The best SNL political impersonations capture some essential truth about that person’s character, hilariously exaggerated: Darrell Hammond’s gleeful,hound dog Clinton, Will Ferrell’s squinty-eyed doofus W. spouting words like “strategery.” Fred Armisen’s Obama never managed that, and so this season he literally handed the role off to Jay Pharoah. In the opening sketch, Armisen’s character introduced the president with “Wouldn’t want his job, right?” – an edgy reference to being replaced but probably better than ignoring it. And Pharoah’s Obama? So far, a little skimpy, but he seems to be shaping up as a guy who may be too cool for his own good, saying “I’m not worried. I should be,” which at least makes him a caricature with a point rather than an bland impression.
But the sketch also hit something inadvertently true when Pharoah-Obama acknowledged his “secret weapon”: Mitt Romney. Jason Sudeikis jolted the sketch to life as Romney, blithely unaware of his own lethal uncoolness. Giving a speech, he tells a black guy in the crowd he looks like a young Lou Rawls.
Moving Pharoah into the Obama role was a good change, but managing to keep Sudeikis around at least for election season was Lorne Michael’s truly brilliant move. Here’s the sketch. (And from last season, a reminder that Sudeikis nailed Romney’s defining, tone-deaf posturing from the start. Here he is as “Mitt Romney: Raw and Unleashed”).