Worst Portrayal of a U.S. President by an SNL Castmember

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Picking out who did the worst impression/character of a president on Saturday Night Live presents more challenges than who did the best. I've listed the cast members who have portrayed a U.S. president below. To keep the list snappy, I've avoided guest appearances by non-cast members (Robin Williams as Reagan), presidents before they assumed office (Jim Downey's 1980 impression of George H. W. Bush) or after (Darrell Hammond's post-term Jimmy Carter appearances.) Unfortunately, this means I couldn't include Kenan Thompson's Teddy Roosevelt.

Which brings us to another good point: What makes a bad impression? Thompson obviously didn't resemble the president he was portraying (that was kind of the joke) and Chevy Chase didn't even bother to wear make-up or alter his voice to become Gerald Ford. However, I would say Chase is up there with the best of the SNL presidents.

So who was the worst? You think Randy Quaid was bad as Reagan? Well, did you ever see his Kennedy?

I compiled this list mostly from this page, with some more research (like whether JFK was portrayed as a senator, a president or dead) looked up here.

Poll Results

OptionVotes
Obama...........Fred Armisen 9
Bush 43...........Chris Parnell 2
Reagan...........Charles Rocket 2
Bush 43...........Darrell Hammond 2
Bush 43...........Will Ferrell 2
Nixon...........Dan Aykroyd 1
Ford...........Chevy Chase 1
Clinton...........Darrell Hammond 1
Carter..........Dan Aykroyd 1
Reagan...........Joe Piscopo 1
JFK..........Randy Quaid 0
JFK..........Joe Piscopo 0
FDR..........Bill Hader 0
FDR..........Tim Kazurinsky 0
FDR..........Harry Shearer 0
FDR..........John Belushi 0
Obama...........Jay Pharoah 0
Carter...........Joe Piscopo 0
Bush 43...........Jason Sudeikis 0
Bush 43...........Will Forte 0
Clinton...........Michael McKean 0
Clinton...........Phil Hartman 0
Bush 41...........Dana Carvey 0
Reagan...........Phil Hartman 0
Reagan...........Randy Quaid 0
Reagan...........Harry Shearer 0
JFK..........Dan Aykroyd 0


pplains, Sunday, 16 September 2012 22:51 (1 year ago) Permalink

Clinton...........Michael McKean

I don't remember this one, but it can't have been any good.

Johnny Fever, Sunday, 16 September 2012 22:57 (1 year ago) Permalink

Same problem. I'll vote for Armisen because he's so recent--the bad and mediocre ones I just don't remember. (One sign of badness might be the need for prosthetics...although I think Carvey wore clown ears for Perot, so it's not a hard and fast rule.)

clemenza, Sunday, 16 September 2012 23:12 (1 year ago) Permalink

One of the Hammonds. He wasn't funny.

Chevy Chase and Will Ferrell were among the best IMO.

get you ass to mahs (abanana), Sunday, 16 September 2012 23:16 (1 year ago) Permalink

any of these
Obama...........Jay Pharoah
Obama...........Fred Armisen
Bush 43...........Jason Sudeikis
Bush 43...........Will Forte
Bush 43...........Darrell Hammond
Bush 43...........Chris Parnell
Bush 43...........Will Ferrell
Clinton...........Darrell Hammond
Clinton...........Michael McKean

blank, Sunday, 16 September 2012 23:21 (1 year ago) Permalink

I'll give will ferrell a pass, actually

blank, Sunday, 16 September 2012 23:21 (1 year ago) Permalink

feeling pretty confident this is charles rocket - reagan

balls, Sunday, 16 September 2012 23:39 (1 year ago) Permalink

i think all the post-ferrell dubyas (except forte) were in one sketch where they were meta-auditioning cast members for it. i have nothing to base this on at all except remembering they did the same thing w/ clinton after hartman left (i'm guessing that's where mckean's clinton comes in also though maybe he was the poor guy stuck w/ it in the window between hartman and hammond).

balls, Sunday, 16 September 2012 23:44 (1 year ago) Permalink

• Poor Parnell's Dubya wasn't even close to being good. That was during a time where I tuned out for awhile anyway. Ferrell had it right, they should never let him take the flight suit off.

• Sudekis was Bush seven times and I don't remember a one of them.

• Enough has been said about Armisen's Obama, but even his GHWB was weird. (It was a post-term Bush, do not included.)

And I forgot to mention that I kept one Clinton sketch off the list even though it was aired during his term, featured cast members and was actually funny. Trouble was, it was the first post-Hartman Clinton show and they had an open casting call for the male members on-air. It was just Sandler, Schnieder and those guys wearing a white wig and sticking out their thumb. Farley was the best and poor Tim Meadows just sent to an off-camera Lorne, "I don't even stand a chance here, do I?"

pplains, Sunday, 16 September 2012 23:54 (1 year ago) Permalink

I've never seen Piscopo's Reagan but i mean, there's no way it can be good right?

Hungry4Ass, Monday, 17 September 2012 00:21 (1 year ago) Permalink

To keep the list snappy, I've avoided guest appearances by non-cast members (Robin Williams as Reagan), presidents before they assumed office (Jim Downey's 1980 impression of George H. W. Bush) or after (Darrell Hammond's post-term Jimmy Carter appearances.)

wait, then why are JFK and FDR on here?

Listen to this, dad (President Keyes), Monday, 17 September 2012 00:31 (1 year ago) Permalink

do you that they have to be impersonated as if they were in office, even if it was decades after the fact?

Listen to this, dad (President Keyes), Monday, 17 September 2012 00:32 (1 year ago) Permalink

i should stop being annoyed now that they've finally got someone else doing it, but i gotta vote for Armisen

some dude, Monday, 17 September 2012 00:33 (1 year ago) Permalink

like oh hi I'm current President Roosevelt giving a fireside chat, rather than oh hi I'm Jimmy Carter building your house

Listen to this, dad (President Keyes), Monday, 17 September 2012 00:34 (1 year ago) Permalink

Armison was bad but Obama is difficult to mock. Parnell was totally forgettable as Bush when that dude was comedy gold for Stewart/Colbert etc.

Listen to this, dad (President Keyes), Monday, 17 September 2012 00:36 (1 year ago) Permalink

wow - i just assumed they did the same thing post-ferrell, had no idea they were flailing about that much for a dubya replacement. i remembered forte vaguely in a 'o i guess that's who's doing dubya now', i saw very very little of snl post-ferrell pre-hulu. will avoid parnell's dubya as i love that guy so much and don't want anything to lower my opinion of him. i'm guessing the piscopo reagan was rich little adequate, the only piscopo my memory hazily recalls as being remotely funny were his tom snyder and his sinatra (which yielded this - http://wfmu.org/LCD/22/wild_pitches.html).

balls, Monday, 17 September 2012 00:38 (1 year ago) Permalink

do you that they have to be impersonated as if they were in office, even if it was decades after the fact?

― Listen to this, dad (President Keyes), Sunday, September 16, 2012 7:32 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

had to draw the line somewhere. *shrugs*

pplains, Monday, 17 September 2012 00:38 (1 year ago) Permalink

Piscopo's Reagan was by the book, but was also a little crazy.

pplains, Monday, 17 September 2012 00:40 (1 year ago) Permalink

that piscopo pitch story is great

Hungry4Ass, Monday, 17 September 2012 00:56 (1 year ago) Permalink

McKean later said that in hindsight he felt the only reasons he was asked to join the show was so he could play parents and Clinton.

Instagrams of Lily on My Facebook Wall (C. Grisso/McCain), Monday, 17 September 2012 05:06 (1 year ago) Permalink

the problem with this poll is that "worst" requires investigation i'm not willing to make. actually, that's half true - i kind of do want to watch all the little 42m blurps of SNL on Netflix - but not like, right now

da croupier, Monday, 17 September 2012 12:06 (1 year ago) Permalink

that said "charles rocket - reagan" pretty obviously must suck

da croupier, Monday, 17 September 2012 12:07 (1 year ago) Permalink

also have they REALLY never done a "George Washington while in office" or a "President Lincoln" sketch? Kind of impressed if they've churned out sketches for this long without getting into that kind of historical humor. Ben Stiller got there in season one!

da croupier, Monday, 17 September 2012 12:09 (1 year ago) Permalink

they did a Lincoln at Ford's theater skit with Piscopo as Lincoln

Listen to this, dad (President Keyes), Monday, 17 September 2012 13:30 (1 year ago) Permalink

and Russell Brand played George Washington in a skit last year. I think Pelosi and Boehner time-traveled back to his era.

Listen to this, dad (President Keyes), Monday, 17 September 2012 13:31 (1 year ago) Permalink

I checked out those two pages at the beginning, and no president past Teddy was listed. I thought it sounded strange too, but there you go.

pplains, Monday, 17 September 2012 14:18 (1 year ago) Permalink

pplains, Monday, 17 September 2012 14:21 (1 year ago) Permalink

The New Republic on exactly what we've been talking about here: the limitations of accuracy when working up a political impression. (I think Pharoah's off to a better start than the writer does, though. I got more out of him on Saturday than just mimicry--the extra layer was Obama's "forget about me for a second, can you believe this?" bemusement, which in a way sums up the context of his entire presidency.)

http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/107338/the-tedious-accuracy-jay-pharoah%E2%80%99s-obama-impersonation

clemenza, Monday, 17 September 2012 20:39 (1 year ago) Permalink

Kevin Nealon did Biden back in the 90s, during a sketch where clarence thomas was getting confirmed

Trad., Arrrgh (stevie), Monday, 17 September 2012 22:04 (1 year ago) Permalink

hard to believe there's only been one nixon in all these years, but all of aykroyd's performances were wonderful -- even his carter, which wasn't really carter-ish at all. favorite one was hartman's reagan, who was actually kind of genuinely menacing.

hammond did a funny gore, but his other impressions were usually boring as shit.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 17 September 2012 22:16 (1 year ago) Permalink

Ferrell's Dubya eventually grew on me, or he just figured out how to make it work.

heated debate over derpy hooves (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Monday, 17 September 2012 22:17 (1 year ago) Permalink

Again, I think Hammond's Clinton was/is brilliant. I remember that one Weekend Update appearance in 2008: "Thank you, Duffy."

clemenza, Monday, 17 September 2012 22:28 (1 year ago) Permalink

Hammond's Clinton was the best-- "I am bulletproof"

Listen to this, dad (President Keyes), Monday, 17 September 2012 23:56 (1 year ago) Permalink

I read some comics book as a youngster that said CHase wore a can on his head during his Ford depiction to equate Ford with Happy Hooligan ––––– is this fucking true???

pet carrier (Crabbits), Tuesday, 18 September 2012 04:00 (1 year ago) Permalink

Hammond's Clinton was great!

Emperor Cos Dashit (Adam Bruneau), Tuesday, 18 September 2012 04:42 (1 year ago) Permalink

Hammond and Hartman were both excellent as Clinton, but then dude must be the funnest guy to imitate

da croupier, Tuesday, 18 September 2012 04:59 (1 year ago) Permalink

actually, i do remember hammond's clinton fondly -- forgot about that.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 18 September 2012 20:43 (1 year ago) Permalink

Hammond's Clinton was amazing. totally don't get what people have against Ferrell's Dubya. granted he's no James Brolin but he was still funny

stop swearing and start windmilling (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 18 September 2012 20:45 (1 year ago) Permalink

"strategery" still makes me laugh

stop swearing and start windmilling (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 18 September 2012 20:45 (1 year ago) Permalink

'you know who i'm talking about: iraq...iran...and one of the koreas.'

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Tuesday, 18 September 2012 20:46 (1 year ago) Permalink

1 month passes...

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Monday, 5 November 2012 00:01 (1 year ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Tuesday, 6 November 2012 00:01 (1 year ago) Permalink

Ferrell's dubya was about capturing the spirit of dubya, not necessarily creating an accurate rendering of dubya

Knut Horowitz, Able-Bodied Investment Banker and Ladies Man (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 6 November 2012 00:03 (1 year ago) Permalink

I mean

Knut Horowitz, Able-Bodied Investment Banker and Ladies Man (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 6 November 2012 00:05 (1 year ago) Permalink

Comedy's as subjective as it gets, but the votes for Ferrell-Bush, Ackroyd-Nixon, Chase-Ford, Hammond-Clinton, and Ackroyd-Carter do baffle me. I guess some of them are penalized just by virtue of being remembered (as opposed to many of the ones that got zero).

clemenza, Tuesday, 6 November 2012 00:22 (1 year ago) Permalink


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