‘SNL’ rolls back satirizing Biden’s first year in office compared to other presidents

“Saturday Night Live” was once a cultural behemoth that captured the political moment with satire. But that is no longer the case, particularly under the Biden administration. 

NBC’s long-running sketch comedy program famously mocked presidents from both parties across the decades from Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford, Dan Aykroyd’s Jimmy Carter, Phil Hartman’s Ronald Reagan, Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush, Phil Hartman and Darrell Hammond’s Bill Clinton, Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush, Fred Armisen and Jay Pharoah’s Barack Obama to Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump

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However, “SNL” has so far significantly rolled back its mockery of the current president, Joe Biden. 

During Biden’s first year in office, he was satirized only three times in the show’s cold open, which historically showcases the biggest news of the week, equating to roughly 14% of the 22 episodes that aired between Jan. 30, 2021 and Jan 22, 2022. 

“SNL” newcomer James Austin Johnson made his debut as Biden in the Season 47 premiere in October, which marked the very first time the president was satirized in the cold open, going through a nearly 9-month dry spell. Cast member Alex Moffat briefly appeared as Biden during a mid-show sketch in March. 

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Biden’s weak presence on “SNL” pales in comparison to his predecessor’s first year in office. Alec Baldwin appeared in the cold open at least 11 times to satirize the president between Jan. 21, 2017 and Jan. 20, 2018, a whopping 52% of the 21 episodes, according to the show’s library on the Peacock streaming service. Baldwin additionally appeared as Trump in a mid-show sketch in February 2017 when he served as the host. 

During Obama’s first year in office, Fred Armisen appeared at least nine times in the “SNL” cold open between Jan. 31, 2009 and Jan. 30, 2010, roughly 41% of the 22 episodes that aired during that period. Incidentally, “SNL” mocked Biden more in his first year as vice president in the cold open than it has as president with Jason Sudeikis playing the VP four times during that same period. 

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Even during less politically-charged times, Will Ferrell made more appearances as George W. Bush, tallying at least ten cold opens between Jan. 20, 2001, and Jan. 19, 2002, roughly 45% of the 22 episodes. Biden was even outpaced during Bill Clinton’s first year in office with Phil Hartman satirizing him in at least five out of the 20 episodes that aired between Feb. 6, 1993 and Jan. 15, 1994, 25% of the show’s cold opens. 

So who during the Biden presidency has “SNL” chosen to satirize instead? Well, many of its repeat targets belong in the party that currently has no control of the White House, the Senate or the House of Representatives. 

James Austin Johnson, who has been Season 47’s Joe Biden on three separate occasions, has made just as many appearances as former President Trump in the cold open, retiring Alec Baldwin’s Trump after having been a mainstay on the NBC program during the 2016 election and throughout the Trump presidency. 

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., played Cecily Strong, has made even more appearances on “SNL” between her three cold opens and two mid-show sketches. However, the show’s biggest target during the Biden presidency has actually been Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx. (played by Aidy Bryant), who has appeared in the cold open a whopping seven times in addition to a mid-show sketch over the past year. 

Additionally, Dr. Anthony Fauci, played by Kate McKinnon, has made as many cold open appearances as his current boss. And disgraced New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, played by Pete Davidson, was also satirized four times throughout the course of his downfall. 

But noticeably missing from the cold opens so far during the Biden presidency is Vice President Harris.

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Despite all the headlines she has made during the past year, Harris was only satirized once in a mid-show sketch back in March when Maya Rudolph hosted after previously playing her during the 2020 election cycle and the transition.

Mike Pence, Joe Biden and Dick Cheney all made cold open appearances as the VP in their first years in office.

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