Which politician insisted SNL should pay for their kid's braces? Which SNL impression sent a political figure into therapy? In public, most politicians pretend their Saturday Night Live impressions, which can be downright brutal, don't bother them. Several presidents have even publicly appeared with their SNL doppelgängers, including George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford. But in private, some politicians feel very differently about SNL's attempts to imitate them for laughs.
While most politicians try to laugh off SNL's impressions, some don't handle the satire very well. How do politicians really feel about some of the most popular SNL impressions?
Donald Trump's reaction to Alec Baldwin's impression has been unlike any other politician in SNL's history. In a 2016 tweet, less than a month before the election, Trump called the impression a "hit job on me," declaring, "Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!"
After winning the election, Trump tweeted, "Just tried watching Saturday Night Live - unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can't get any worse. Sad."
The president also told Matt Lauer, "The skits are terrible. I like Alec, but his imitation of me is really mean-spirited and not very good... It's very biased and I don't like it."
In response to Baldwin's satirical presentation of the President's "national emergency" in 2019, Trump accused SNL of being "AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE" and tweeted, "Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real collusion!"
When Tina Fey memorably played vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in 2008, many of Fey's lines were direct quotes from Palin. The devastating impression may have cost John McCain votes according to an article in Public Opinions Quarterly.
What did Palin think of the impression? Although she went on SNL in 2008 and played along, Palin revealed in 2014 that she hated the impression: "I know that they portrayed me as an idiot, and I hated that. And I wanted to come on the show and counter some of that."
Palin also insists Fey should pitch in with her expenses, since the comedian's impression became so popular: "If I ran into Tina Fey again today, I would say: 'You need to at least pay for my kids' braces or something from all the money that you made off of pretending that you're me! My goodness, you capitalized on that! Can't you contribute a little bit? Jeez!'"
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer became the subject of one of the most instantly memorable impressions in SNL history when Melissa McCarthy portrayed him as an angry sycophant in 2017. In public, Spicer called the impression "cute" and "funny." After leaving the White House; however, Spicer admitted the impression "cost me a lot of money in therapy."
President Donald Trump also reportedly hated seeing a woman play his press secretary. According to one donor, "Trump doesn't like his people to look weak."
After decades in the spotlight, Hillary Clinton has seen multiple impressions of herself on SNL, most notably from Amy Poehler and Kate McKinnon. Clinton said she enjoyed McKinnon's impression, but that it also made her self-conscious. Clinton told People in 2016, “Her really dramatic impersonation of me does make me think, ‘Oh my gosh, did I roll my eyes? Lift my eyebrows?’”
Clinton especially wondered about her laugh. “My laugh, which has been noted since I was a little girl - ’hearty’ is the way it’s often described - I see the exaggerated version of it and I do sometimes think, ‘Well, maybe I should just sort of back off from that.’ But then I forget and go on and just be what I’ve always been.”
The former presidential nominee also had high praise for SNL's behind-the-scenes production members: “They have these seamstresses, tailors, and designers literally on call to make whatever I was wearing so that Kate can wear it. And I was stunned by that when I was on SNL the first time back in '08, I was shocked that I showed up and the suit I was wearing was the suit that, at that time, Amy Poehler was wearing. It was really funny.”