Peter Spiegel, US Managing Editor
Here's how I prepared for today's event: revisiting old Saturday Night Live parodies of previous presidential debates. Here are my top 5:
– Chevy Chase as Jerry Ford –
He did nothing to try to look like the president, but Chase's portrayal of Ford helped cement the incumbent's image as much as a slightly weak jock (Ford played football at the University of Michigan) than Ford's own fault (see above). My favorite is when Jane Curtain asks Chase-as-Ford a complicated question about unemployment, to which he replies, "I understand there would be no math."
– Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz repeat Bush dukakis –
Much has been written about Carvey's portrayal of George HW Bush, an impression Bush eventually warmed himself to. What I forgot was how funny Lovitz was as a Dukakis. The whole debate (with Tom Hanks as the late ABC News host Peter Jennings) is hysterical, but my favorite moment is when Lovitz-as-Dukakis is asked to respond to a fiddly Carvey-as-Bush word salad, “I can not i think i'm losing to this guy. "
– Darrell Hammond as Al Gore –
Much like Carvey's take on Bush, this parody is mostly remembered as one of Will Ferrell's first outings as Bush the Younger (remember "Strategy"? This is where it was coined). But Hammond's winking, deeply sighing Gore is brutal, especially because of his repeated and overly serious invocation of "Lockbox," one of Gore's central deficit reducing strategies. It helped set Gore to fail.
– Dana Carvey as Ross Perot –
The amazing thing is that thanks to a little pre-taping, Carvey plays both Perot and Bush Père, with the late Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton. For me, the most memorable moment at the very end is when Carvey-as-Bush and Hartman-as-Clinton look over at Perot and you see what they think: one of the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz.
– Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump –
The only reason I don't upgrade this one is because Baldwin was funnier than Trump in other, later sections. Still, this debate sketch with Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton is Baldwin's debut. There is not a single moment in Baldwin's valiant performance, despite the fact that given the recent revelations about Trump's taxes, the exchange in which McKinnon-as-Clinton accused Baldwin-as-Trump of "never paying taxes in his life" is four years echoes later. Baldwin's answer? McKinnon is getting "warmer".
We need to save Tina Fey's account of Sarah Palin for next week's vice presidential debate. Enjoy!