‘SNL’ just introduced a new Joe Biden, not everyone looks impressed
Who is this new Biden? That’s what fans of Saturday Night Live were asking on Twitter after the late-night comedy institution introduced yet another new actor as President Joe Biden. As you may recall, Jason Sudeikis played the current President on Veep before moving to England and becoming Ted Lasso. After a three-episode run by Woody Harrelson in 2019 and a one-shot performance by John Mulaney, Jim Carrey took over during the 2020 Presidential election, ironically resigning just after Biden won the presidency. Enter cast member Alex Moffat, who appeared to be on his way to becoming a four-term SNL president.
Viewers tuning in to the Season 47 premiere, on the other hand, saw a completely different President. To say they were perplexed is an understatement. As Twitter users scrambled to figure out who he was, some mistook him for host Owen Wilson, who was taking a turn at the presidential podium.
So, who is this Joe Biden? This season’s Featured Players include none other than James Austin Johnson, one of six new comedians hired. Surprisingly, the Tennessee-born comedian rose to prominence by impersonating another former Oval Office occupant: former President Donald Trump. In August 2020, Johnson released a Twitter video in which he impersonated Trump and riffed on one of Scooby Doo’s central mysteries: why Scooby himself never seems to do anything.
After that “Scooby-Don” video went viral — and was quickly followed by others — Vanity Fair dubbed Johnson “the best Trump impersonator of all.” Yes, even better than SNL’s own Trump impersonator, Alec Baldwin, who retired his divisive performance last season.
Johnson made no references to Scooby-Doo in his inaugural address as Biden. He did, however, make a reference to another childhood animated favorite — Voltron — while discussing his plans to unite the Democratic Party’s moderate and progressive wings. He also gave a nod to Trump in the direction of Biden, saying that what distinguishes him from his predecessor as President is his desire to remain out of the spotlight. “I’m like an oil change — you don’t think about me until you absolutely have to.”
Based on the mixed reactions to Johnson’s SNL debut, it’s safe to say that he won’t be crowned “best Biden impersonator” anytime soon. Once viewers realized who he was, their reactions to his performance were all over the place. But don’t begrudge Moffat! After all, he didn’t exactly follow Beck Bennett out the Studio 8H exit door. Moffat is still a member of the SNL cast, and he even appeared alongside his replacement in the cold open as… U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. That’s a job he’ll have for the next three years or so, depending on how the 2022 elections go.
While the verdict on Johnson is still out on social media, Colin Jost and Michael Che closed out the first “Weekend Update” of the season in style. The duo dedicated the night’s final jokes to their “Update” predecessor, Norm Macdonald, who died on Sept. 14 after a private battle with cancer. (Pete Davidson also paid tribute to the late comic, wearing a T-shirt with his face on it.) “Norm is the reason I ever wanted to host ‘Weekend Update,'” Jost said, before playing a clip of classic Norm-isms.