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''SNL'''s Gore impersonator concedes defeat

Darrell Hammond’s takeoff on the Vice President is one of the show’s highlights, says Ty Burr

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Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, ...
Hammond, Ferrell: Mary Ellen Matthews

”SNL”’s Gore impersonator concedes defeat

We won’t have Darrell Hammond to kick around anymore.

To be precise, we won’t have Darrell Hammond’s Al Gore to kick around anymore. Now that George W. Bush has, in the words of the New York Times, ”prevailed,” it’s time, I suppose, for the ”Saturday Night Live” comedian’s impersonation of the Vice President to be retired and hung up in that closet in the back of Lorne Michael’s office, right next to Dana Carvey’s George Bush Sr., Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford, and Dan Aykroyd’s Nixon.

I’ll truly miss Hammond’s Gore. Springing to life fully formed in the show’s much lauded debate parody early this season, the caricature was pitch perfect in its exaggerations of the Vice President’s animatronic personal tics, particularly the sibilant slurs and odd neck stretches that suggested a hard drive undergoing a massive midsentence reformatting. Hammond, in other words, nailed Gore pretty much off the bat, which is something he never quite managed to do with his ”happy frat boy” impersonation of Bill Clinton.

It’s certainly more than fellow ”SNL” cast member Will Ferrell has been able to do with George W. Bush. No slur on Ferrell: It’s hard to parody a public figure who has learned to play it close to the chest precisely so that late night comedians won’t be able to make fun of him. But where Ferrell was inspired on that debate sketch, riffing shiftily on the candidate’s reputation for malapropisms and dimness, the waiting game has hurt: On last weekend’s ”SNL,” his depiction of Dubya as a tantrum prone toddler being cosseted and protected by grown ups Jeb Bush and Dick Cheney — well, it was just silly. Satire needs to have one foot in reality if it’s to sting. On the other hand, this IS ”Saturday Night Live” we’re talking about.

Does it matter? No, not really — except that it’s interesting to note that just as we’re stepping from one political era into another, so we’re moving into a new period of political comedy as well. Now that the election appears to be decided, the first shots can be fired — and they ARE being fired: On Tuesday morning, the day after the Supremes quashed the Florida recounts, I came into the office and found emails from friends with lovingly Photoshopped attachments already goofing on President Bush (”New bong: $50… Cocaine habit: $300… Finding out that the good old boy network can still rig an election in the deep South: Priceless. MasterRace: For the rest of us there’s honesty.”) Now, calm down — if Gore had somehow won, you know there’d be similar anti President Al things going around.

To a large extent, these are just last ditch sour grapes, though. It’ll take the first 100 days or so of a Bush administration before we get a sense of the man’s Chief Executive potential — and the satiric possibilities of his term. Until then, I’m afraid we’ll have to endure Ferrell’s fuzzy comic math on ”SNL.” Darrell, we hardly knew ye.