime has been the senseless murder of Phil Hartman.  Of the Saturday Night Live alums to die far, far before their time, I believe Hartman was actually the most talented.  He wasn’t as explosive as Belushi, but his talent for mimicry and his comedic timing were peerless.  After he left SNL, he was the anchor for the most underrated sitcom of the 1990’s: Newsradio.  The cast has nearly all gone on to star in other shows (and also Joe Rogan and Andy Dick were there).

My favorite episode is in the second season when for no reason whatsoever, Bill McNeil (Phil Hartman’s egotistical anchorman) decides to adopt a cane as an affectation, slowly driving the station manager (Dave Foley) completely insane.  It always makes me laugh and makes me remember what a comedic gift Hartman was to us for the time we had him.

Newsradio, Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Phil Hartman, Joe Rogan, Maura Tierney, Khandi Alexander, Phil Hartman

Movie Review: Runner, Runner (2013)

Ben Aflleck, Runner Runner

It’s odd that I would even watch a movie starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlike because 5 years ago, they were two of my least favorite celebrities period.  However, Affleck through his outstanding (should have won an Oscar) directing and Timberlake through his appearances on Saturday Night Life, where he’s become this generation’s Steve Martin, have both gotten me to like them, damn them. Continue reading Movie Review: Runner, Runner (2013)

Top 5: Saturday Night Live Guest Hosts

Top 5

Saturday Night Live has become an American TV institution as it goes into its 39th season.  It’s not just a comedy show, but a showcase for burgeoning musical talent and the home for the most influential political satire, arguably, in our nation’s history.  The show is only as good as the cast and the cast right now is….bad.  Take away Jay Pharaoh and it’s a desert island of talent.  But that’s ok.  It’ll come back.

The thing about SNL is that every time the show seems on the brink of obscurity or loses a huge cast member, a new cast gels and the show goes on a run.  We’d gotten spoiled because the last two casts pretty seamlessly transitioned from the Will Ferrell era to the Tina Fey era and then to Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and company.  The show’s been consistently good for about 15 years.  But there have been dark ages before.  The year after the original cast left (John Belushi, Dan Akroyd,  Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, etc.) was a dark, dark, dark year.  The show nearly tanked.  But then Eddie Murphy came along and off we went.

The variable each week is the host.  Hosting SNL is a celebrity rite of passage and lots of people have trotted down the steps to do a really bad opening monologue, but there are some that stick.  That really stick.  Some stick so much that they just keep showing up even when they’re not hosting.  Lots of people think Steve Martin was part of the original cast because he hosted and just showed up so many times that he held the record for most times hosting at 15 (not counting the dozens of times he showed up to do one sketch).  Then came Alec Baldwin.  He and Steve have had a battle over the record for years and in 2011, Baldwin hosted his 16th time, taking the lead (Steve Martin showed up when he tied AND when he passed him).  In recent years, Justin Timberlake and Jon Hamm have shown surprising comedic chops on the show both as hosts and as frequent drop-ins (NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams also seems to be a frustrated comedian given how often he pops up).

It’s tough to differentiate between “who is the best?” when you get into a select echelon of hosts.  So this is a very loose ranking of some of the most talented performers to make themselves part of the history of the show.  By the way, in case you’re wondering, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl is the record holder for musical guest at 13 appearances.  Just as a note, trying to find the SNL clip you’d most want for these guys….not easy.  So, you’re getting what you’re getting!  Go watch it on Netflix or Hulu; they’ve got every episode.

1. Steve Martin

2. Alec Baldwin

3. Justin Timberlake

4. Tom Hanks

5. Christopher Walken

I’d be remiss if I didn’t feature his part of the Cowbell sketch

* Honorable Mention – Jon Hamm

Saturday Night Live, SNL