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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but these clips beg to differ. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Most Savage SNL Impressions."
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most brutal, unapologetic, and occasionally exaggerated impressions of politicians and celebrities on the Studio 8H stage.
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#10: Justin Bieber by: Kate McKinnon
Yes, this impersonation is savage, but McKinnon’s self-professed method behind pulling off the perfect Justin Bieber impression isn’t exactly a compliment to the singer either. Both the physicality of the role and the dialogue are hilarious to watch, as McKinnon nails the young popstar’s cockiness with pouts and poses while perfectly undercutting that image with some particularly childish lines and actions. It might be an exaggerated impression, but it’s absolutely without fault from a comedic standpoint, proving once again that McKinnon’s comedy skills know no bounds.
#9: Kanye West by: Chris Redd
All eyes turned to SNL when we learned of Kanye’s meeting with the 45th President—and boy, did they deliver. Chris Redd had big shoes to fill in taking over this role from Jay Pharoah, and he did not disappoint. His impression is uncanny, perfectly capturing everything from Kanye’s intonation and mannerisms, to the unpredictability of what he might say or do next. SNL didn’t have to look too far for inspiration for this sketch, either, as the material pretty much writes itself. However, Redd’s hilarious impression just reminds us that a chat with Ye can be a tad… surreal.
#8: Kellyanne Conway by: Kate McKinnon
SNL may have been ruthless with their Kellyanne Conway impression, but there’s no denying that it got people talking. Kellyanne has the tiresome job of excusing all of Trump’s outrageous behaviour, and McKinnon does an impeccable job of dodging questions and inventing her own narrative as Conway often seems to do. Audiences have seen the job take its toll on McKinnon’s Kellyanne over the last few years, culminating in a Fatal Attraction-style sketch that some claim went a step too far. But if anyone sums up the media madness surrounding the Trump administration, it’s Kellyanne Conway—and McKinnon has her down to a tee.
#7: Janet Reno By: Will Ferrell
This one has a weird premise, with Will Ferrell playing the former Attorney General hosting a teen dance show in her basement. Ferrell plays her as a powerful force to be reckoned with, highlighting her strongest assets and personality traits. Even surrounded by dancing teens, this Reno doesn’t let up from her role as Attorney General, and her special guests only add to the hilarity. Perhaps having Will Ferrell prance about in a dress, dancing awkwardly, and emphasizing a manly quality isn’t the most respectful way to portray her, but she reportedly took it well, even becoming a fan.
#6: Monica Lewinsky by: Molly Shannon
When Monica Lewinsky made headlines in the 90s, SNL decided to turn away from the obvious Lolita parody and instead present us with an immature young lady who simply got caught up in the whirlwind of politics. Not only does Molly Shannon’s portrayal of her often collapse into nervous giggling, she also comes across as self-centered, attention-seeking, and not particularly concerned with the consequences. It was a pretty unforgiving impression at the time, and it hasn’t aged gracefully—making it even more brutal in hindsight.
#5: Sean Spicer by: Melissa McCarthy
It was almost a shame when Sean Spicer left the White House, as it brought an end to Melissa McCarthy’s hilariously brutish impression. The President reportedly didn’t like a woman playing a man in his administration, which egged SNL on into bringing us Kate McKinnon’s unforgettable impression of ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. However, McCarthy’s Spicer takes the spot on our list for her loud, angry, and boisterous impression, and constant willingness to wage war with the media. While Spicer took it well, he also thought McCarthy could tone it down a notch.
#4: Sean Connery by: Darrell Hammond
Celebrity Jeopardy is one of Saturday Night Live’s most beloved sketches, and Darrell Hammond’s unforgettable performance as Scottish actor Sean Connery played a huge role in cementing its place both in SNL history and our hearts. For some reason, Hammond’s Connery is crude, brutish, antagonistic and—like all his opponents—somewhat dim-witted. He deliberately mispronounces phrases and always has a "Your Mom" joke on hand for a disapproving Alex Trebek, played by Will Ferrell. We’re not sure what Connery did to deserve this, as the impression is far from flattering, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
#3: Sarah Palin by: Tina Fey
SNL is great at nailing political parodies, and Tina Fey’s portrayal of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was such a hit that it won her an Emmy for her efforts. Fey pokes fun at Palin’s Beauty Pageant days, lack of political prowess and misplaced use of colloquialisms, wrapping it all up in an accent and voice that drills itself into your head. Fey has reprised this role on several occasions—even in front of Governor Palin herself. It’s all in good fun, of course, and never fails to make us laugh, but it’s undeniably one of SNL’s most savage AND memorable impressions.
#2: Donald Trump by: Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin has become an honorary member of the SNL cast with his hilariously spot-on impression of the President. Trump’s distinctive look, high profile, and numerous eccentricities provide the perfect material for an SNL parody, but it’s Baldwin’s precise delivery of his lines—not to mention his Trumpisms—and an uncanny resemblance that makes his portrayal so popular. While Trump has called the impression “terrible,” legions of viewers disagree. When Baldwin isn’t around to cover Trump’s latest controversial remarks, slick-talking Donald Jr. and and a slow Eric take guest spots at the Weekend Update desk for a similarly scathing treatment.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are some honorable mentions.
- Julia Child by: Dan Aykroyd
- Kendall Jenner by: Gal Gadot
- Donatella Versace by: Maya Rudolph
#1: George W. Bush by: Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush comes across as likable while simultaneously reminding audiences of all the reasons why George W. Bush was so controversial and heavily criticized. He portrays the former President as dopey, simple, and painfully misinformed. The accent, language, and mannerisms all feel incredibly accurate and, adding insult to injury, this goofy portrayal rarely failed to make audiences laugh. The Bush presidency was also a perfect opportunity to bring back Dana Carvey (who nails pretty much any impression) but whose overblown George Bush Sr. will always hold a special place in both the SNL archives and our hearts.