When John McCain announced that Sarah Palin would be his running mate in the 2008 election, the news struck a chord with arch conservatives — and fans of NBC’s comedy lineup. Even casual viewers immediately noticed that Palin bore a striking resemblance to 30 Rock star Tina Fey, kicking off speculation that Fey would return to her old SNL stomping grounds in order to play Palin onscreen. The rest, as they say, is history, “I can see Russia from my house!”-style.
But when Mitt Romney announced his own running mate this past Saturday, the news didn’t send comedy nerds into a similar frenzy. Much like Palin, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan is a young, good looking politician with bright, twinkly eyes and an aggressive reputation — but unfortunately, he isn’t a dead ringer for anyone affiliated with SNL. Then again, looks aren’t everything: Chevy Chase didn’t even bother donning a bald cap when he skewered Gerald Ford in 1975, but his impression became the stuff of legend anyway.
So, keeping that in mind, who should get the chance to flank Jason Sudeikis’s robotic Romney when Saturday Night Live returns in September? (Provided Sudeikis does return to the show, of course.) My money’s on Taran Killam, a versatile performer who’s poised to break out now that Kristin Wiig is moving on to greener pastures. Killam’s ridiculous Michael Cera impression proves that he can capture the essence of a public figure without mimicking him exactly, and his rising star status means that Lorne Michaels would be smart to give him even more screen time.
Killam’s also got serious competition in another SNL MVP: Bill Hader, who may be the show’s best impressionist since Darrell Hammond. Hader has expertly portrayed figures as different as Julian Assange, James Carville, Al Pacino, and Vincent Price in past seasons; he could easily add Ryan to his repertoire. But if Hader plays the candidate, he’ll be less available to pinch-hit in a variety of other roles throughout the fall — and that would have a detrimental effect on any non-political sketches.
SNL could also do a repeat of 2008 by looking beyond its current cast for the perfect Ryan. Some Twitter users have begun campaigning for The Office‘s BJ Novak to take the role. [Update: Novak's co-star Zach Woods also might have the right baby blues for the job.] Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof has his own Ryan doppelganger in mind. Either way, the world will be watching when Saturday Night Live debuts its version of the Republican ticket — because if history is doomed to repeat itself, the show’s impressions could have a measurable effect on the election itself. Funny, isn’t it?
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