Larry David as Bernie Sanders: Is he the next Tina Fey?

Larry David appeared as politician Bernie Sanders on the newest episode of NBC's 'Saturday Night Live.' Can his imitation recapture the success 'SNL' found with Tina Fey's impression of politician Sarah Palin?

Larry David (r.) and Alec Baldwin (l.) appear as Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb, respectively, on the NBC program 'Saturday Night Live.'

The newest episode of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” was already an anticipated one due to former cast member Tracy Morgan, who was injured in an accident in 2014, being set to host. But another guest soon had “SNL” fans and political pundits talking.

Larry David, co-creator of the NBC sitcom “Seinfeld” and star of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (and former “SNL” writer), portrayed Senator Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont during an episode segment about the Democratic presidential nominees debate. Mr. David’s comments as Sen. Sanders ranged from a plan for college affordability (“You just make the bankers pay for college for everyone”) to geese (when cast member Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton told viewers Sanders was simply offering a “golden goose,” David responded that he thinks he can track geese down, saying, “They congregate near ponds. It’s not rocket science”). 

For many, the imitation calls to mind former “SNL” cast member Tina Fey’s famous portrayal of vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin during the 2008 election. As with Ms. Fey, those behind “SNL” looked to a former “SNL” collaborator for the imitation.

How critical was David’s imitation of Sanders? His lines in the sketch poked fun mostly at his everyman image, with David saying, “I don't have a Super PAC. I don't even have a backpack. I carry my stuff around loose in my arms.” By contrast, Fey seemed to have experienced enough people saying she had been too critical of Palin that she addressed it in her memoir "Bossypants," writing, “There was an assumption that I was personally attacking Sarah Palin by impersonating her on TV. No one ever said it was 'mean' when Chevy Chase played Gerald Ford falling down all the time. No one ever accused Dana Carvey or Darrell Hammond or Dan Aykroyd of 'going too far' in their political impressions. You see what I'm getting at here. I am not mean and Mrs. Palin is not fragile. To imply otherwise is a disservice to us both.” 

Sanders' reaction was far removed from Palin's to Fey's imitation – Sanders said soon after, "I think we're going to put [David] up on the stage at our next rally... He does it better than I do."

Fey’s imitation led to big success for the program, with the “SNL” episode in which Fey and Palin both appeared leading to the best ratings for “SNL” in more than a decade.

If David returns as Sanders, it may recapture some of the success “SNL” experienced during the 2008 election season. The episodes of the NBC comedy program during the 2012 election had a lot to live up to and so the season, in which Jay Pharaoh portrayed President Obama, Taran Killam portrayed vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, and Jason Sudeikis portrayed Mitt Romney, did not experience anything close to the ratings success of the 2008 episodes. 

In addition, Palin’s status as vice-presidential candidate had already been announced when Fey debuted her impression. At this point, Sanders is still trailing in the polls to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. David’s Sanders imitation may not have the longevity of Fey’s if Sanders is no longer at the forefront of the national conversation.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Larry David as Bernie Sanders: Is he the next Tina Fey?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today