Saturday Night Live: Celebrity Guests Undercut SNL Cast's Potential

Far be it for me to question the infinite wisdom of Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, who has probably the cushiest job for life on television. No one can take away the fact he has the longest-running late-night program ever on television nor the fact he's churned generations upon generations of comedic talent, but lately, he seems to be resting on his recurring celebrity guests to deceptively carry the variety series at its most marketable: election season. No one will ever deny the star power and name recognition of Alec Baldwin, Jim Carrey, or even SNL alum Maya Rudolph to play President Donald Trump, former Vice President/Democrat frontrunner Joe Biden, and running mate Senator Kamala Harris. What does it say that the most visible and high-profile moments of your show isn't carried by your cast?

Saturday Night Live Season 46
Alec Baldwin as President Donald Trump and Jim Carrey as former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday Night Live. Image courtesy of NBC.

Why Celebrity Guests Hurt "Saturday Night Live" Cast Long Term

Make no mistake, political casting for "figures" are all over the place in recent years with Matt Damon playing then-SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh or Brad Pitt playing infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. It just seems more like current cast members who are always looking for memorable characters to play lose out when those opportunities go to the bigger fish. Think of the times when other figures throughout history were skewered by previous generations. Nobody cared that Chevy Chase looked nothing like Gerald Ford. All he did turn him into a Dick Van Dyke-type of buffoon tripping over random objects just to lampoon Ford's clumsiness.

Trump in "SNL" History

It was constantly different cast members or the host him/herself playing these figures. Before the current era, these roles wouldn't typically be ceded from the outside unless it's an SNL alum. Trump was a popular target of SNL long before he ran for president dating back to the character's debut on December 8, 1988, when first impersonated by Phil Hartman. The actor impersonated three more times before Darrell Hammond took over the role, playing him the most off-and-on for the better part of 17 years. Taran Killam played him three times. Jason Sudeikis, John Cena, Leslie Jones, and Vanessa Bayer had one-off appearances as Trump. Now for two years running, Baldwin's taken over the role since October 1, 2016, and continues to play him ever since. So you're telling me of all the cast that's been holdover since season 45 that not a single person can be Trump? I would give Kate McKinnon a shot at the role since she plays most of the political figures among the cast on the show and still hasn't left.

What about Biden? He was impersonated by four different actors before Carrey was "cast". Only two were cast members in Kevin Nealon and Sudeikis played him. Just find it hard to believe the White male cast members Beck Bennett, Pete Davidson, Colin Jost, Alex Moffat, Kyle Mooney, or Andrew Dismukes can pull either one-off. I give credit for letting Bennett play Vice President Mike Pence. Hell, I even give it shots to Chris Redd, Kenan Thompson, and Bowen Yang if they can pull their mannerisms off. Again Chase looked nothing like Ford and still pulled it off. I'd evoke McKinnon once more, but it's probably a safe bet that this could be her final year given how loaded the cast is. For the sake of argument, I'm going to give Rudolph a pass for the Darrell Hammond-effect as alum "coming back". In the future, if Ego Nwodim wants to stand out more, she should probably throw her hat in eventually. Obviously, this is contingent on a Biden-Harris victory. It could be out of the cast's hands since Michaels ultimately makes the decisions, but in the end, it speaks volumes in appearances when you can't rely on your own cast to carry the show.

About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.

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