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The SNL Political Humor Juggernaut Keeps on Rolling

In a seemingly inevitable appearance, Tina Fey came back to Saturday Night Live this weekend to reprise her role as Sarah Palin. She crushed it, obviously. Fey’s Palin impression is practically more famous than Sarah Palin herself. After all, it was this slew of impressions back in 2008 that brought Palin more notoriety than any vice presidential nomination could have provided.

SNL has always been a magnate when it comes to political humor. It all started in 1975, when Chevy Chase used his physical humor talents to literally bring down the house as Gerald Ford. Even during the slower seasons when critics claimed the phrase, “Saturday Night Dead!,” SNL has always been able to look forward to the next presidential election to bring the ratings back to life. Simply put: Political humor is SNL’s greatest strength. For your viewing pleasure, I have chosen a handful of their funniest presidential sketches to resurrect. While these may not be the “greatest of all time” they’re the ones that made me laugh the hardest, and I’d like to think that holds some weight.

Dana Carvey as George H. W. Bush

OK, I’m going to come out and say it. Dana Carvey is my favorite SNL cast member of all time. That’s high praise considering there have been more than 140 cast members over the years. This man is a genius, and I’m proud to say that he follows me on Twitter. Regardless of my love for him, the fact that he was able to make a man as plain as George H. W. Bush into the hilarious character seen in the sketch above is a feat that should not go unnoticed. He saw every little idiosyncrasy in Bush’s speaking habits and exaggerated them, making one of the greatest reoccurring impressions in SNL history. I think this 1990 sketch with its multitude of quotable lines might be sitting at the top of the Carvey/Bush totem pole.

Dan Aykroyd as Jimmy Carter

Here’s a hidden gem for you. I love Dan Aykroyd. In fact, I'd say he’s up there with Dana Carvey in my eyes. Aykroyd’s late '70s Jimmy Carter impression is under-appreciated—much like the former president himself—but is equally as hilarious as any of the other presidential impressions. In this sketch, Carter (Aykroyd) talks a man down from a bad acid trip over the phone. If that’s not click bait, I don’t know what is.

Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton

Darrell Hammond’s Bill Clinton impression is a joy to watch. A master of impressions and the longest-serving SNL cast member to date, Hammond is someone who can bring the laughs every time he’s in a scene. While his Bill Clinton (a character that he will be reprising this season) is spot on, Phil Hartman does it better. This man only played Clinton for a few years before Hammond took over, but I thank the SNL gods (Lorne Michaels) that Hartman was given a chance. The signature December 1992 McDonald’s sketch above embodies the whole Clinton/Hartman experience. I am sure that there was uncontrollable laughter flowing from every SNL-watching household in America that December night—because this sketch was huge. Clinton (Hartman) is using foreign policy to allow him to commandeer McNuggets. It’s always nice to stumble upon a Clinton parody that isn’t focused on the Lewinsky scandal because there is so much more to Clinton that makes him a hilarious person.

Will Ferrell as George W. Bush / Darrell Hammond as Ale Gore

It was hard to pick just one of Will Ferrell’s stints as Dubya. This 2000 cold open co-stars Darrell Hammond as Ale Gore so naturally, it floated to the top. After a lengthy, lugubrious opening argument by Gore (Hammond), Bush (Ferrell) responds with “I don’t know what that was all about. But I will tell you this: don’t mess with Texas.” Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the genius of Will Ferrell’s Bush in one line. Despite this, I must say that Hammond is the MVP of this sketch. I cannot sit still as he goes on and on about the “dang lock box.”

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Managing editor. Lover of history and all things 1960s. Lives by the lessons of The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "Don't dream it, be it."