Kate McKinnon, Political Chameleon
In her already-legendary SNL tenure, Kate McKinnon has proven especially adept at portraying a host of high-profile political figures. Whether endearingly unpeeling Hillary Clinton’s insecurities or outrageously capturing Jeff Sessions’ elf-ish essence, the comedian has put together more than a dozen essential (and prescient) impressions. We’ve rounded them up here.
McKinnon’s iconic Hillary Clinton is an excited, intelligent ball of anxieties compounded in 2016 by her deteriorated public image. McKinnon has struck a remarkable balance here, keeping Clinton sympathetic and appealing even as she spotlights her more unflattering qualities unsparingly.
Perhaps McKinnon’s most frequently recurring political figure of the moment, the Jeff Sessions of SNL continues to be taken to increasingly surreal places. There was, of course, the period when he was on Trump’s chopping block, doing anything (even sitting on his lap) to get back in his good graces. But now we appear back to the elfish Southern caricature boasting a devious side (and a tail). Thank goodness.
This impression has evolved for the better. At the start, SNL‘s Kellyanne Conway was a savvy political operative who didn’t take Donald Trump seriously and hadn’t fallen (or risen, depending on your perspective) to his moral level. But since Trump took office, McKinnon has been absolutely brilliant tracking her descent into madness, whether in a Fatal Attraction riff opposite Anderson Cooper or a glorious Pennywise parody, with Jake Tapper as the potential victim. Here’s to more off-the-wall Kellyanne parodies.
The most recent impression on this list (it debuted in the Jan. 20, 2018, episode), something tells us we haven’t seen the last of McKinnon’s Robert Mueller.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Perhaps McKinnon’s most broadly beloved impersonation is that of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McKinnon plays her as fair-minded, progressive, and smart — with a penchant for throwing out some killer “Gins-burns.” (Hey, even Ginsburg herself has endorsed them.)
Ever heard a rousingly wonky Elizabeth Warren speech? Then you know just how precisely McKinnon recreates the senator’s speaking patterns, not to mention those sharp, pointy hand gestures.
The face here says it all. McKinnon has appeared as Pelosi periodically, but her brief work in SNL‘s mock DNC advertisement was the best of the bunch, honing in on the disconnect between the Democrats’ message and popularity in the form of one party leader’s lack of excitement.
In the first months of the Trump Administration, Betsy DeVos was among the most lampooned incoming cabinet members. Her many speaking flubs were portrayed to hilariously extreme effect by McKinnon.
The former DNC chair attracted intense backlash from both sides of the political aisle during the 2016 election for her perceived favoritism of Hillary Clinton. McKinnon’s take on the congresswoman didn’t hold back.
One of McKinnon’s great recurring “Weekend Update” characters is the Chancellor of Germany herself. McKinnon, accent and all, plays Merkel as a feminist power-player who has no time for men below her level.
The unlikely Prime Minister of England was thrust into the spotlight in the aftermath of Brexit, and then again when her country needed to start publicly opposing the actions of the U.S. President. As with Merkel, this one would be worth it for the superb accent alone.
McKinnon played Ann Romney through the 2012 election cycle, not long after she’d first joined the show as a featured player. Of course, this is one of a few characters on this list to have lost relevance and, as such, stopped appearing on SNL. (Though Mitt’s rumored Senate bid could certainly change that.)
Another politician’s wife who we haven’t seen a while, don’t count McKinnon’s Janet Huckabee out: Whenever her husband tweets something insanely unfunny, you can trust that there’s a chance she’ll pop up again.
This was one of McKinnon’s more memorable one-offs. As President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services in the wake of the clumsy Obamacare rollout, McKinnon’s Sebelius filmed a video offering tips for how best to navigate the glitchy website.
There are, obviously, a few gender-flipped examples on this list, and given that we haven’t seen it in a while, this is probably the lowest-profile. But as she has done with Jeff Sessions, McKinnon nailed the senator’s quirky, sometimes disingenuous Southern charm.