Presidential Debate: Our Experts’ Perspective on the Trump-Biden Duel – As It Happened


Peter Spiegel, American editor

This is how I prepare for tonight’s event: revisiting old Saturday Night Live parodies from previous presidential debates. Here are my top five:

– Chevy Chase as Jerry Ford –

He didn’t do anything to try and look like the president, but Chase’s portrayal of Ford did as much to solidify the incumbent’s image as a slightly weak athlete (Ford played football at the University of Michigan) as Ford’s own mistakes (see above). My favorite is when you ask Chase-as-Ford a complicated question about Jane Curtain’s unemployment, to which he replies, “It was my understanding that there would be no math.”

– Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz take over Bush-Dukakis –

Much has been written about Carvey’s portrayal of George HW Bush, an impression that Bush himself finally warmed to. What I forgot was how funny Lovitz was in Dukakis. The whole debate (with Tom Hanks as late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings) is hysterical, but my favorite moment is when Lovitz-as-Dukakis is asked to respond to a groping salad of words from Carvey- as-Bush: “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.

– Darrell Hammond as Al Gore –

Much like Carvey’s take on Bush, this parody is best known as one of Will Ferrell’s first outings as Bush the Younger (remember the “strategy”? That’s where it was invented. ). But Hammond’s rolling eyes and deep sighs Gore is brutal, especially for its repeated and overly serious “key box” invocation, one of Gore’s central deficit reduction policies. It helped convict Gore.

– Dana Carvey as Ross Perot –

The amazing thing here is that Carvey is playing both Perot and Bush Sr. thanks to a bit of pre-recording, with the late Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton. For me the most memorable moment is at the very end when Carvey-as-Bush and Hartman-as-Clinton look at Perot, and you see what they’re thinking: one of the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz.

– Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump

The only reason I don’t rank this one higher is that Baldwin was funnier than Trump in other, more recent songs. Yet this debate sketch with Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton is Baldwin’s first. There isn’t a single moment that stands out in Baldwin’s Bravery Performance here, although given recent Trump tax revelations, the exchange where McKinnon-as-Clinton accuses Baldwin-as-Trump of “never paying taxes in his life” reverberates four years later . Baldwin’s response? McKinnon is getting “hotter”.

We’ll have to keep Tina Fey’s representation of Sarah Palin for next week’s vice-presidential debate. Enjoy!

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