Peter Spiegel, Editor-in-Chief of the United States
This is how I prepared for tonight’s event: revisiting old Saturday Night Live parodies from previous presidential debates. Here are my top five:
– Chevy Chase as Jerry Ford –
He didn’t do anything to try and sound like the president, but Chase’s portrayal of Ford did as much to solidify the incumbent’s image as a slightly weak jock (Ford played football at the University of Michigan) as he did Ford’s own mistakes (see above). My favorite is when Chase-as-Ford is asked a complicated question about Jane Curtain’s unemployment, to which he replies, “I understood there would be no math.”
– Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz take over Bush-Dukakis –
Much has been written about Carvey’s portrayal of George HW Bush, an impression that Bush himself finally warmed to. What I had forgotten was how funny Lovitz was as Dukakis. The whole debate (starring Tom Hanks as the late ABC News presenter Peter Jennings) is hysterical, but my favorite moment is when Lovitz-as-Dukakis is asked to respond to a groping Carvey- word salad. as-Bush: “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.
– Darrell Hammond as Al Gore –
Much like Carvey’s take on Bush, this parody is best known as one of Will Ferrell’s first outings as Bush the Younger (remember the “strategy”? That’s where it got off). was invented). But Gore, who rolls his eyes and sighs deeply, is brutal, especially for his repeated and overly serious invocation of the “lockbox,” one of Gore’s central deficit reduction policies. It helped convict Gore.
– Dana Carvey as Ross Perot –
What’s amazing here is that Carvey is playing both Perot and Bush Sr. thanks to a bit of pre-recording, with the late Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton. For me, the most memorable moment is at the very end when Carvey-as-Bush and Hartman-as-Clinton watch Perot, and you see what they’re thinking: one of the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz.
– Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump –
The only reason I don’t rank this one higher is because Baldwin was funnier than Trump in other later parts. Yet this sketch of debate with Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton is Baldwin’s start. There’s not a single moment that stands out in Baldwin’s bravery performance here, though given Trump’s recent tax revelations, the exchange where McKinnon-as-Clinton accuses Baldwin-as-Trump of “Never pay taxes in your life” reverberates four years later. Baldwin’s response? McKinnon is getting “hotter”.
We’ll have to keep Tina Fey’s representation of Sarah Palin for next week’s vice-presidential debate. Enjoy!