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Saturday Night Live kicked off Season 46 this weekend with Chris Rock as the host and Megan Thee Stallion putting on a pretty memorable performance. However, the talk of the episode was perhaps Jim Carrey’s introduction as former Vice President and current Presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Alec Baldwin was back as Donald Trump. Oh and Beck Bennett played debate moderator and journalist Chris Wallace, which was pretty fun. But why Jim Carrey over Woody Harrelson?
During Season 45, Woody Harrelson actually played Joe Biden for a number of Saturday Night Live episodes. However, it’s worth noting that he’s hardly the only person to have spoofed Joe Biden on the late night series. Jason Sudeikis and John Mulaney have both also tackled the man, but it was even bigger news when Jim Carrey said he’d take on the role. Jim Carrey was added after Woody Harrelson admitted he didn’t always have the time for the SNL gig.
In fact, he told NME recently that he would be happy to come back for more should Saturday Night Live ever re-envision the Joe Biden role for him. However, the show airs Live from New York on Saturday nights and while Covid changed that up for the series at the tail end of last season, the long-running NBC program is back in the studio for Season 46. If Woody Harrelson couldn't make it, he couldn't make it.
I was approached two or three times but I couldn’t do it so I don’t know, maybe Lorne has moved on which would probably be smart to have people who were definitely going to show up. Because I don’t know, I wasn’t always going to be there, but I’d be open to doing it again of course. It’s so fun.
So, it sounds like Season 46 was more a matter of scheduling then of choosing Jim Carrey over Woody Harrelson. Obviously, Carrey brought a way different energy to the character, even including a notable physical gag when he checked the distance between Biden and Trump’s podiums in the sketch with a yellow tape measure. Carrey’s Biden is more calculated than Harrelson’s version and you can take a look at the full bit from last night’s kickoff, below.
In comparison, Woody Harrelson’s Joe Biden was a little bit more old man awkward and creepy. He’s also less used to doing impressions than Carrey, so it’s just a totally different bent.
Longtime head honcho Lorne Michaels actually said that Jim Carrey was interested in the Joe Biden role ahead of Season 46 and approached the show about what he could potentially do with the character. He joked with Vulture that he wasn’t sure what Carrey would do would work, but that the performance would definitely have energy and style to it.
There was some interest on his part. And then we responded, obviously, positively. But it came down to discussions about what the take was. He and Colin Jost had a bunch of talks. He and I as well. He will give the part energy and strength, and … [Laughs.] Hopefully it’s funny.
Though the celebrity behind Joe Biden may have changed a bit over time, a lot of the show’s fan-favorites are back. Giving Joe Biden’s VP nomination, Maya Rudolph is back once more playing Kamala Harris. Then there’s the aforementioned Alec Baldwin still doing his Donald Trump. As the season progresses, we’ll certainly being seeing more from them, so stay tuned to NBC Saturday nights at 11:30 ET.
In addition, you can stream Saturday Night Live on Peacock. Or see what else is headed to TV with CinemaBlend's full premiere schedule.