Half the fun of watching Saturday Night Live during presidential campaign season is seeing whom the show finds to impersonate each candidate. Usually it raids its own cast members, as with Kate McKinnon's brilliant take on Hillary Clinton. But every so often the stars align, and a candidate looks just like a famous comedian.
It happened most famously with Tina Fey and Sarah Palin in 2008, and now, as many have noted, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David look and sound incredibly similar. SNL noticed, too, and it brought out David to star as Sanders in its sketch riffing on the first Democratic debate, which opened the October 17 episode.
David is pretty much perfect as Sanders, even if SNL's take on the man seems to boil down to "old man who likes to yell at things."
"If you don't mind, I'm gonna dial it right up to a 10," he says right from the first. "We're doomed. We need a revolution! Millions of people on the streets! And we gotta do something! And we gotta do it now!" But it's the way this speech ends that sells the laugh. His impassioned shouting over, David's Sanders simply concludes with an extended, "Ehhhh!"
Simply making Sanders into a grouchy old man could have struggled to provoke laughs, but for two things. First, David is great at playing a crotchety old man. His Sanders is basically a riff on Frank Costanza, the harrumphing old man character from Seinfeld, which David co-created. And second, grumpy old man jokes are almost always at least a little funny.
David is so good he steals the spotlight from several other prominent actors, like Alec Baldwin who dropped by to play former Sen. Jim Webb as a hulking macho man figure, and the always entertaining McKinnon. (After warning the audience that Sanders is promising America a golden goose, her Clinton says, "There is no golden goose, so America, follow me, because I've got some chicken that will do.")
But, no, it was all about David as Sanders. What new adventures will this Grampa Simpson-esque riff on the senator get up to? Only time and Larry David's availability will tell.