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20 Best ‘Saturday Night Live’ Political Sketches

From ‘Trump Voters’ to Tina Fey’s iconic Sarah Palin – the greatest, funniest, sharpest political ‘SNL’ sketches

This Saturday, Melissa McCarthy will host Saturday Night Live for the fifth time – and if the promo she dropped a few days ago is any indication, the comedian will probably be trotting out her killer Sean Spicer impersonation at least once. To say that her hilarious take on the White House press secretary has been one of the best things about this past season is a vast understatement – that first surprise appearance of her gum-chewing, Super Soaker-toting, media-bashing lackey was the sort of reminder that, when SNL seizes a moment while running on all cylinders, the show can add to the political discourse that can be deep or downright damning.

But while the long-running comedy institution has been especially tuned in to policy matters and the powers that be since kicking off Season 42 last October, Saturday Night Live has always turned to political humor for inspiration (and served as the basis of many memorable impersonations). It’s been fertile ground for topical takedowns week after week, but that’s not to say that many of those skits aren’t timeless. Just say “strategery” or “lockbox” to someone and watch them crack up.

So in honor of McCarthy’s Spicer returning to Studio 8H, we’re looking back at the 20 greatest political sketches throughout the show’s history – from clumsy Fords to clueless Dubyas, from undecided voters to venomous debates. We’re leaving “Weekend Update” out of the mix – you could do a whole other list on SNL‘s top-shelf fake-news segments that have left bruised egos and belly laughs in their wake. These are the bits that have changed public outlook, occasionally spoke truth to power and still crack us up.

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‘Voters for Trump Ad’ (3/5/16)

What was arguably the most savage attack the show mounted toward the Trump camp didn’t even feature an impersonation of him; rather, it focused on the elements attracted by the dog-whistles he was sending out during campaign stops – as well as those pro-Trump folks that seemed willing to overlook such aspects. It starts with a bunch of “everyday” voters talking about how the Republican canidate is “authentic,” “a winner” and “an outisder … Washington needs that.” Then, thanks to a series of reveals, we meet the “real Americans” saying these things: a Nazi, a Klansman, a white nationalist, a conspiracy-theory nutjob. It’s jaw-dropping, brilliant, scathing and worth a dozen or more post-election Trump sketches in terms of hitting bone. DF

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‘Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton Address the Nation’ (9/13/08)

If you were to construct an all-time, all-star cast stretching across the show’s entire history, you would put both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler into the mix – and this simply-staged cold open might be their best moment as a performing pair. Fey’s oblivious Palin is matched with the barely-contained rage of Poehler’s Clinton, and the result is dynamite: “I believe diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.” “And I can see Russia from my house!” The writers didn’t have to make up much original dialogue for Palin, instead choosing to use many of the V.P. candidate’s own quotes in the sketch itself. (It’s a pattern the show repeated when Fey later portrayed the politician opposite Poehler’s Katie Couric, an equally brilliant sketch.) The head writer’s Palin portrayal was instantly iconic, and once again made SNL Must-See TV during an Presidential election season. RM

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