For 40 years, Saturday Night Live has dedicated itself to making celebrities look as ridiculous as possible—and we’re better people for it. From controversial politicians (Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin was a cultural phenomenon that took on a life of its own) to kooky journalists (“Baba Wawa,” anyone?) SNL has supplied its fair share of eerily accurate impersonations throughout the years. Sometimes we wonder if we’d be more informed if Dana Carvey actually did NBC Nightly News instead of Tom Brokaw. Just a thought.
Here, we’ve selected 30 celebrity impressions that represent the best of the best. A few cast members make multiple appearances—how could we pick just one Kristen Wiig impression?—and some of these characters even met their real-life counterparts at one point. (Watch President Bill Clinton meet Bill Clinton below.)
If you’re in a safe space where crying from laughter is socially acceptable—perhaps on your couch watching VH1 Classic’s “SNL Rewind: 2015-1975 Mega Marathon”—check out these SNL players in top doppelgänger form.
Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton
We’d back a Clinton/Poehler White House bid any day. Poehler crushes Clinton’s “I’m a badass” demeanor. Even better, Clinton loves Poehler’s impression of her. “You do me better than me,” Clinton said, according to Page Six.
Ana Gasteyer as Martha Stewart
Topless Christmas? Oh, Martha! Gasteyer perfectly captures Stewart’s sugary-sweet/eerily creepy disposition. Both Gasteyer and Stewart appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers in 2014, and the SNL champ apologized to the lifestyle queen for her biting impression. Stewart responded by saying,”You [Gasteyer] sound very occupied, writing apology letters about seven years too late.” She added, “Actually I loved your impersonations of me; they were very very accurate.” Conflict resolved?
Cheri Oteri as Barbara Walters
No one can touch Gilda Radner’s Walters impression, but Oteri does a pretty damn great parody as well. No “R” sounds heard here. In 2014, Oteri revived her Walters persona for a very important occasion: to interview the IRL Barbara Walters. Such a good sport!
Chevy Chase as President Gerald Ford
“Whoop! Uh-oh!” Chase embodies President Ford’s physical missteps instead of just looking like him. Even without the costume, he gets it right. Ford was beyond supportive of Chase’s impressions. According to The New York Times, Ford made a cameo on SNL from the White House, sent his Press Secretary Ron Nessen on the show, and even kicked back with Chase at a political dinner.
Dan Aykroyd as Julia Child
Aykroyd takes Child’s love for the kitchen to extreme, bloody levels, and his operatic voice is just the perfect garnish to the sketch. According to The Denver Post, Child thought Aykroyd’s impression was a riot and even showed it to guests at her house parties.
Dana Carvey as President George H.W. Bush
The over-the-top hand gestures make this a Carvey classic. H.W. Bush was obviously tickled by the homage, because he did an impression of Carvey impersonating him during an interview at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Dana Carvey as Johnny Carson
Carvey is the king of impressions, and one of his best was of the late night talk show host. His hand gestures are perfect, and the bit even created two catchphrases: “That is some wild crazy stuff” and “I did not know that.” Too funny!
Dana Carvey as H. Ross Perot
Besides H.W. Bush, Carvey’s most iconic impression is Perot, famous for being an independent presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996. In a speech, Carvey mentioned he loves watching Perot during press conferences.
Darrell Hammond as President Bill Clinton
Hammond’s smoldering come-hither vocals are eerily on-point with President Clinton’s. Clinton was obviously a good sport about the bit; Hammond made a cameo appearance during one of Clinton’s speeches.
Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery
We want Hammond’s spot-on Connery laugh to be our ringtone. Hammond originally intended for the Connery impression to be very accurate, but decided it was funnier to make him a complete asshole. We agree.
Eddie Murphy as James Brown
Close your eyes, and it almost sounds like Brown himself is singing and wailing, “Heyyyy!”
Gilda Radner as Barbara Walters
Radner exaggerates Walters’ well-noted speech patterns, and the results are so memorable that “Baba Wawa” has stuck as the famed anchor’s nickname. Walters hated “Wawa” at first, but thawed when she later bumped into Radner in the South of France. Radner thought Walters would be livid when they crossed paths, but the veteran journalist actually hugged her. “I loved [Radner] before, and I’ve loved her ever since,” Walters said.
Jay Pharoah as President Barack Obama
“The economy’s in the tank…uhhh…the job market’s horrible…uhhh…and now even my foreign policy is under attack.” Pharoah knocks President Obama’s signature (and surprisingly comforting) stammering out of the park. At a fundraiser held by movie bigwig Harvey Weinstein, Pharoah did his impression in front of the actual president. According to Page Six, the leader of the free world wasn’t upset at all. He laughed.
Jay Pharoah as Kanye West
Pharoah captures Kanye West’s trademark arrogance all with this one aggressively-uttered line: “I AM A GENIUS. I AM A GOD.” According to Yahoo!, West addressed Pharoah’s antics with one swift statement: “It’s not a joke.”
John Belushi as Joe Cocker
Belushi nails Cocker’s signature stage movements, which elevates this bit to legend status. Belushi even performed alongside Cocker during a show, and they basically looked like twins.
Justin Timberlake as Jimmy Fallon
Timberlake pokes fun at his comedy BFF in a celebrity edition of Family Feud. His Fallon stammer is prime. Fallon appears in the same skit on the opposing family’s team as Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory. Talk about meta!
Kate McKinnon as Ellen DeGeneres
McKinnon does a mean Ann Romney and Justin Bieber, but we have a soft spot for her Ellen. That hair! McKinnon dressed up as Queen E on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so we’re guessing there’s nothing but love between these two.
Kristen Wiig as Kathie Lee Gifford
Kristen Wiig as Liza Minnelli
Leave it to Wiig to make turning off lamps incredibly hilarious. She sounds just like the musical icon.
Kristen Wiig as Suze Orman
Wiig’s ability to depict Orman’s subtle-but-classic head banging deserves an Oscar. Orman addressed Wiig’s impression on her show, and it seems like she can laugh at herself (well, a little).
Maya Rudolph as Donatella Versace
The extravagant fashion designer is practically begging for an imitation. Luckily, Rudolph delivers the goods. The hair! The dramatic voice! Perfect. Versace got in on the fun at the 2002 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, where she appeared alongside Rudolph dressed as her. Looks like a seal of approval to us.
Maya Rudolph as Whitney Houston
Rudolph does her best impression of the singer by bringing “cocaine brownies” to the Weekend Update newsroom. The sunglasses are a nice touch, too.
Nasim Pedrad as Kim Kardashian
Pedrad takes Kardashian's nasally voice to places we didn’t know were possible. According to Pedrad viaUs Weekly, Kardashian was “so sweet” when the two met face to face. Water under the very high-pitched bridge.
Phil Hartman as President Bill Clinton
Hammond isn’t the only SNL dude who can do a mean Clinton. Hartman’s impression of the ’90s president is one of the best in the show’s history. And that McDonald’s skit is legendary.
Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra
Hartman captures Sinatra’s tough personality and sense of humor perfectly. “The Sinatra Group” sketch is particularly enjoyable, where Hartman plays moderator to the likes of Sinéad O’Connor and Billy Idol.
Phil Hartman as Jim Bakker
The late comedian plays the scandal-plagued televangelist on Carvey’s classic Church Chat skit as if he religiously studied his segments.
Terry Sweeney as Nancy Reagan
Sweeney was SNL’s first openly gay male cast member and one of the most underrated players ever. His impression of Ronald Reagan’s wife will leave you crying. Sweeney was adamant his Reagan impression wasn’t malicious at all, telling People in 1986, “Nancy is the perfect politician’s wife. She’s always smiling and looking serene and being supportive for hours on end. I’m like her alter ego, her unresolved side, the part that wants to slip out at night and go shrieking and streaking down the White House lawn.” In the same article, the magazine dubbed Sweeney “the one bright star of Saturday Night Live’s otherwise disappointing season.”
Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
No impression rocked America quite like Fey’s dead-on Palin. The SNL veteran not only bears a striking resemblance to the 2008 Vice Presidential candidate, she nails her polarizing Alaskan accent—”I can see Russia from my house!” Palin wasn’t too keen on Fey’s caricature, telling an interviewer in 2009, “I did see that Tina Fey was named entertainer of the year. … That’s a little bit perplexing, but it also says a great deal about our society.” This past August, Palin brought up Fey again, saying, “You [Fey] need to at least pay for my kids’ braces or something from all the money that you made off of pretending that you’re me! My goodness, you capitalized on that.”
Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek
Ferrell captures the Jeopardy host’s “I’m so over this shit” attitude perfectly. Trebek was more than supportive of Ferrell’s shenanigans; he made a cameo appearance on Ferrell’s last regular show. “I told him how much I enjoyed his work as me on the program, and he was quite taken that I had noticed,” Trebek told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012.
Will Ferrell as President George W. Bush
Only Ferrell can make President Bush’s dramatic Southern accent sound endearing (and a little sexy). Don’t judge us. Ferrell told Conan O’Brien that he met Bush once before he was president. However, Ferrell still hasn’t heard whether or not Bush liked his impression. (We’re guessing not.)
Did we do the mega-fans justice? Let us know your favorite SNL celebrity impressions ever in the comments below.
Check out Chris Rock discussing his top five Saturday Night Live performers:
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