Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Look back at how SNL has poked fun at the White House

Jay Pharoah, Darrell Hammond, Amy Poehler, and Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
1 of 39 Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images, Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images, and Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Saturday Night Live's Best Political Impressions

In times of political turbulence, Saturday Night Live is there to give even the gloomiest situations a touch of levity -- or, at least, confirm just how ridiculous your news feeds really are with some deadpan reenactments. 

Over the years, the celebrated NBC sketch comedy series has become a particular must-watch for its takes on current events. From lampooning sitting presidents and their latest scandals to ribbing on candidates' most furious debates to picking apart other political figures who've made headlines, SNL's political impressions have become a hallmark of the series.

To celebrate the series finding a new streaming home at Peacock, which launches on Wednesday, July 15, here's a look back at some of the show's most impressive political impressions to date.

2 of 39 Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump

Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Alec Baldwin made his SNL debut as then-candidate Donald Trump, and throughout the Trump presidency which followed -- and despite saying he wants to retire the impression on multiple occasions -- Baldwin has been the go-to source for some orange glow funning (note: props are also due to Kenan Thompson and Leslie Jones for some great reimaginations of the role). It was enough to earn a few mean tweets, which is a strange accomplishment in and of itself. We'll never quite get the sketch about "finger chili" out of our minds.

3 of 39 Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer

It didn't take long for Donald Trump's term as POTUS to get surreal enough to make SNL mandatory viewing for comedic relief, and Melissa McCarthy was on-hand to handle one of the first too-ridiculous-to-be-true scandals of the administration. Shortly after Trump's inauguration, McCarthy appeared on the show as the then-press secretary Sean Spicer -- the first of many, many "McSpicey" moments -- to make fun of all that talk about crowd size.

4 of 39 Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Matt Damon as Brett Kavanaugh

The real-life confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh made for drop-everything viewing, and so did Matt Damon's hysterical cold open turn as the then-future Supreme Court justice. Damon, who is no stranger to Studio 8h, gamely leaned into the histrionics of Kavanaugh's testimony and single-handedly turned a tense political moment into some shrewd hilarity with his performance in the role. 

5 of 39 Rosalind O'Connor/NBC

Kenan Thompson as Clarence Thomas

Another noteworthy robe-wearer came by way of SNL's longest-running star Kenan Thompson, who offered some very spirited mockery of the strict conservatism of SCOTUS's Clarence Thomas. 

6 of 39 NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Brad Pitt as Dr. Anthony Fauci

During SNL's quarantine stretch of "SNL at Home" episodes, Brad Pitt appeared in his first-ever hosting stint and kicked things off with a cold open portrayal of the current administration's resident voice of reason and trust, Dr. Anthony Fauci. And even if the social distancing makeup availability wasn't enough to make Hollywood's prom king unrecognizable beneath the wig, his speech was so spot-on that even the straight-talking doc himself had to support the veracity of the monologue

7 of 39 Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris

Maya Rudolph also impressed with her "I was that girl" riffing on former presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris, which she played with an extra helping of calm assertiveness and earned the respect of the senator herself

8 of 39 NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Larry David as Bernie Sanders

After seeing how well Larry David has been able to impersonate former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, with his signature rasp and hand-waggling, it's no wonder the two turned out to be cousins

9 of 39 Kylie Billings/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump

Scarlett Johnasson also became a key player of the Trump administration cycle of SNL by portraying the (clear favorite) first daughter Ivanka Trump and coining her as "complicit." The real Ivanka Trump didn't quite understand the phrase, of course, but audiences at home knew exactly what she was talking about.  

10 of 39 Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Robert DeNiro as Robert Mueller

Another MVP of the recently recurring guest stars on Saturday Night Live was Robert De Niro, who bested even Kate McKinnon with his stoic and shark-like portrayal of the then-special counselor. 

11 of 39 Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren

Kate McKinnon is a major stand-out among the current Saturday Night Live cast thanks to her sheer versatility (more on this in the coming slides). The actress, who has won two Emmys for her work on the series, got to portray another presidential hopeful in Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who she had some fun with both on- and off-screen

12 of 39 Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions

The truth is, we could spend an entire slideshow dedicated to Kate McKinnon's most impressive political impressions, including her multiple appearances Lindsey Graham and Rudy Giuliani, but there's something especially delightful about her Forrest Gump with a mouth full of gumbo take on former senator-turned-former attorney general-turned-accidental Trump rival Jeff Sessions. 

13 of 39 Gianny Matias/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Beck Bennett as Mike Pence

With all due respect to Beck Bennett's many shirtless appearances as Vladimir Putin in recent seasons, what really makes him an essential player for SNL in the current political climate is his ability to wear just the right type of invisible ear muffs and blinders needed to nail his Mike Pence impression

14 of 39 Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Mikey Day and Alex Moffat as Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump

Also a regular source of much-needed comedy? Mikey Day and Alex Moffat as Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, Donald Trump's eldest sons who have become active faces in politics since their dad was elected and put them in charge of his businesses (supposedly). The comedic duo managed to eke out a very watchable running gag as the two brothers -- one of which claims to know it all, and the other who has to be entertained with children's toys and bubbles and such. 

15 of 39 NBC

Taran Killam and Cecily Strong as Donald and Melania Trump

Before Alec Baldwin became the Donald Trump du jour for Saturday Night Live amid the Trump Administration, Taran Killam donned the Don's wig for a very important PSA alongside Cecily Strong as Melania Trump -- a role she continues to master with her vixen-meets-deer-in-head-lights approach to the FLOTUS.

16 of 39 Hulu

Tina Fey as Gov. Sarah Palin

Tina Fey's uncanny physical resemblance to Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin all but required that the SNL vet would return to portray her once John McCain chose her as his running mate in the 2008 election. Self-described as "one part practiced folksy, one part sassy, and a little dash of high school bitchy," Fey successfully portrayed the Alaska governor's podium turns during one of the show's best-ever runs. - Shaun Harrison

17 of 39 NBC

Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton

Initially, Amy Poehler played Hillary Rodham Clinton as an annoyingly overconfident, campaign-polished talking head in a hair helmet and a rainbow of pantsuits. After the senator's Democratic primary loss, though, a darker FauxHillary emerged. - Shaun Harrison

18 of 39 Hulu

Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton

OK, OK, one more Kate McKinnon plug is in order here because living up to the Hillary Clinton standard set by Amy Poehler is no easy task, but Kate McKinnon put her own wonderful spin on the then-presidential candidate. Poehler infused her Clinton with a simmering sense of rage after the former secretary of state's loss in the 2008 election, and McKinnon took that notion and brought it to a boiling point around the 2016 election. That Love, Actually skit is still a relevant meme machine. - Shaun Harrison

19 of 39 NBC

Will Ferrell as President George W. Bush

Will Ferrell played George W. Bush as a dim-witted frat boy who stumbled into the Oval Office. Comparisons to Dana Carvey's other Bush impression are certainly valid, but Ferrell's mush-mouth take also featured a series of hilarious "patriotized" malapropisms to keep things truthy throughout his turn as Dubya.- Shaun Harrison

20 of 39 Alan Singer/NBCU Photo Bank

Dana Carvey as President George H.W. Bush

"It wouldn't be prudent" to overlook Dana Carvey's hysterical take on the elder President Bush, with its staccato strings of buzzwords ("make no mistake, stay the course, a thousand points of light"), obsessive finger pointing, and geeky hyena laugh. So... we're notgahdoit. - Shaun Harrison

21 of 39 Alan Singer/NBCU Photo Bank

Phil Hartman as President Bill Clinton

The polymathic Phil Hartman's version of Bill Clinton had a hoarse sincerity that masked a glutton with a healthy hankering for fast food and fast women. - Shaun Harrison

22 of 39 Hulu

Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton

Darrell Hammond may be SNL's MVP when it comes to political impressions (he also portrayed John McCain, Dick Cheney, and Al Gore), and his take on Bill Clinton was no exception. Stepping into Clinton's shoes after Phil Hartman's death in 1998, Hammond chose to emphasize Clinton's smarminess over his womanizing charm. Hammond has said he relied on a "vocal crinkle" to imitate the president's speaking style -- and a perfectly-timed thumb/lower lip bite doesn't hurt either. - Shaun Harrison

23 of 39 Mary Ellen Matthews/NBCU Photo Bank

Darrell Hammond as Vice President Al Gore

It is rumored that Darrell Hammond's impression of Al Gore was so accurate that the vice president's 2000 presidential campaign used it to prepare for the debates. The talented mimic's slow Southern diction and tendency to tell really boring stories distinguished it as another winner in Hammond's political pantheon. - Shaun Harrison

24 of 39 NBC

Darrell Hammond as Vice President Dick Cheney

Darrell Hammond's Dick Cheney was characterized by his defensive nature, creepy smile and his informal plainspokenness. In one notable skit in the wake of the Scooter Libby indictment, Cheney reassured the people that just because the Oval Office is filling up with smoke, it doesn't necessarily mean there's a fire. - Shaun Harrison

25 of 39 Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank

Darrell Hammond as Sen. John McCain

My friends, we already know that Hammond is a talented impressionist (see previous slides), and his personification of "McRage" is no exception. It's notable for its ragging on the senator's wide range of facial expressions and tendency to wander at town hall-style meetings, but one could argue that the actual Senator McCain has been far funnier on the show. - Shaun Harrison

26 of 39 Hulu

Jason Sudeikis as Mitt Romney

Jason Sudeikis was no stranger to playing the straight-and-narrow man on Saturday Night Live, but his portrayal of stiff white guys peaked with his depiction of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney leading up to the 2012 election. Romney's Achilles' heel during the campaign was the perception that he was an emotionless pragmatist, but in Sudeikis' version, he's really a softy who couldn't help but guzzle milk when he got upset. - Shaun Harrison

27 of 39 Hulu

Jay Pharoah as President Barack Obama

Jay Pharoah, who inherited the role of President Obama from Fred Armisen in 2012, is a master impressionist. While many SNL cast members opt to give the political figures they're depicting out-sized characteristics (think Kate McKinnon's rage-filled Hillary Clinton or Will Ferrell's dance enthusiast Janet Reno), Pharoah opted to play it straight with Obama. Much like the commander-in-chief himself, Pharoah came across as cool, calm, and collected, relying on a spot-on imitation of Obama's speaking style to pin the president down. - Shaun Harrison

28 of 39 Hulu

Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden

Joe Biden loves John McCain, but he's also dangerously unbalanced, according to Sudeikis' Biden. Armed with hair plugs and one hell of a set of fake choppers, Sudeikis portrayed the former VP's tendency to put his foot in his mouth without sounding like a condescending, ego-maniacal bully. And we think he nailed it! - Shaun Harrison

29 of 39 Norman Ng/Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank

Maya Rudolph as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Maya Rudolph's impression of Condoleezza Rice didn't make a lof of appearances on SNL, but during one senate confirmation hearing sketch in particular, she nailed the secretary of state's consistent toeing of the Bush Administration line and her pronounced, even speech patterns. - Shaun Harrison

30 of 39 courtesy NBCU Photo Bank

Chevy Chase as President Gerald Ford

What Chevy Chase's impression lacked in physical accuracy (he looks nothing like President Gerald Ford, of course) was more than made up for by Chase's trademark sight gags that presented Ford as a bumbling simpleton. One early skit ran with the subtitle "This is not a good impression of President Ford, but [noted impressionist] Rich Little won't work for scale." - Shaun Harrison

31 of 39 Hulu

Dana Carvey as Ross Perot

As if Ross Perot's presidential campaigns in the 1990s weren't already a joke on their own, Dana Carvey expertly steered them into absurd territory, portraying the Texas businessman as a fast-talking cowboy with a Napoleon complex. - Shaun Harrison

32 of 39 Hulu

Jon Lovitz as Mike Dukakis

One of the most disastrous presidential campaigns in history wasn't helped by Jon Lovitz's impression of Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis. The memorable sketch "Dukakis After Dark" underscored the disconnect between Dukakis and the general public, as well as the resigned acceptance of his inevitable loss. - Shaun Harrison

33 of 39 Hulu

Kristen Wiig as Michele Bachmann

Though Michelle Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign was short-lived, it was the gift that kept on giving for Saturday Night Live. Kristen Wiig scarcely had to do more than echo Bachmann's own words to generate laughs, but making Bachmann a fixture on the show rendered it nearly impossible to take anything coming out of the Tea Party seriously. - Shaun Harrison

34 of 39 Hulu

Kristen Wiig as Nancy Pelosi

Kristen Wiig's version of Nancy Pelosi turned the House speaker's buttoned-up public persona on its head. Like Will Ferrell's Janet Reno from a decade prior, Wiig's Pelosi showcased a seldom-seen side of the politician (in Pelosi's case, a BDSM-loving party girl), as well as the snarky commentary the real-life Pelosi probably wished she could have fired off at House Republicans. - Shaun Harrison 

35 of 39 Hulu

Will Ferrell as Janet Reno

When Will Ferrell put on a certain shoulder-padded blue dress, his resemblance to Janet Reno was as uncanny as it was unfortunate. Sketches like "Janet Reno's Fantasies" and "Janet Reno's Dance Party" skewered the former attorney general's dour persona -- but at the same time allowed her to show off a lighter side, when the real Reno (literally) crashed her own SNL dance party in 2001, on the day she left office. - Shaun Harrison

36 of 39 Hulu

Phill Hartman as Ronald Reagan

Phil Hartman's portrayal of Ronald Reagan as a duplicitous, Jekyll and Hyde-esque president -- a naïve idiot in front of the public, an evil mastermind behind closed doors -- was nothing short of brilliant. Though several SNL cast members, including Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid, tackled Reagan, it was Hartman who provided the definitive satirical version of the 40th president. - Shaun Harrison

37 of 39 Hulu

Dan Aykroyd as Jimmy Carter

In the skit "Ask President Carter," Dan Aykroyd honed in on Jimmy Carter's reputation as an empathetic Midwesterner and took it to new heights, having the president discuss issues like faulty equipment in a local post office and counsel a teen who was tripping on acid. - Shaun Harrison

38 of 39 Hulu

Norm McDonald as Bob Dole

Norm Macdonald sent up Bob Dole as a doddering, robotic old man whose monotone was no match for the charm of his rival, Bill Clinton. The real Dole took his punches good-naturedly though, and even appeared in the cold open of one episode in 1996, alongside MacDonald. - Shaun Harrison

39 of 39 Hulu

Chris Farley as Newt Gingrich

Though he was never known for his subtlety, Chris Farley turning Newt Gingrich into a blustering loudmouth was one of his most memorable contributions to Saturday Night Live -- and to Gingrich's later presidential campaign. The impression took Farley all the way to the House Republican Conference in 1995, where he delivered a speech in character as Gingrich (much to the then-speaker of the House's amusement). - Shaun Harrison