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New Biden Impersonator Kicks Off SNL's New Season

Cast paid tribute to Norm Macdonald on Weekend Update, too
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2021 3:20 PM CDT

(Newser) Saturday Night Live is back from its summer break, and it has a new cast member. Which is good, because they really needed someone to play President Joe Biden. James Austin Johnson made his debut on the show not with a small joke or a bit part in a sketch, but in a seven-minute cold open, playing Biden trying to broker peace in the war over his infrastructure bill. Reviews are mixed: He’s the best Biden since Sudeikis, if you ask the Daily Beast. Or, he’s the worst ever, if you ask Vanity Fair. However people feel about the impression, it was necessary—SNL was taking heat for pulling its punches with very few Biden sketches after a masterful run of Alec Baldwin as Trump, the New York Times reports. Guest star Jim Carrey filled in for six weeks and Alex Moffat occasionally did an impression, but it was an empty spot in their repertoire.

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The cast also paid tribute to Norm Macdonald. Macdonald died Sept. 14 after a long battle with cancer. After doing a normal Weekend Update segment, Colin Jost and Michael Che expressed sadness at the loss of their predecessor in the fake news anchor role. “It is a bittersweet night for us tonight,” Jost said, and then aired several clips of Macdonald’s best jokes, including an OJ joke—“In a brilliant move during closing arguments, Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran put on the knit cap prosecutors say O.J. wore during the night of the murders. Although O.J. may have hurt his case when he suddenly blurted out, ‘Hey, hey. Easy with that! That’s my lucky stabbing hat!'” Macdonald was rumored to have been fired over his refusal to lay off OJ Simpson. You can watch video of the whole segment. (Read more Saturday Night Live stories.)

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