SNL 40: Political Animals

Today, Awards Daily TV takes a look at some of the greatest political skits offered during its 40-year run. The clips run the gamut from Chevy Chase’s take on Gerald Ford to Tina Fey’s triumph as Sarah Palin. In some eyes, Saturday Night Live has recently over-relied on their political sketches – especially problematic with The Daily Show and politicians themselves often upstaging SNL‘s players – but there’s no denying the power of a well-executed political satire.

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Gerald Ford

Chevy Chase doesn’t really look like Gerald Ford. He didn’t really sound like Gerald Ford either. No one on SNL in that era really did, so Chase brilliantly made his own “Gerald Ford” persona – a bumbling fool who dropped papers or knocked over anything in his path. Chase even made the Ford bits a classic pratfall gag, something that later caused him great physical pain. Still, the bits are legendary even if they bare almost no resemblance to the real deal.

Bush-Clinton-Perot Debate

The 1992 Presidential Election is famous for delivering (what was once thought to be) the most viable third party Presidential candidate in recent political history in Ross Perot. It is also famous for inspiring the start of what is arguably SNL‘s greatest political skit run – the late, really great Phil Hartman’s turn as Bill Clinton. Hartman so perfectly nailed Clinton’s legendary Southern charisma that he overshadowed Dana Carvey’s brilliant double turn as both President George Bush and “diminutive Texas businessman” Ross Perot. Toss in Kevin Nealon’s always reliable Sam Donaldson impression, and you might have SNL‘s single greatest political sketch.

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton

It remains to be seen what SNL will do with the upcoming Presidential primary season and with Hillary Clinton’s potential second run at the White House, but little could top the imagined interaction between Clinton (Amy Poehler) and Sarah Palin (Tina Fey). Poehler never really looked like Clinton, but she nailed Clinton’s disgust with anything blocking her path to political power – particularly that haughty “You don’t bother me” laugh. As good as she was, Fey seemed born to play Sarah Palin. The resemblance between the two women feels uncanny thanks to perfect hair and wardrobe, but it’s Fey’s Palinesqe (if that can even be a word) accent and plucky enthusiasm despite a penchant for saying idiotic things that probably won her the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.

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