Returning on October 3, just in time for a presidential election, Saturday Night Live recruited from outside their ranks to find their Joe Biden satirist in legendary comedian and actor Jim Carrey (The Truman Show, In Living Color). Last week, it was announced that the sketch comedy institution would broadcast live from their Studio 8H home once more, but no further details about season 46 were given at the time. Lips loosened at the SNL-camp on Wednesday, providing fans with plenty of news about casting and production, Carrey’s upcoming Biden role among the announcements.
Jim Carrey is our new Joe Biden! pic.twitter.com/hBJPRJl6Ja
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) September 16, 2020
While speaking with Vulture, Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels discussed the process of bringing Carrey on board. “There was some interest on his part. And then we responded, obviously, positively. But it came down to discussions about what the take was,” Michaels recounted, via Deadline. From there, Carrey entered conversations with Michaels and head writer Colin Jost (Saturday Night Live, How To Be Single) to nail-down his take on Biden. “He will give the part energy and strength, and … [Laughs.] Hopefully it’s funny,” Michaels determined (Deadline).
Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses, Ted Lasso) served as Saturday Night Live‘s most consistent Joe Biden, even returning to play the former vice president after his 2013 departure from the show. Finding a steady Biden to replace Sudeikis’ interpretation posed a challenge for the late night comedy. The premiere of season 45 saw Woody Harrelson (Zombieland, True Detective) hosting the show and trying his hand at a Biden impression. Harrelson returned in subsequent episodes to reprise his Biden, guest starring in sketches including a parody of the 2020 Democratic Debate. However, the show eventually brought Sudeikis back for subsequent debate sketches in season 45. When former SNL writer John Mulaney (Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, New in Town) hosted one of the show’s last in studio episodes of 2020, he played Biden in a coronavirus related sketch with character’s commenting that the Democratic nominee “looked different” (SNL).
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Michaels’ interview confirmed that SNL‘s newest Biden will join Maya Rudolph’s (Bridesmaids, Big Mouth) Kamala Harris and Alec Baldwin’s (30 Rock, Boss Baby) Emmy-winning Donald Trump impression, via Deadline. Election seasons are pivotal for Saturday Night Live and Variety speculates that NBC’s insistence on returning to the studio directly correlated with the impending politically-charged rating’s boosts. “The show’s [election] buzz was remarkable for a program that has been on the air more than four decades,” Variety comment on the bump SNL saw in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
The announced return to Studio 8H was followed by many logistically questions, considering COVID-19, the biggest of which being whether a studio audience would return alongside the cast. “We need the audience, obviously, with comedy, when you don’t hear the response, it’s just different,” Michaels remarked to Vulture when confirming a limited audience would return to the studio for live episodes. The executive producer elaborated that an audience is essential in the process that graduates sketches from dress-rehearsal to the live taping, a period where sketches with smaller reactions tend to get scrapped.
Alongside Carrey, Rudolph and Baldwin, the entire cast, including Emmy-nominated players Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live, Kenan and Kel), Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters) and Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live, Bombshell), will return for season 46. “People will stay involved, but they may not physically be in the studio,” Michaels added, since Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live, Shrill) will be back and forth while filming Shrill and Strong will be “green screened” into scenes while filming a project in Vancouver, via Deadline. Three new featured players will be joining Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live, Awkwafina is Nora From Queens) and Chloe Fineman (Saturday Night Live, Search Party), as Ego Nwodim (Saturday Night Live, Brockmire) graduates to repertory player role. The incoming players consist of Upright Citizens Brigade performer Lauren Holt, writer/comedian Punkie Johnson who’s TV credits include Corporate and Space Force and Andy Dismukes, promoted internally as he’s served as a writer on SNL since season 43.
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Behind-the-scenes changes include a head-writer promotion for Anna Drezen (Saturday Night Live, Miracle Workers) and the establishment of the SNL Scholarship Program. Drezen has been a staff writer on SNL since 2016 and hosts the podcast Scary Stories to Tell on the Pod. The scholarship program, established by the series, will work closely with diverse talent from theaters PIT, Second City, Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade. The goal of the scholarship is to provide funding “for students of diverse backgrounds to advance their comedy careers” (Deadline).
Saturday Night Live will return, with an audience, to Studio 8H on October 3, promising 5 consecutive episodes leading up to the November 3 election. When Trump won the 2016 election, Baldwin stayed on the program as a semi-permanent guest, meaning, depending on the election results, fans could see more of Carrey’s Biden if the former vice president is to win the presidential bid.