Kate McKinnon is everywhere at the moment (deffo not complaining!); she’s on SNL every week and three films (so far) this year: Rough Night, The Lunch Witch, and Ferdinand.
The first film, Rough Night, launches on June 16th so, in honor of that, I’ve compiled my nine favorite characters that Kate McKinnon has portrayed on SNL (mainly to justify the insane amount of time I spend re-watching her on YouTube).
Now, Kate has been on the show for five years now (and was the first SNL performer to win an Emmy in many years), so that’s approximately a billion characters to work with but in order to narrow down the options, the character must have been featured at least twice on the show.
Although this entire list could just be political characters that Kate has portrayed (Hillary, Jeff Sessions), we couldn’t really ignore her other characters, like 1970s lesbian cop Les Dykawitz or her portrayal of our fave, Ellen DeGeneres.
In these skits, three people describe their experiences with supernatural entities (angels, aliens, Santa Claus) to scientists and religious figures. Two have reassuring Chicken Soup for the Soul-style experiences, while Colleen gets stuck with trainee spiritual figures who are either terrible at their jobs or just like torturing humans because Colleen endures horrific experiences where she more often than not loses her pants.
When this happens, Colleen never fails to describe her lady garden and her rear end in increasingly colourful terms:
In every recollection, Colleen describes something that happened to one of her breasts which she proceeds to demonstrate on Cecily Strong’s character – to the character’s confusions.
The best part of all of the sketches is that none of the performers can quite keep their faces straight during Colleen’s recollections, which is a testament to Kate’s comic skill.
Kate’s portrayal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions doesn’t stray away from the reports of conversations with Russian officials, perjury, and downright racism. She plays Sessions as a dim-witted man-child who cannot control his mouth and is “a danger to the country” (Hey, if it’s a quote from a character, it isn’t partisan).
In a cold open skit, Kate plays Sessions playing Forrest Gump as he tells everybody and anybody who’ll listen that he’s definitely involved with Russians. I won’t spoil the ending but Octavia Spencer turns up and gives him what for.
This is one of Kate’s most long-running characters- a Russian woman who appears in the Weekend Update segment to give her views on current events from the Sochi Winter Olympics (“How could the Olympics pick Russia; what was other options: Haiti or middle of ocean?”) to Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
She likes to compare the issues of the day to her own struggles (“I related to Hillary [during the Presidential Debates] because I’ve also been attacked by a dog for 90 minutes.”) and in one episode she reads a prepared statement against her will, while Vladimir Putin tries to reassure the American electorate that Trump will be a great President.
Les is one-half of 1970s Chicago cop-duo “Dyke & Fats” and features in episodes alongside Chubina Fatzarelli (Aidy Bryant). As her name suggests, Les is a lesbian, and the jokes in these skits are mainly about her sexuality and Chubina’s weight, but hey, they get to make those jokes.
Les and Chubina also call out their boss for calling them Dyke and Fats because “that’s [their] words” and for telling them that women are worse cops than men.
Kate’s portrayal of Kellyanne is just delightful- she moves between showing Kallyanne as a conniving, calculating women who knows exactly what she’s doing to a woman who just got in over her head and never really expected Trump to be elected.
My favourite Kellyanne skit is Kate’s Chicago tribute, where she lists in song all of the reasons why Kellyanne chose to support Trump during the election (hint: fame). There are so many great lines to this skit but the best one of all is a whispered confession about supporting a different political candidate.
Kellyanne: “You know what’s weird? This time last year I supported Ted Cruz; I said Donald Trump acted unpresidential; it’s on tape.”
Around the time this skit first aired (i.e. just after the inauguration), Kellyanne was telling people that of course, Trump’s actions were presidential because he was the President, so that’s a brilliant little dig from the writers there.
I want to see more skits of Kate singing (as in the Hallelujah cold open); she’s clearly got a talent for it.
Kate plays Bieber as a dim-witted, attention-hungry child who tries to pretend he’s a badass and thinks he’s cooler than everyone else in the room… Actually, her portrayal seems quite true to life.
Do you remember that Calvin Klein ad from a couple of years ago? There was a lot of controversy over Justin’s bulge (padding, photoshop, who cares?) and well… Kate parodied the shit of it. She constantly gestures to Justin’s junk (which grows to comical proportions throughout the three-minute run time).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
It takes someone special to play the Notorious RBG and Kate is just the person. Supreme Court Justice RBG is an internet fave and Kate plays her as a feisty firecracker who regularly burns her opponent with sassy comebacks, tells them they’ve been “Gins-BURNed”, and literally dances to her own beat.
As in real life, Kate’s RBG has no problem dissing Trump and when Weekend Update host, Colin Jost tries to cheer her up by suggesting that Trump will be impeached, she responds with this incredibly important point: “Oh great, and then we’ll get Pence: The ‘gay people can’t get a pizza’ guy.”
While we on the topic, I don’t know who coined the term “Gins-BURN”; was it Kate or was it the internet?
Kate’s portrayal of Ellen is one of the funniest on SNL, making sure to capture the things that make Ellen, Ellen; from the lame jokes (punctuated by the phrase “I’m just kidding, I’m Ellen”) to the dancing (which she apparently hates, “I wish I’d never danced in that first episode; wish I’d just sat down and has a smoothie”), to the high, high, energy. In fact, Ellen is so full of beans that she literally cannot sit still and every time the camera cuts away (and even when it doesn’t), she’s contorting herself into another odd position (like in the photo).
So, of course, I made you wait until the end of the list for this character… I mean, you knew it was coming… There have been like 5 different actresses who have portrayed Hillary Clinton on SNL over the past 25 years, but Kate really made it her own during 2016’s tense election cycle.
One of my favourite scenes is when Hillary meets a bartender called Val (played by the actual HRC) who tells her that there’s nothing wrong with taking her time to decide on important issues like marriage equality and the Keystone Oil Pipeline, as long as she gets it right.
Val: It really is great how long you’ve supported gay marriage.
Hillary: Well, I could have done it sooner.
Val: You did it pretty soon.
Hillary: Could’ve been sooner.
Val: Point taken.
The pair then mock Donald Trump, because… well, wouldn’t you? In order to appreciate it, you truly have to watch for yourself.
What did you think of the portrayals that I chose? Let me know in the comments section. In all honesty, getting it down to just nine characters was incredibly hard- although it did mean that I was constantly re-watching Kate’s skits to figure out which was better.
If you’d like to watch more from Kate but can’t wait until Rough Night comes out (or until Saturday night), watch this Saturday Night Live playlist with some of her best clips.