SNL Season Premiere: Jay Pharoah Swears In as Obama, MacFarlane Makes a Splash as Ryan Lochte
Saturday Night Live returned for its season premiere in full election mode. The exits of high-profile cast members Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott weren't immediately felt thanks to strong impressions from the likes of Jay Pharoah as President Barack Obama and Bill Hader as Republican National Convention speaker, and chair enthusiast, Clint Eastwood.
Fall TV: Get the scoop on all your favorite returning shows
In the show's cold open, Fred Armisen officially passed the baton of impersonating the President to Pharoah by playing the press secretary who introduced him at a conference. "Wouldn't want his job, right?" he quipped before Pharoah took the stage. Although Pharoah's impression wasn't flawless, it certainly came closer to sounding like Obama than Armisen's past efforts, which have received mixed reviews at bets. In particular, Pharoah was most effective at mimicking the president's pauses and other verbal tics.
However, Pharoah — and Armisen before him — failed to create a comedic portrait of our chief executive. Even though Phil Hartman and Will Ferrell didn't always look or sound exactly like former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, their performances became iconic because they offered a unique characterization and a strong point of view about the men they were playing. Here's hoping Pharoah can do the same as the election cycle wears on.
The cold open also saw Jason Sudeikis reprise his role as Republican candidate Mitt Romney, with Taran Killiam stepping into the shoes of Romney's running mate Paul Ryan:
Host Seth MacFarlane, fresh off the box office success of Ted, made his hosting debut and showed off the many voices inside his head during his monologue. That included many of his regular Family Guy characters, plus: George Takei, Kermit the Frog and Marty McFly. Oh, and did we mention he can sing?:
Although it may have been a few weeks past its expiration date, Hader brought something fresh to SNL's inevitable Eastwood sketch. The twist? Eastwood and his infamous empty chair go on a comedy tour!
SNL adds three featured players
However, Hader's best effort of the night came when he played a dark and intense Army vet with an equally dark and intense puppet:
MacFarlane also stepped into the speedo of Ryan Lochte to play the dim-but-beloved Olympian swimmer. In "Weekend Update" segment, MacFarlane's Lochte shared his Fall TV recommendations, which included Monkey Hospital (Animal Practice) and Goon (Go On). And what did Lochte have to say about MacFarlane's series, American Dad?:
And then there was a cameo by Korean rapper and YouTube sensation PSY performing his signature "Gangnam Style" dance:
What did you think of the SNL season premiere? Was MacFarlane a good host? Do you prefer Pharoah's impression of the President? Did you miss Wiig, Samberg and Elliott? Sound off below!