Jim Carrey unveiled his take on Joe Biden on Saturday, playing the presidential nominee as subdued, hesitant and determined not to lose his temper when provoked by his combative opponent.
The occasion was the 46th season premiere of “Saturday Night Live,” which wasted no time in getting the comedy superstar on the airwaves to show off the impression the show has been hyping as its major election season draw.
The inevitable debate parody kicked off the episode, with Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) at first alone at the lecterns and so eager to interrupt that he was cutting off the intro from moderator Chris Wallace (Beck Bennett).
Then Carrey entered, wearing shades (briefly) and firing finger guns. When it was his turn to speak, he could barely get out two words before the next Trump interruption.
“No, Joe, no,” the squinty Carrey muttered as Biden airing his inner thoughts out loud. “Don’t lose control! That’s what he’s hoping for! The country’s counting on you to just stand here and look lucid.”
When Carrey’s raspy Biden at times took long pauses and stared into space, it was unclear whether we were seeing a spoof of Biden’s deliberative manner, a dig at his mental state or a forgetful moment for Carrey.
Famous for his over-the-top physical and facial contortions, Carrey played it cool throughout the sketch, Biden style. The zaniest he got was striking a snarling animal pose when the fake Trump goaded him with a laser pointer.
The sketch’s premise — that it was a rebroadcast of the Tuesday debate — could have allowed it to dodge any mention of the week’s highly sensitive megastory: Trump’s positive COVID-19 test. But they went there: As Baldwin-as-Trump promised he’d taken a coronavirus test, he showed his fingers were crossed, and after calling the pandemic a hoax he added, “That’s a statement that probably will come back to haunt me later this week.”
And then the fake Biden, having paused Trump with a magical remote (“Let’s bask in the Trumplessness”), mused that something could happen that would merge his belief in science and his belief in karma to illustrate the dangers of COVID-19 — a prospect that, in many eyes, came true with Trump’s diagnosis.
“I’m not saying I want it to happen,” said Carrey-as-Biden. “But just imagine if it did.”
With that barrier fallen, Weekend Update anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost had free rein to goof on the subject, and a good half of their jokes centered on the president’s condition.
After three stay-at-home episodes last spring, this Saturday’s episode was the first to be shot in “SNL’s” famed Studio 8H since the pandemic broke last spring. While the in-studio audience was noticeably skimpier than usual, the comedy seemed unchanged as actors performed unmasked and at times huddled closely.
But show boss Lorne Michaels has said frequent testing is part of “SNL’s” new reality, as host Chris Rock confirmed in his monologue: “I haven’t had so much stuff up my nose since I shared a dressing room with Chris Farley.”