SNL's funniest presidential debate sketches

We’re little more than a month out from the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and before their new season premieres this weekend, we want to look back at our favorite presidential debate sketches performed on “Saturday Night Live.”

From Chevy Chase’s clumsy Gerald Ford to Tina Fey’s rootin-tootin’ Sarah Palin to Alec Baldwin’s egomaniacal , we look back on a handful of classic sketches that perfectly encapsulated their respective campaign years and some lesser-known bits that have a little more meaning now than perhaps they did when they aired on NBC.

The first presidential debate between Republican nominee incumbent and Democratic challenger will be held tonight at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT) and will run for 90 minutes without commercial interruptions. Every major network and most cable channels will carry the debate.

Until then, have a laugh or two.

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Debate ’76

Ann Wrabel (Karen Black) moderates a debate between a medicated President Gerald Ford (Chevy Chase) and Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter (Dan Aykroyd), with questions on Ford’s visit to Poland and Carter’s Playboy interview. In just the second season, the show would set the standard for future debate sketches that would define its legacy in political satire, thanks mostly to Chase and Aykroyd’s hilarious performances as the respective candidates as well as a terrific panel including John Belushi as a Rolling Stone reporter. [Season 2, 1976] [embedded content]

George Bush debate

Vice President George Bush (Dana Carvey) debates Gov. Michael Dukakis (Jon Lovitz). Clocking in at 14 minutes, it’s pretty jam-packed and features Tom Hanks as anchor Peter Jennings and Carvey in fine form in one of his most celebrated “SNL” impressions. And the more Lovitz, the better. [Oct. 8, 1988] [embedded content]

George H. W. Bush Gives Debate Advice to George W. Bush

George H. W. Bush (Dana Carvey) helps George W. Bush (Will Ferrell) prepare to debate Al Gore, teaching him techniques such as giving lots of one-word answers to evade important topics. The old pro Carvey reviving a crowd favorite, with Ferrell coming into his own as W., a character many still consider his funniest. [2000] [embedded content]

First Presidential Debate: Al Gore and George W. Bush

One word: Strategery. The hotly contested 2000 election helped to redefine SNL as a beacon of political satire, thanks in large part to the brilliance of Will Ferrell’s dopey take on George W. Bush, along with Darrell Hammond’s fantastic Al Gore impersonation. The sketch runs long, but we could spend the entire 90 minutes with these two. Despite how you felt about the outcome of the race, at least it meant more time with Ferrell in the Oval Office. [Season 26, 2000] [embedded content]

The Presidential Debates: Bush and Kerry’s Ninth Debate

In the ninth debate of the 2004 Election, President George W. Bush (Will Forte) and Senator John Kerry (Seth Meyers) argue about Dick Cheney’s daughter, Kerry’s desire to raise taxes and Pottery Barn. The brilliant Forte gave it a shot replacing Ferrell as Bush, an impossible task. Few probably even remember Meyers played the Dem hopeful. [Season 30, 2004] [embedded content]

VP Debate: Sarah Palin and

Gov. Sarah Palin (Tina Fey) and Sen. (Jason Sudeikis) square off about the financial crisis, John McCain and getting “”mavericky”” in this 2008 vice presidential debate moderated by Gwen Ifill (Queen Latifah). Fey took over the pop culture conversation, at least until Election Day, with her silly and spot-on take on Palin. [Season 34, 2009] [embedded content]

2012 GOP Debate II

Sandy Shaub (Vanessa Bayer) of Marriott TV hosts a GOP debate and questions policies of hopeful Presidential candidates. Nice to see all-star cast members playing the candidates. Features Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Bobby Moynihan, Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson, Andy Samberg. [Season 37, 2011] [embedded content]

2012 Town Hall Presidential Debate

Candy Crowley (Aidy Bryant) moderates the 2012 Town Hall Presidential Debate as Mitt Romney (Jason Sudeikis) and Barack Obama (Jay Pharoah) answer questions from undecided Long Island voters (Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Tom Hanks). Hanks again! What we really can’t believe is that the talented Aidy Bryant was already in the cast in 2012. [Season 38, 2012] [embedded content]

2012 Vice Presidential Debate

Martha Raddatz (Kate McKinnon) moderates as (Jason Sudeikis) and Paul Ryan (Taran Killam) exchange verbal blows during the 2012 Vice Presidential debate. Killam deserved better! An underrated workhorse cast member rarely failed to deliver. [Season 38, 2012] [embedded content]

Democratic Debate Cold Open

Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon), Bernie Sanders (Larry David), Jim Webb (Alec Baldwin), Lincoln Chafee (Kyle Mooney) and Martin O’Malley (Taran Killam) face off at the Democratic presidential debate, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper (Jon Rudnitsky). Not long before Baldwin would take over as Trump, we also got a glimpse at what David would bring as Bernie. [October 2015] [embedded content]

GOP Debate Cold Open

(Darrell Hammond), Sen. Ted Cruz (Taran Killam), Dr. Ben Carson (Jay Pharoah), Sen. Marco Rubio (Pete Davidson), Gov. Jeb Bush (Beck Bennett), Carly Fiorina (Cecily Strong), Sen. Rand Paul (Kyle Mooney) and Gov. Chris Christie (Bobby Moynihan) debate in Las Vegas. Why didn’t Killam play Rubio? Hammond always had a great Trump impersonation, it’s a wonder why they didn’t let him ride it out these last four years. [December 2015] [embedded content]

vs. Hillary Clinton Debate Cold Open

(Alec Baldwin) and Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) face off in the first presidential debate, moderated by Lester Holt (Michael Che). Baldwin likely thought this was a temporary gig he could carry over for just a few episodes. Well… [October 2016] [embedded content]

vs. Hillary Clinton Town Hall Debate Cold Open

(Alec Baldwin) and Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) take questions from undecided voters (Leslie Jones, Beck Bennett, Michael Che, Bobby Moynihan, Kyle Mooney) in the second presidential debate. [October 2016] [embedded content]

vs. Hillary Clinton Third Debate Cold Open

Chris Wallace (Tom Hanks) moderates the final debate between (Alec Baldwin) and Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon). Hanks loves sneaking into these debate sketches. Keep an eye out for him during Saturday’s premiere, when they’ll undoubtedly spoof tonight’s opening debate. Will he reprise his Wallace? [October 2016] [embedded content]

DNC Town Hall

Democratic presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke (Alex Moffat), Andrew Yang (Bowen Yang), Pete Buttigieg (Colin Jost), Cory Booker (Chris Redd), Elizabeth Warren (Kate McKinnon), Marianne Williamson (Chloe Fineman), Bernie Sanders (Larry David), (Woody Harrelson), Kamala Harris (Maya Rudolph) speak at CNN’s Impeachment Town Hall. Harrelson did a fine job as Biden, but we recently learned Jim Carrey will take over for the new season. [September 2019] [embedded content]

2020 Democratic Debate

Presidential candidates Andrew Yang (Bowen Yang), Pete Buttigieg (Colin Jost), Cory Booker (Chris Redd), Elizabeth Warren (Kate McKinnon), Amy Klobuchar (Rachel Dratch), Tom Steyer (Will Ferrell), Michael Bloomberg (Fred Armisen), Tulsi Gabbard (Cecily Strong) Bernie Sanders (Larry David), (Woody Harrelson) and Kamala Harris (Maya Rudolph) speak at MSNBC’s 2020 Democratic Debate. An impressive array of talent on stage, including the show’s young cast members, but it’s no surprise when recent Emmy-winner Maya Rudolph steals the show as Harris. [November 2019]

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