SNL immediately gets an extra point whenever it doesn’t start an episode with Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression. This past episode (hosted by Kristen Stewart) kicked off with a different political impression, of course, but at least one that hasn’t been quite as exhausted (or fundamentally miscalculated) as Baldwin’s. Kate McKinnon, who already played one female Democratic frontrunner for President back in 2015 and 2016, carried this week’s cold open with her take on Elizabeth Warren.
McKinnon’s political impressions tend to perfectly sum up SNL’s current political malaise: her Giuliani, Graham and Jeff Sessions weren’t really based on anything the real men have said or done, but were surface level simulacra each defined by one or two broad and generic comic traits. This is a show that didn’t focus on Sessions’ lifelong accusations of racism but instead depicted him as some kind of weird elf, or something. Her Warren is probably her best political impression so far—it actually engages with Warren’s platform and personality, while still turning her into a heightened cartoon version of herself. Comparing it to McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton impression also highlights some of the differences between the real Clinton and Warren. Whereas her Clinton swung between the same poles of “it’s my time” overconfidence and desperate pandering as the real candidate, McKinnon’s Warren is confident in her grasp of policy and also legitimately charming, much like the real woman. McKinnon’s fine impression doesn’t necessarily make this sketch all that funny—it’d need better writing for that to be true—but it’s still worth watching.