Live From New York: SNL’s Best and Worst Impressions

Donald Trump by Alec Baldwin

It's the weekend, and you're cozy on your couch with a bowl of popcorn. You flip on the TV, and there it is, the iconic phrase, ‘Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!' You settle in for an evening of laughter, knowing that some of the best (and occasionally, the worst) celebrity impressions are about to grace your screen. Here are the best and worst impressions we've seen from SNL.

1. Sarah Palin by Tina Fey

Sarah Palin by Tina Fey
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin became an instant hit. She nailed her voice and mannerisms perfectly! Her humorous take on the former Alaska governor during the 2008 presidential campaign earned widespread acclaim and is considered one of SNL's best impressions ever. It was so popular that it influenced the public perception of Palin. Palin herself appeared on SNL alongside Fey, and the two had a rap battle that was both funny and awkward.

2. Sean Connery by Darrell Hammond

Sean Connery by Darrell Hammond
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

To some, this is a classic example of an impression that is so bad it's good. Hammond's Connery is nothing like the actual actor but rather a rude, crude, and lewd caricature who constantly insults Alex Trebek (played by Will Ferrell) on Celebrity Jeopardy. Still, it was a crowd-pleaser, celebrated for its impeccable Scottish accent and the hilarious interactions. It's often regarded as one of the best celebrity impressions in SNL history.

3. Bill Clinton by Darrell Hammond

Bill Clinton by Darrell Hammond
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton impression was a standout, capturing the charm and charisma of the 42nd president. His impression of Clinton was often seen as a smooth-talking, sax-playing, and womanizing leader who could charm his way out of any scandal. Hammond's comedic timing and ability to mimic Clinton's voice and mannerisms made it one of SNL's most memorable impressions.

4. George W. Bush by Will Ferrell

George W. Bush by Will Ferrell
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Will Ferrell's George W. Bush impression was iconic, characterized by its exaggerated Texan drawl and playful satirical elements. Ferrell portrayed the former president as a clueless, cocky, and confident cowboy who often made up words and mispronounced them. Ferrell's Bush was a master of malapropisms, such as “strategery,” “misunderestimate,” and “nucular.” Ferrell's Bush also had a catchphrase, “I'm the decider,” that he used to assert his authority. It received widespread acclaim, solidifying Ferrell's status as one of SNL's comedy legends!

5. Donald Trump by Alec Baldwin

Donald Trump by Alec Baldwin
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

This is one of SNL's most controversial and divisive impressions to date. Baldwin depicted the former president as a narcissistic, incompetent, unhinged leader who often lied, tweeted, and ranted about his enemies. Baldwin's Trump was a frequent target of criticism and mockery by the real Trump, who often expressed his displeasure on Twitter and called SNL “fake news .”Baldwin's Trump also had a signature facial expression, a pouty mouth, and squinty eyes that he used to convey his disdain.

6. Justin Bieber by Kate McKinnon

Justin Bieber by Kate McKinnon
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Kate McKinnon did one of the most hilarious and spot-on impressions ever. She impersonated the pop star as a cocky, immature, spoiled brat who often flirted, posed, and danced ridiculously. McKinnon's Bieber was a parody of his bad boy image, as seen in sketches where he promoted his underwear line, apologized for his scandals, and hosted a talk show. McKinnon's Bieber also had a catchphrase, “It's too late to say sorry,” a hilarious jab at his own song. She garnered plenty of laughter, for sure!

7. Hillary Clinton by Kate McKinnon

Hillary Clinton by Kate McKinnon
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

This is another fantastic impression by McKinnon, who portrayed the former secretary of state and presidential candidate as a determined, ambitious, and robotic politician who often struggled to connect with the public and show her human side. McKinnon's Clinton was a satire of her campaign issues, such as her email controversy, health problems, and loss to Trump.

8. Barack Obama by Jay Pharoah

Barack Obama by Jay Pharaoh
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Jay Pharoah is one of the GOATs! He did one of the most accurate and impressive impressions, as Pharaoh mimicked the former president's voice, cadence, and demeanor with remarkable precision. His version of Obama was a calm, cool, and collected leader who often faced challenges from his opponents, allies, and family. Pharoah's Obama also had a signature gesture, a finger point and a nod, that he used to emphasize his points. He does an excellent Denzel Washington, too!

9. David Bowie by Fred Armisen

Fred Armisen
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Fred Armisen's portrayal of David Bowie is among the most respectful and heartfelt impressions. Armisen paid tribute to the late rock legend by performing his songs and imitating his style. Armisen's Bowie was a homage to his musical genius, artistic innovation, and cultural influence. Armisen's Bowie also had a special appearance when he joined John C. Reilly and Kristen Wiig as one of the singers in the sketch “The Bjelland Brothers.”

10. Christopher Walken by Christopher Walken

Christopher Walken
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Christopher Walken's portrayal of himself became legendary on SNL. Walken impersonated himself in a sketch where he auditioned for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars. His deadpan delivery and distinctive voice allowed him to play exaggerated versions of himself, creating memorable and often absurd comedic moments on the show. He also had a funny line when he said, “I have a bad feeling about this,” in his unique way.

11. Justin Timberlake by Jimmy Fallon

Justin Timberlake by Jimmy Fallon
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Fallon gave one of the most entertaining impressions, imitating his friend and frequent collaborator by singing, dancing, and joking in his style. His impression and bromance with Justin Timberlake has been widely celebrated. Fallon's Timberlake also had a catchy song, “The Barry Gibb Talk Show,” that he performed with Fallon as Barry Gibb.

12. Tony Soprano by James Gandolfini

Tony Soprano by James Gandolfini
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

This is one of the most rare and surprising impressions, as Gandolfini played his iconic character in a sketch where he met his therapist's new patient, Robert De Niro. Gandolfini's Soprano was a faithful rendition of his Emmy-winning role, as he displayed his anger, anxiety, and vulnerability. Gandolfini's Soprano also had a funny moment when he realized that De Niro was the actor who played his idol, Al Pacino.

13. Bill O'Reilly by Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly by Bill O'Reilly
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Bill O'Reilly's appearances on SNL, including his impressions of himself, were met with mixed reactions. While some appreciated the self-deprecating humor, others found it polarizing, reflecting the divisive nature of O'Reilly's real-life persona. It became one of the show's most ironic and awkward impressions as he argued, interrupted, and insulted himself. O'Reilly's impression of himself also included a hilarious line when he said, “Shut up, you pinhead” to himself.

14. Matt Foley by Chris Farley

Matt Foley by Chris Farley
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Chris Farley's Matt Foley character was a beloved SNL creation that became a fan favorite and a cultural phenomenon. Farley's Foley was a motivational speaker who lived in a van down by the river and who tried to scare kids straight with his loud, energetic, and physical comedy. Farley's Foley also had a classic catchphrase, “I'm gonna get my gear,” that he used to announce his departure.

15. Elton John by Fred Armisen

Elton John and the Royal Wedding - SNL
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Fred Armisen's portrayal of Elton John was marked by his ability to capture the musician's style and British charm. It's a super underrated and clever impression! Armisen's John was a tribute to his musical legacy, flamboyant fashion, and outspoken personality. Armisen's John also had a memorable sketch, where he hosted a talk show called “The Mellow Show” and interviewed other mellow musicians, such as Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews.

16. Sarah Silverman by Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman by Sarah Silverman
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Silverman reprised her own character that she created as a cast member in the 1990s. Silverman's Silverman was a parody of her own quirky, edgy, and self-referential humor, as she made jokes about her Jewish heritage, her sexuality, and her career. Silverman's Silverman also had a hilarious sketch, where she played a therapist who gave bad advice to her patients. Sarah Silverman's self-portrayal on SNL was somewhat divisive. While some appreciated her blunt humor, others found it annoying due to its explicit and edgy nature.

17. The Church Lady by Dana Carvey

The Church Lady by Dana Carvey
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Dana Carvey's Church Lady character was a comedic hit, celebrated for its satirical take on religious figures and moralizing personalities. It became an iconic SNL impression, though some viewers with strong religious affiliations might have found it controversial. Church Lady was a judgmental, self-righteous, and hypocritical host of a religious talk show called “Church Chat,” where she interviewed and criticized celebrities, politicians, and other sinners. Carvey's Church Lady also had a famous catchphrase, “Isn't that special?” that she used to mock her guests.

18. Stefon by Bill Hader

Stefon by Bill Hader
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Bill Hader's Stefon character was a beloved and quirky impression. Hader's Stefon was a flamboyant, eccentric, and drug-addicted club kid who gave absurd and hilarious recommendations for New York's hottest nightclubs, featuring bizarre and outrageous attractions, such as human fire hydrants, Jewish Draculas, and DJ Baby Bok Choy. Hader's Stefon also had a recurring gag, where he would crack up and cover his mouth with his hands because he was reading the cue cards for the first time.

19. Wayne and Garth by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey

Wayne and Garth by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey's impressions were crowd-pleasers and are considered some of SNL's best. They were two metal-loving, basement-dwelling, and party-going hosts of a public access show called “Wayne's World,” where they reviewed music, movies, and babes. Myers and Carvey's Wayne and Garth also had several catchphrases, such as “Party on,” “Schwing,” and “We're not worthy.”

20. Drunk Uncle by Bobby Moynihan

Drunk Uncle by Bobby Moynihan
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Bobby Moynihan's Drunk Uncle character was known for its over-the-top, inebriated antics and politically incorrect humor. While some found it hilarious, others might have deemed it offensive. Moynihan's Drunk Uncle was a bitter, racist, and alcoholic relative who ranted about the state of the world, the younger generation, and his failures. Moynihan's Drunk Uncle also had a signature drink: a glass of Scotch with a splash of Scotch.

21. The Blues Brothers by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

The Blues Brothers by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

This is one of the most original and legendary impressions of all time, as Aykroyd and Belushi created original characters that became a sensation on the show and a phenomenon on the stage and the screen. Aykroyd and Belushi's Blues Brothers were two soul-loving, sunglasses-wearing, and trouble-making brothers who performed classic blues and soul songs with a live band and a lot of energy. Aykroyd and Belushi's Blues Brothers also had a famous motto, “We're on a mission from God,” that they used to justify their antics.

22. Mr. Robinson by Eddie Murphy

Mr. Robinson by Eddie Murphy
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Eddie Murphy's portrayal of Mr. Robinson was a comedic success. Murphy's Mr. Robinson came with a twist: he was a criminal, a con artist, and a settler who lived in a rundown apartment and taught kids about the harsh realities of life. Murphy's Mr. Robinson also had a catchy theme song, “It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won't you be my neighbor?”.

23. Pat by Julia Sweeney

Pat by Julia Sweeney
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

Julia Sweeney's portrayal of the androgynous character Pat was met with mixed reviews. Sweeney's Pat was a gender-ambiguous, socially awkward, and annoying person who baffled and frustrated everyone trying to figure out whether Pat was a man or a woman. Sweeney's Pat also had a curious habit of scratching his/her armpit and sniffing his/her hand. While it aimed to address gender identity humorously, some viewers found it awkward and cringe-worthy, making it one of SNL's less well-received impressions.

24. The Coneheads by Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin

The Coneheads by Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin
Image Credit: Saturday Night Live Official Channel.

This is one of the most bizarre and funny impressions in SNL history, as Aykroyd and Curtin created original characters that became a staple of the show and a cult classic on the big screen. Aykroyd and Curtin's Coneheads were aliens from the planet Remulak who pretended to be a suburban family on Earth, but with some noticeable differences: they had large, cone-shaped heads, they spoke in a monotone voice, and they had strange customs, such as eating whole chickens, drinking motor oil, and consuming mass quantities. Aykroyd and Curtin's Coneheads also had a catchphrase, “We are from France,” to explain their odd behavior.

Author: Creshonda Smith

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Expertise: Travel, Food, Parenting, Lifestyle

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Creshonda is a content writer with a passion for entertainment and lifestyle topics like parenting, travel, and movies. Hailing from Cleveland, OH, she graduated from The Ohio State University with a bachelor's and master's degree in Clinical Social Work. While she has specific topics that she enjoys writing about, she likes to tackle other topics that she's not as familiar with in an attempt to continually improve her writing skills and knowledge about the world around us. Creshonda has written for various publications such as MSN, Detroit Legal News, Jacksonville Journal-Courier, and more. When she's not serving as a Trending Topics writer for Wealth of Geeks, she's searching for tropical destinations to travel to with her family.