Jim Carrey as Joe Biden seemed like a definite hit for SNL, but the portrayal is both inaccurate and fails to make the most of Carrey’s comedic talents.
Jim Carrey didn’t hit the mark with his Joe Biden knockoff on Saturday Night Live, with many viewers disappointed with an inaccurate portrayal that doesn’t make the most of Carrey’s comedic talents. SNL grabbed the headlines with her decision to hire Carrey, comedy legend and accomplished movie star, as the Democratic nominee – but it didn’t work.
Carrey’s choice as Biden was controversial even before the actor made a single appearance on SNL, while fans and pop culture writers have argued that such a plum gig would be better to go see a regular member of the show’s cast or even an alumnus. It would have worked well, since Jason Sudeikis has previously described Biden and got great reviews for his performance. But nevertheless, SNL Creator Lorne Michaels defended Carrey’s hiring in public comments. He pointed to Carreys ‘imposing comedic legacy, in addition to the actors’ political views, as indications that Carrey was the right fit for Biden. So far, however, this has not proven to be the case.
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In the third episode of SNL season 46, hosted by Issa Rae with Justin Bieber as a musical guest, Carrey was back as Biden. The show devoted its cold opening to dueling town halls that starred the former vice president and President Trump. It was, ultimately, more of the same. Trump’s Alec Baldwins version twisted his face and spoke words strangely. As for Carreys Biden, he was portrayed as old and curvy. Carrey crafted weapons with his fingers, again, which is not something the Democratic candidate is known to do, and overall the sketch is neither informed nor entertained. The reaction on social media has been swift and critics have not hesitated.
Jim Carrey’s manic energy couldn’t be more out of place for Biden. does not work at all.
– Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) October 18, 2020
I’m pretty sure Jim Carrey has never watched a Joe Biden video.
– Sean O’Connor (@seanoconnz) October 18, 2020
I say this with love and respect: it’s not too late to replace Jim Carrey and get someone else – anyone else – to play Joe Biden. Let Kate McKinnon do it. She’s already there and she’ll nail the role. Have mercy on us all.
– Charlotte Clymer (@cmclymer) October 18, 2020
If anything, the bright spot in the cold opening was Kate McKinnon as Savannah Guthrie, Trump’s town hall moderator. Guthrie, NBC co-anchor TODAY, was particularly persistent in her questioning of Trump’s many controversies and garnered praise for his efforts. But it’s also a testament to Carrey not clicking into his recurring high-profile gig. Still, it’s probably less the actors’ fault and more to do with the material given. Biden has been in politics for decades, and there are many legitimate critics putting pressure on the Democratic candidate. Falling back on his age and being out of touch is fundamentally ageist. To make matters worse, it wasn’t the least bit funny.
There has been a fierce debate among Democrats as to whether Bidens’ moderate political solutions are enough as the party’s young voters increasingly advocate for more radical proposals. On a related note, Biden has a long history in public life which is a good game for a comedic examination. SNL has so far refused to explore either path, monopolizing Carrey with uninspired interpretations of Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross. The approach could, at best, lead to a few viral clips. However, it also helps to reinforce a discouraging trend regarding SNL as a whole: rather than attempting political humor, even slightly incisive, the sketch show favors appealing to the smallest and laziest of common denominators.
It is telling that Carreys’ best outing came in Season 46 Episode 2, when his Biden impersonation turned into a tribute to Jeff Goldblum. When he wasn’t representing Biden and relying on recycled pieces, audiences were more receptive to his presence. Carrey is certainly talented enough to at least improve his Biden. But, the bad news is, as Baldwins’ tired take on Trump illustrates, Saturday Night Live doesn’t have the best track record for responding to complaints from longtime viewers. It could be that this version of Biden, old jokes, finger guns and all, is here to stay.
More: SNL: Bill Burr’s Cold Open Controversy Explained
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