There have been 5 Joe Biden impressions on 'Saturday Night Live.' Results have been mixed

Ryan Cormier
Delaware News Journal

When "Saturday Night Live" announced Jim Carrey would play the sketch program's Joe Biden in political sketches for the campaign season, reaction was mixed.

After six episodes, not much has changed.

Some have loved watching the notoriously rubber-faced comic strap on aviator sunglasses. They revel in the impression, finger guns and all.

Others don't buy it — like many critics, seeing it as an ill-fitting attempt, a lame political Ace Ventura wannabe of sorts.

Over the past three decades or so, five comic actors have lampooned Biden on the long-running NBC late-night show, and each has had his own vibe, ranging from the goofiness of Jason Sudeikis' character to the more subdued version of Joe first brought to life by Kevin Nealon in 1991.

Who did it best? Take our poll

Jim Carrey as Joe Biden during a "Saturday Night Live" sketch about the final presidential debate last month.

That was when a fake Biden first made an appearance on the show. And what a debut it was.

The notorious cold open, which has recently been reconsidered by some in light of the #MeToo movement, featured Biden heading the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas. The sketch revolved around the testimony of Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment, and Thomas' denial.

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Nealon played a buttoned-down Biden in the sketch from behind the Senate Judiciary Committee seat, letting his buffoonish lines get the laughs. (Although Nealon's Muppet-like hair, a jab at Biden's ever-changing hair, probably also garnered a few chuckles.)

"Judge Thomas, there have been charges from Professor Hill that you talked to her casually about graphic scenes in porno movies. Did that work? Did that break the ice?" Nealon asked, as if Biden were looking for advice on picking up women.

Kevin Nealon as Joe Biden in a  1991 "Saturday Night Live" sketch about Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Nealon left the crazier antics up to some of the show's other scene-stealers, like Chris Farley as Sen. Howell Heflin, Phil Hartman as Sen. Ted Kennedy and Dana Carvey as Sen. Strom Thurmond. 

The next "SNL" Biden impression would come 16 years later when he ran for president in 2007 before accepting former President Barack Obama's offer to be his vice president.

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Nealon was long gone by that time and the job fell to Jason Sudeikis, who portrayed Biden for six years until he left the show in 2013.

If there's a definitive Biden character on "Saturday Night Live," Sudeikis is it, so far.

The purposely overblown version played off Biden stereotypes, delivering a flashy, over-confident version of Biden with a car salesman smile and a knack for saying just about anything inappropriate.

Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden (center) along with Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren (left) and Larry David as Bernie Sanders on "Saturday Night Live" in 2019.

"You know, in Delaware, we have a joke: What’s the difference between a pit bull and Joe Biden? You can teach a pit bull to keep its mouth shut!" a cocksure Sudeikis-as-Biden said in one sketch.

He shouted every line.

He acted like an ownerless puppy running wild.

And as a bonus, Sudeikis dropped a few Delaware mentions, even if they weren't the most positive: "Don’t be telling me that I’m part of the Washington elite because I come from the absolute worst place on Earth: Scranton, Pennsylvania! And Wilmington, Delaware, is not much better."

Once Sudeikis left the show, there was no one left when Biden reemerged for the Democratic presidential primary, which he joined in April.

Woody Harrelson (far right) as Joe Biden on "Saturday Night Live" on Nov. 23, 2019.

That's when four-time host Woody Harrelson was recruited to play Biden for a few episodes last year, bringing a more stoic character with the same level of foolishness, but with much bigger fake choppers in his mouth.

Harrelson received a prolonged applause break when he first surprised fans by strolling on stage as a more folksy Biden during a town hall sketch. He then unveiled the hallmark of his Biden impression: having Joe tell a meandering story that veers toward uncomfortable subjects and goes nowhere.

"The year is 1962. I’m lifeguarding. No shirt. Tan chest. Medium nips. Oh, and I should point out that it was a segregated pool, just to put everyone on the edge for the rest of the story. So, I’m lifeguarding and who walks in but Corn Pop," he said in one debate sketch, referencing a former Wilmington resident whom Biden spoke about on the campaign trail at the time.

Before Carrey could slip into the role a few months back, there was one other Biden impression on "Saturday Night Live."

And as with Carrey, it wasn't a cast member.

"Saturday Night Live" host John Mulaney as Joe Biden, Beck Bennett as Mike Pence and Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren during the show's Feb. 29, 2020, opening sketch about coronavirus.

Comedian John Mulaney played Biden in a late February cold open, a sketch about the coronavirus featuring Vice President Mike Pence (Beck Bennett) at a White House podium fielding questions from Democratic candidates.

Beckett even made a joke about the show having a new Biden, saying, "Joe Biden? You look different."

Mulaney's Biden, who was fresh from his campaign-making South Carolina presidential primary win, wasn't much of an impression or a character. Instead, it was just Mulaney wearing an old man wig with his same distinctive singsong delivery.

Mulaney's Biden went on to say the way to beat coronavirus was for everyone to "get new teeth daily."

Jim Carrey as Joe Biden and Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris during a Halloween-themed "Saturday Night Live" sketch last weekend.

Who will the next Joe Biden be? Who knows. But it could be soon.

Check out some recent headlines: "Saturday Night Live Has a Jim Carrey Problem" (Vanity Fair), "Why Jim Carrey’s Biden impersonation on SNL isn’t quite catching on" (The Washington Post) and the most vicious, "Why Has Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden Been Such a Disaster?" (The Ringer).

"Maybe he’s too physical a performer, or too needy a showman, to capture the flapjack earnestness of the former vice president," writes Vanity Fair's Karen Valby. "He’s a monkey tasked with playing a tortoise."

Ouch. Get your resumes ready. There could soon be an opening.

Got a tip? Contact Ryan Cormier of The News Journal at or (302) 324-2863. Follow him on Facebook (@ryancormier), Twitter (@ryancormier) and Instagram (@ryancormier).