Donald Trump

The Art of the Steal: Imitating Donald Trump

Alec Baldwin got off to a "yuuuge" start impersonating The Donald on “Saturday Night Live.” But he's not a winner yet.

Alec Baldwin, in his new guise as Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” declared during the cold-open presidential debate lampoon last week he was “going to be so good tonight" that it would bring, um, great pleasure to all watching.

The actor didn’t elicit the intense physical reaction his Trump promised, but he did spur plenty of laughter. To borrow a phrase from Larry David, who turns up regularly on “SNL” as Bernie Sanders, Baldwin’s first effort proved pretty, pretty, pretty good.

He brought the GOP presidential candidate to bright orangey life – rendering him as a scenery-busting buffoon less out of a TV sketch show than a MAD magazine spoof. Baldwin pursed his lips in Trumpian style, mispronounced “China” as “J-hina,” and ramrodded his way through the debate like a childish, gainsaying, petulant, serial interrupter.

In other words, Baldwin wasn’t far off from the real thing.

While the former “30 Rock” star came up, well, yuuuge his first time out, his performance underscored the ongoing challenge of imitating a major political figure who often comes across as a parody of himself (including in a skit in which he played himself as president on “SNL” last year).

As Baldwin vies to up his game in the weeks leading to the election, he might want to practice the art of the steal by borrowing from other Trump impersonators.

Stephen Colbert

The CBS “Late Show” host offered more of an impressionistic portrayal than an impression last year when he satirized Trump’s campaign launch while standing behind a podium marked “COLBERT: Shut up, Dummy!” Colbert didn’t sound like Trump – he didn’t try to. But he effectively conveyed the overblown, self-importance that fills the former “Apprentice” star’s near-every utterance, declaring Trump’s candidacy is “not just great for America, it’s great for late night television.”

Jimmy Fallon

The NBC “Tonight Show” host captures Trump’s native New Yorker vocal inflections better than the rest, albeit without the hurricane-force bluster. Fallon also isn’t afraid to let others get the bigger laugh, as he did in this duet with young impressionist Jack Aiello, the teenager who rivals Baldwin on Trump’s mangling of “China.”

Frank Caliendo

The Rich Little of his generation is the Trumpian vocal doppelganger of this election. His humor, as seen in a series of videos in which he embodies Trump as a postal worker, the Chewbacca Mom and a grade-school basketball coach, among other ordinary folks, is far from edgy. But in the shorts – including one below with Trump as a mime who can’t help but talk – Caliendo highlights the self-proclaimed man of the people’s lack of a common touch.

Darrell Hammond

The former “SNL” star and current announcer is an incredibly hard act to follow. Forget the near-perfect voice, the eye rolls and tucked-in chin – he’s got Trump’s hand gestures down, big-time (no matter what the size of the hands). One benefit of giving up his Trump spot to Baldwin: We get to see more of Hammond as Bill Clinton.

Mr. Garrison From “South Park”

The Comedy Central show presents Trump as many detractors see him: as a cautionary political cartoon. The current season’s arc has the schoolteacher as an orange-faced candidate whose efforts to sabotage his own campaign are foiled by a clueless Hillary Clinton and a public that embraces his every word – even when he admits mid-debate: “I should not be president… I’m a sick, angry little man.”

Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us