The Best Saturday Night Live Political Impersonations

by | October 23, 2016 | Comments

Saturday Night Live, episode 1705 - Alec Baldwin as Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon as Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton (Will Heath/NBC)

The 2016 election season has blessed the American public with a new crop of Saturday Night Live political impersonations that give us reason to reassess the longstanding “best of all time” list. Below are a few of our new favorites along with some enduring classics.

1. Sarah Palin as played by Tina Fey

When 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain tapped Palin as his vice presidential running mate, her resemblance to former SNL cast member Fey was too strong for anyone — including the actress herself — to ignore. Fey took on the role of Palin for the September 2008 premiere of season 34. Her first skit, opposite Amy Poehler’s Hillary Clinton, won Fey a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. “Fey reprised the role four times leading up to the 2008 election, delivering SNL its highest ratings since 1994 – and its most political relevance ever,” noted Rolling Stone in its list “50 Greatest ‘Saturday Night Live’ Sketches of All Time.” Fey returned most recently in January 2016 following Palin’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
More: 8 videos at

2. George H.W. Bush as played by Dana Carvey

Nominated six years in a row for the Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program Emmy award, Carvey finally won the award in 1993. HLN in 2012 chose Carvey’s Bush Sr. as its top presidential impersonation, in part, on Bush’s own approval of the comedian’s portrayal, at one point he even impersonated Carvey’s impersonation of him.
More: 21 videos at

3. George W. Bush as played by Will Ferrell

An SNL cast member from 1995–2002, Ferrell was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program in 2001 — his impersonation of “43” being only one of the versatile comedian’s many and various political impersonations, including U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and even U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. “The impression was so good,” noted Thrillist of his Bush impersonation, “it had a life after the show, inspiring Ferrell to write and star in You’re Welcome America, a Broadway play with Bush as the protagonist.”
More: 20 videos at

4. Donald Trump as played by Alec Baldwin

News of Baldwin’s casting as Trump in the new season of SNL delighted fans on social media. The impersonation’s popularity with viewers showed no signs of slowing by this weekend’s show, hosted by actor Tom Hanks, with the show posting the highest overnights since Oct. 25, 2008, just prior to the 2008 presidential election, Deadline reported.
More: 5 videos at

5. Bill Clinton as played by Darrell Hammond

SNL has gotten huge mileage out of Hammond’s Clinton. The comedian, who was a regular from 1995-2006 (the longest tenure of any cast member), continues impersonating the former president in cameos. Hammond also portrayed the most celebrities on the show: 107. He took over as announcer on the show following the death of Don Pardo in 2014.
More: 60 videos at

6. Bernie Sanders as played by Larry David

The resemblance between Curb Your Enthusiasm star David and Democratic presidential candidate Sanders is so strong that the comedian’s appearance on SNL as Sanders was pretty much a given. SNL co-head writer Rob Klein told in February that David’s appearance came about during the first primary debate, when SNL writer Sarah Schneider noted that Sanders was the obvious choice to appear in the skit, while at the same time the show’s creator Lorne Michaels was being told over dinner that Sanders should appear, and, most notably, David offered his services via his agent. “It was a case of massive parallel thinking,” Klein said. “Within, like, 10 minutes, it went from ‘Oh, that would be so funny if it were Larry David’ to ‘Larry David is on the phone with Lorne making a hotel reservation.’ It was pretty great.”
More: 7 videos at

7. Richard Nixon as played by Dan Aykroyd

U.S. Sen. Al Franken revealed in The Washington Post that the 1976 skit “Nixon’s Final Days,” which he wrote with fellow SNL writer and performer Tom Davis, was one of his favorite sketches. “You almost feel sorry for Nixon when Danny says to Lincoln’s portrait: ‘Abe, you were lucky. They shot you!’” Franken wrote. “‘Why, Abe? Why me?’ he continues. The portrait’s lips move, saying, ‘Because you’re such a schmuck.’ At least, in our script. But the censors made us change it to ‘dip’ because, they insisted, ‘schmuck’ means ‘penis’ in Yiddish. This was 1976, and we lost that one.” The sketch appears on numerous “best of” lists of SNL’s greatest skits, including landing at No. 48 on Rolling Stone’s list of “50 Greatest Saturday Night Live Sketches of All Time.” Unfortunately, video of that sketch isn’t currently available, but Aykroyd‘s Nixon can be seen in other videos on NBC’s site.
More: 3 videos at

8. Jimmy Carter as played by Dan Aykroyd

Aykroyd captures President Carter’s genial Southern charm in a skit titled “Ask President Carter,” fielding unscreened questions from callers, including one from a nervous teen on a bad acid trip. “Just remember, you’re a living organism on this planet, and you’re very safe. You’ve just taken a heavy drug. Now just relax, stay inside, and listen to some music, OK? Do you have any Allman Brothers?” He also takes a call from a “former White House employee” looking for a stash of cash in small bills he left behind in the presidential bedroom.
More: 5 videos at

9. Rev. Jesse Jackson as played by Eddie Murphy

In a 1984 interview, presidential candidate Jackson referred to Jews as “Hymies” and New York City as “Hymietown.” Murphy then delivered a skit skewering the reverend. “Ironic impersonation had a deadly effect,” the New York Times editorial board wrote in response to the controversy. “One of the prime qualities that candidates display in a campaign is how they react to pressure. Do they have the character, or at least the deftness, to manage a crisis well? This was not a crisis, only a flap, yet for almost two weeks Mr. Jackson bungled it.”
More: 1 video at

10. Hillary Clinton as played by Amy Poehler

Sure, Fey’s Palin made a splash and scored an Emmy, but Poehler’s straight-woman role as Clinton anchored this September 2008 skit, providing a nice, sober balance. Plus, Poehler had been regularly impersonating Clinton from 2003-2008 and then again in later guest appearances. Rolling Stone named the skit 16th in its list of the greatest SNL skits ever.
More: 11 videos at

11. Hillary Clinton as played by Kate McKinnon

McKinnon’s bug-eyed Clinton teeters between disbelief and mania — managing to capture broad-stroke Democratic and Republican perceptions of the candidate simultaneously. Her appearance in SNL’s first presidential-nominee debate skit opposite Baldwin’s Trump kicked off the newest season on Oct. 1, 2016.
More: 16 videos at

12. Ross Perot as played by Dana Carvey

Others have tried — notably Cheri Oteri — but Carvey nailed it as the 1992 independent presidential candidate.
More: 10 videos at

13. Ronald Reagan as played by Phil Hartman

In 1986 SNL season 12 skit “President Reagan, Mastermind,” Hartman presents President Reagan as feeble and dim to the public, but a brilliant polyglot with deep knowledge of world affairs and an evil master schemer behind the scenes.
More: 5 videos at

14. Barack Obama as played by Jay Pharoah

Longtime SNL fans will remember well Fred Armisen playing it cool as president-elect Obama after the 2008 election, but Pharoah has perfected the current president.
More: 22 videos at

15. Bob Dole as played by Norm Macdonald

Macdonald’s pen-grasping, droning presidential candidate was maybe not the most flattering portrait of decorated World War II veteran Dole, but is regularly cited as one of the show’s best political impersonations.
More: 11 videos at

And More

Saturday Night Live - Maya Rudolph as CONDOLEEZZA RICE (

So many stellar performances. Here are a few others:

Gerald Ford as played by Chevy Chase
Dick Cheney as played by Hammond
John McCain as played by Hammond
Al Gore as played also by Hammond
Joe Biden as played by Jason Sudeikis
Condoleezza Rice as played by Maya Rudolph
Michael Dukakis as played by Jon Lovitz

What’d we miss? We know you want to tell us. So do it in the comments!

Tag Cloud

Musicals breaking bad Starz unscripted 2017 Writers Guild of America richard e. Grant Best and Worst Country SXSW Nat Geo Brie Larson TNT Winners Heroines Cannes BBC America Lionsgate The Walking Dead Shudder TBS Reality Competition OWN green book Television Academy FOX FXX Film Festival ghosts dc tv talk cinemax comic Biopics latino Summer President transformers Photos jamie lee curtis comiccon DC streaming service First Look LGBT Fall TV christmas movies Mystery Freeform romance Disney streaming service cancelled TV series IFC canceled Red Carpet NBC Superheroe Sony Pictures 20th Century Fox talk show cooking toy story sequel GLAAD Thanksgiving Christmas Comedy Rom-Com MCU aliens Crunchyroll Holiday Mary Tyler Moore X-Men Mudbound Rocky crime drama Ghostbusters Music romantic comedy Mary poppins canceled TV shows ITV ABC award winner mockumentary Family Pop Disney Plus AMC Tomatazos anime Grammys Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Adult Swim crossover MTV USA Network serial killer Amazon TCM book sitcom south america Infographic spinoff National Geographic Classic Film technology TV renewals Marvel Studios Black Mirror docudrama The Purge Sundance SundanceTV sports Rock Marathons spain Marvel Television facebook Spike Star Trek Esquire TCA YA Calendar supernatural Disney Musical zombies crime thriller Hallmark Christmas movies Toys Martial Arts CNN Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TLC Hallmark Walt Disney Pictures Comics on TV disaster See It Skip It American Society of Cinematographers hist Mindy Kaling game of thrones Syfy CBS All Access Action Interview Comedy Central Sneak Peek casting RT21 cops Horror screenings NYCC Drama DirecTV BBC First Reviews doctor who Apple Paramount Elton John Teen kids Lifetime A24 Quiz Election halloween cartoon Emmy Nominations Columbia Pictures cancelled cancelled television Warner Bros. Rocketman elevated horror Trophy Talk Fantasy free movies thriller Food Network Peacock YouTube Red WGN social media Apple TV Plus Song of Ice and Fire werewolf USA Mary Poppins Returns El Rey Podcast space ratings Pixar Ellie Kemper Watching Series Marvel Trivia Premiere Dates Acorn TV streaming anthology CMT dceu E! Arrowverse Ovation blaxploitation HBO Max golden globes Chernobyl science fiction television Certified Fresh teaser psycho nature movies biography 24 frames Amazon Prime Video 2018 war cancelled TV shows Tumblr independent dramedy Animation Sundance Now renewed TV shows comics Nickelodeon Schedule justice league Lucasfilm Britbox children's TV Star Wars Disney Channel Valentine's Day GoT rotten movies we love HBO robots Amazon Prime Lifetime Christmas movies harry potter 2015 cults Awards animated MSNBC political drama DC Comics Women's History Month VH1 joker Turner Classic Movies YouTube Premium 2016 Extras politics cars singing competition 2020 adaptation Trailer PBS spanish language Opinion festivals ESPN police drama Comic Book Western Netflix Christmas movies cats San Diego Comic-Con Nominations Fox News Shondaland adventure theme song dragons 007 VICE E3 foreign zero dark thirty miniseries discovery 2019 Cartoon Network DC Universe Masterpiece period drama Superheroes mutant batman series Spectrum Originals Film Netflix TV medical drama Winter TV Character Guide The Witch indie travel IFC Films YouTube Polls and Games finale 45 vampires crime revenge Spring TV Turner true crime Set visit Stephen King psychological thriller Tarantino APB Cosplay Holidays TCA 2017 based on movie Super Bowl Logo WarnerMedia CW Seed Pirates FX Reality Pride Month video CBS Kids & Family natural history game show Disney+ Disney Plus TIFF quibi Year in Review The CW SDCC witnail Oscars slashers Box Office spider-man LGBTQ diversity Creative Arts Emmys History Epix Anna Paquin Dark Horse Comics Pet Sematary binge Vudu New York Comic Con boxoffice Countdown Video Games spy thriller GIFs zombie composers PaleyFest Binge Guide Universal what to watch RT History strong female leads stand-up comedy Captain marvel DGA The Arrangement A&E Emmys Hulu historical drama TruTV BET 21st Century Fox TV Land ABC Family hispanic Bravo blockbuster Paramount Network Apple TV+ Showtime 71st Emmy Awards Sci-Fi versus Awards Tour Crackle