“Saturday Night Live” continues scaling back its mockery of President Biden in his first two years of office instead taking more aim at a former president who the liberal sketch comedy show cannot let go.
For decades, the “SNL” cold opens satirize the week’s biggest news story, which often involves the president. That’s no longer the case with Biden, who has only been mocked seven times across 43 episodes that have aired during his presidency, just one time during the current 48th season so far, which took place the Saturday before the midterms. That’s less than 17% of the time.
Former President Trump, meanwhile, has appeared ten times in those 43 episodes, more than 23% of them, including four times in the current season.
Both the current and former presidents are played by “SNL” cast member James Austin Johnson, who joined the long-running NBC program in 2021.
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In the first show of 2023 following the emergence of Biden’s classified document scandal where he admitted to storing sensitive records in his garage next to his corvette, “SNL” chose to instead mock embattled freshman Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., in the cold open.
Even defeated GOP candidates Kari Lake and Herschel Walker have made more appearances in the 48th season than the sitting president with two cold opens apiece.
The NBC program unprecedentedly went the first eight months of Biden’s presidency without mocking him in the cold open, waiting until Austin Johnson made his debut in the Season 47 premiere that aired in October 2021.
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The reluctance in satirizing the current president is a bold departure from the Trump years. At the same point during his presidency, Trump was mocked a whopping 20 times, nearly half the shows, in his first two years of office, according to the “SNL” archives on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.
Trump was famously played by Alec Baldwin, who is facing involuntary manslaughter charges following the accidental fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of his film “Rust.”
Even in less hyper-partisan times, “SNL” poked fun at former President Obama more often. In the first two years of his presidency, Obama, played by former cast member Fred Armisen, made 18 appearances across 44 episodes, roughly 41% of the time.
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Notably, Biden appeared nearly as often in the cold open as the vice president the Obama years as he has as the president, making six appearances over two years over the current commander in chief’s seven.
Biden was previously played by “SNL” alum Jason Sudeikis, who reprised his role in October 2021.
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris is virtually nonexistent in the “SNL” writers’ room. Throughout her first two years as VP, she has made zero appearances in the cold open despite her lengthy track record of gaffes and “word salad” moments from pressers and interviews that have gone viral.
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Harris has made just one mid-show sketch appearance in March 2021 played by its host Maya Rudolph, who performed as the former senator during the 2020 election cycle. Biden made a brief appearance in the sketch (played by former “SNL” cast member Alex Moffat).
Her absence in the cold opens pales in comparison to former Vice President Mike Pence. Played by former cast member Beck Bennett, Pence appeared in ten cold opens in the first two years in office, which is more than Biden during both his ongoing presidency and former vice presidency in the same time period in office.