Why Jason Sudeikis is Missed as Joe Biden on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Published on October 28, 2020

There was a lot of hype around Jim Carrey playing Democratic Presidential nominee, Joe Biden, on Saturday Night Live. Carrey is, after all, one of the greatest comedic performers of all-time. Carrey’s performance, however, has been underwhelming. Saturday Night Live fans have been let down for a variety of reasons, leaving us missing the days of Jason Sudeikis’ cocksure performance as Biden. 

Carrey’s performance is confusing. He doesn’t quite get the essence or even a semblance of Joe Biden but that’s what he’s aiming for. Despite that, there’s not much there that calls to mind the real Joe Biden. Another part of the problem is, Saturday Night Live just lets Carrey go on and on. There’s no restraint whatsoever. Sometimes less is more, but SNL doesn’t ever hit the brakes on Carrey’s Biden. 

Those cold openings play as endless. During this heated election year, Saturday Night Live has disappointed with the highly-anticipated openings. Alec Baldwin’s performance as Trump has lost its novelty; it’s always exactly what we expect. And, again, Carrey’s performance isn’t helping. 

Carrey has us missing the days of Jason Sudeikis. Earlier this year, the actor was still playing Joe Biden to great results. Back in August, the Ted Lasso star made it sound like he’d be back during the election year, although he didn’t confirm his return. It’s unfortunate the best version of Biden is not going toe-to-toe with Baldwin this time of year, but it’s the most high-profile version under the spotlight. Ratings over quality is how Carrey’s Biden now comes across. 

Sudeikis’ performance at least captured parts of Biden and ballooned them up. Most importantly, he wasn’t always trying to be Joe Biden. It was a character, not an impersonation, which Carrey seems to be going for. Sudeikis was going for laughs, first and foremost, not a mirror image of the candidate. The former SNL star wasn’t swinging with laughs by shooting finger guns or other small tics associated with Biden. We laughed because Sudeikis went big and beyond Biden.

Whenever the actor went the opposite direction of the presidential nominee, it was hilarious. He was often all smiles, all attitude, and cockiness. Carrey’s performance is overly sincere, trying to be more than just comedy. That could be great, too, but it’s not scoring big laughs. Sudeikis, on the other hand, had a light and easier approach to Biden that’s now missed. 

When you go back and watch old and recent clips of Sudeikis as Biden, they’re consistently funny. He’s not reminding you of real world problems, like Carrey does. Again, that’d be fine if it was funny, but it’s not funny enough. There’s something light and relaxed about Sudeikis’ performance that worked. 

Carrey is trying to send a message with his performance as Biden. He’s said so himself, as has Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels. Sudeikis was more interested in laughs than sending messages. He also wasn’t afraid of poking fun at Biden’s funnier qualities, while Carrey always plays him as a kind and gentle elderly man who rambles too much. Carrey’s performance is too nice, like he’s afraid of making fun of the candidate too much. 

With Sudeikis, here was a lack of self-seriousness. Sudeikis was just fun as the former Vice President. Two performers shouldn’t ever be compared, but Jim Carrey’s performance as Joe Biden has a lot of us missing the days of Jason Sudeikis’ days on Saturday Night Live. They were more fun times. It was a performance that cared more about getting laughs than tics. We don’t need a spot-on impersonation of Joe Biden; we need a funny character called Joe Biden.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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