Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Live From the Oval Office!

Really, we here at HttCttD could go on and on about the similarities between this week's combatants, William J. Clinton and James E. Carter. After all, they're both late-20th century presidents who assumed the presidency after governing a Southern state in relative obscurity. They both had/have lust in their heart. They both went primarily by nicknames, and their last names start with C! I mean, come on!


Anyway, all this talk of their similarities is just a weak excuse to get to the heart of this post: the fact that both presidents, given that they served later than 1975, have found themselves lampooned on Saturday Night Live. And since there's nothing funnier than a rigorous analysis of comedy, let's talk about how those impressions played out!

First, Carter. Carter was the second president to get hit by SNL, following the brief overlap of the Ford Administration with SNL's run. The task of impersonating Carter was given to the young Dan Aykroyd, and while clips from that era are a bit thin on the Internet ground these days, we can unearth some clips that show us just what Aykroyd was doing with the part:

(Here, too, we need to pause a moment and apologize to any international viewers, as the only strictly legal source for SNL clips is Hulu, which does not work outside of the United States. We can report, however, that there are ways around these restrictions, if you know where to look. Ahem. Moving on...)

So, was that a good impression? I'd say no. After all, not only did they have an impersonator who didn't really look like Jimmy Carter, he didn't really sound like Jimmy Carter, either. He just had a vague attempt at a Georgian accent, and let the material do the rest. Given that this was when SNL was, you know, cutting edge television, it seems reasonable to expect that would work. (Although, slight caveat. Since only one of the HttCttD authors was even alive during the Carter administration, our perceptions of what makes for a good Carter impression may be a little off.)

We should also take into account that Aykroyd's Carter is streets ahead of Chevy Chase's Gerald Ford impression, where Chase put absolutely no effort into looking or sounding like Ford.

Clinton, on the other hand, was portrayed by a few different people. Here's Phil Hartman taking a stab at it:

Not a bad take, per se, though it seemed to be lacking a little... something. When Hartman left the cast in 1994, SNL put the thing up for an audition process:

However, the part was eventually taken by a man who would truly make it his own. That's right: Darrell Hammond, who joined the cast the following season. Sadly, few clips of Hammond's tenure are available, so let's go with one that clearly aired in the post-Clinton world:

Now, that's Clinton! He's got the look, the sound, the general demeanor of William J. Clinton down pat. Well, down pat in a slightly-exaggerated manner, but still.

It really shouldn't come as a surprise that Hammond was also able to do a spot on Carter as well.

We hope you've enjoyed this look back at presidential impersonations! The Clinton/Carter battle rages on in the previous post; vote and comment away!

No comments:

Post a Comment