According to a recent Economist-YouGov poll, a majority of Democrats have started to think fondly of George W. Bush but Will Ferrell, the most famous Bush impersonator, has returned to S.N.L. to remind all of us that the 43rd President of the United States was “bad” like, “really bad.” Donald Trump may have lowered the bar when it comes to what we expect from the Oval Office, but that doesn’t mean we need to forget history altogether.
Pointing out that while Trump may have an antagonistic relationship with the press, an Iraqi journalist once threw not one, but two shoes at Bush. (Yes, this really happened.) “Shoe me once, shoe’s on you,” Ferrell said in classic Bush fashion. “Shoe me twice, I’m keeping those shoes.”
“You think Mike Pence is heartless?” Ferrell’s Bush asked before pointing out that his vice president, Dick Cheney, was “literally heartless.” And while this version of Bush says he would never let Russia interfere with an election, he pointed out that he let the Supreme Court meddle. It’s the more American way to win despite losing the popular vote.
Leslie Jones showed up at the end of the sketch to break out a Condoleezza Rice impression and riff on the nostalgic, regressive All in the Family version of “Those Were the Days” with some updated lyrics including: “Nazis kept it to themselves.”
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“Coffee Talk with Linda Richman”
One of Mike Myers’s hallmark sketches, “Coffee Talk” featured the actor in drag as an over-the-top Jewish New Yorker who wears gaudy jewelry, constantly adjusts her teased hair with fake nails, and reroutes all conversation back to Barbra Streisand and butter similes. Following the success of Wayne’s World, “Coffee Talk” was actually briefly developed as a movie—(which like Wayne’s World, centered on a talk show hosted from home)—but it never materialized. If it had, we imagine Linda Richman (left, with guest star Heather Locklear, in May 1994) flying out to Hollywood to drum up the awards-season support that she believes Streisand deserves. Despite the fact that it is neither Oscar season nor a year in which Streisand is even eligible for an Academy Award, Richman’s chutzpah makes her a local celebrity, earns her a Land O’Lakes sponsorship deal, and in a mishegas-heavy finale: a show-biz audition in which she has to compete against her idol.Photo: by Gerry Goodstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images.
Few Saturday Night Live sketches have managed to delve into terrain as genuinely sweet as “The Nerds,” which starred Bill Murray and Gilda Radner as teenage dweebs Lisa Loopner and Tod Deluca. The comedians had such chemistry that S.N.L. writers graduated the pair from a noogie-punctuated prom night to one clumsy makeout session, during which Bill Murray hilariously attempts to unfurl a fold-out couch into a bed position while still seated on it, kissing Radner. While some of its charm came from Radner breaking character when Murray tickled her or force-fed her champagne, the sketch could have been adapted into a promising romantic comedy chronicling the couple’s awkward courtship.Photo: By Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images.
Last year, Dana Carvey’s holier-than-thou parishioner returned to Saturday Night Live for a one-shot reprisal, during which she attempted to exorcise Snooki and the Kardashians before having an unexpected moment with Justin Bieber on her show, Church Chat. The funniness inherent in the setup—a God-fearing elder interviewing “the holy trinity of sluts” and “the star of Jersey Whore”—was a reminder of how promising a fish-out-of-water film scenario could have been for the Carvey character.
Left, the Church Lady does her signature shuffle with guest star Dennis Hopper in May 1987.
Photo: by Reggie Lewis/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images.
Remember the ingenious scene in Tommy Boy when Chris Farley terrifies a potential brake-pad buyer by acting out a fiery car crash that could kill the buyer and his entire family if he purchases “the other guy’s” product? If Farley had adapted his “Tom Foley” sketch—about an overactive cynic of a motivational speaker—into a film, Farley would have presumably maintained that amusing red-in-the-face sputtering mode for its entirety. In case you need further proof that “Tom Foley” was versatile enough to be expanded into a 90-minute format, refer to the sketches in which he moonlights as a motivational Santa at a shopping mall, scares some juvenile delinquents straight in a prison cell, and tries to pump up gym-goers—all with his cautionary tale about being 35, thrice divorced, and living in a van down by the river.Photo: by Gene Page/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images.
“The Festrunk Brothers”
The same season that Saturday Night Live debuted “The Blues Brothers,” in 1978, Dan Aykroyd and recurring host Steve Martin introduced their “Festrunk Brothers” sketch, about two “wild and crazy guys” who lust after “swinging foxes” and wear bell bottoms as tight as their grasp of English is loose. Had Martin not already devoted himself to other films in the late 70s and early 80s (including The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven) and Aykroyd not been busy with The Blues Brothers, Two Wild and Crazy Guys would have made the next-best S.N.L. adaptation. (Part Borat, part A Night at the Roxbury—but with miles more comedy potential and even worse clothes.) Ultimately, instead of translating the characters for film, Martin adapted the sketch for two tracks on his Grammy-winning comedy album, A Wild and Crazy Guy, which went double platinum.Photo: From NBC Television/Archive Photos/Getty Images.
A disclaimer: the ideal Kristen Wiig Saturday Night Live movie would have been an ensemble comedy in which all of the comedian’s best characters (Judy Grimes, Aunt Linda, Sexy Shana, Target Lady, et al) were able to interact with one another in their own insular world. But, assuming the unavailability of Duplicity-style camera tricks, Penelope, the obsessive one-upper, would have offered the next-best option for a film adaptation. As with Matt Foley, the motivational speaker, S.N.L. writers proved that Penelope can operate in a number of different scenarios, whether she is out-recovering fellow group-therapy members or out-ladling other soup-kitchen volunteers on Thanksgiving.
Bill Hader and Wiig appear with guest star Amy Adams in “Traffic School,” a skit that aired in March 2008.
Photo: By Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images.
The satirical NPR cooking show featured Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon as the hosts and unwitting participants in segments crammed with double entendres. The most famous sketch, aired in December 1998, featured Alec Baldwin as a dessert-maker named Pete Schweddy, who discusses his specialty: candy and cake balls. Even without the constant innuendo, “Delicious Dish” could have been adapted as a parody of the celebrity-chef industry as Gasteyer and Shannon’s hosts humbly attempt to launch a Martha Stewart–like empire. Baldwin would naturally have been courted to co-star.Photo: By Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank.PreviousNext
Joanna RobinsonJoanna Robinson is a Hollywood writer covering TV and film for VanityFair.com.