By now, you’ve probably seen Larry David’s turn as Bernie Sanders on SNL from this past weekend, and you’ve probably read the praise that’s POLLUTING the Internet. That’s right, I said polluting, because I have an exceptionally hot take to dish: Contrary to popular opinion, Larry David blew it.
Before I get into the substance of my remarks, as Bernie might say, watch the video:
Now, was it funny? To an extent. The writing was okay, though it was more about David’s unique style of observational humor and less of a Bernie parody. But that’s not the crux of the issue. What matters here is David’s impression, and to understand why he was the perfect person to play Bernie, I take you back to July, and a Rolling Stone feature on Sanders in which Mark Binelli wrote:
Sanders has distinctive white hair and a brusque manner of speaking, his delivery and thick Brooklyn accent uncannily reminiscent of Larry David. Or, even more specifically, of Larry David doing George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld.
As far as I’m aware, that was the first time anyone in the national media pinpointed the exact clone of Sanders’ voice. (Update: Cliff Corcoran points out that it goes back to at least 2009 on Twitter.) It was such a spot-on comparison that it’s been repeated over and over as Sanders’ campaign has gained prominence—there’s just no better description. Binelli nailed it, and nobody’s going to do better. Watch David in action:
So why didn’t he do the Steinbrenner voice on SNL?? David already has four tools in the bag: He’s old, he’s Jewish, he’s from Brooklyn, and he’s balding. If he’d nailed he voice, which we know he can, he’d have pulled off the rare five-tool impression. Instead, he did his own voice, and blew his chance at greatness.
If you want to see a truly amazing Bernie impression (along with a killer Trump one), watch this video featuring James Adomian and Anthony Atamnuik at UCB holding a mock debate. (It is very much not safe for work.) As it stands, that’s the best debate-season sketch in the world. David had a chance to eclipse it, but he missed his chance.