New Biden, who dis? That's what Saturday Night Live fans were asking on Twitter when the late-night comedy institution introduced yet another new actor as President Joe Biden. As you might recall, Jason Sudeikis played the current POTUS back in his Veep days, but then he went off to merry old England and became Ted Lasso. After a three-episode 2019 run by Woody Harrelson and a one-shot performance by John Mulaney, Jim Carrey picked up the baton during the 2020 Presidential election, ironically resigning from office just after Biden clinched the presidency. Enter cast member Alex Moffat, who seemed poised to become a four-term SNL president.
But viewers tuning into the Season 47 premiere instead saw a whole new POTUS. And to say they were confused is an understatement. As Twitter users furiously tried to deduce his identity, some even mistakenly thought that host Owen Wilson was taking a turn at the presidential podium.
who is this new biden on snl pic.twitter.com/rkkv65SxK2
— liv (@darcyreys) October 3, 2021
Who is playing Biden? #snl#snl47#SNLPremiere
— Oregon PR Girl (@OregonPRGirl) October 3, 2021
Me watching that man on SNL play Biden pic.twitter.com/jltOfeS0lg
— misshyde (@misshyde12) October 3, 2021
#SNL Me trying to figure out who’s playing Biden rn: pic.twitter.com/SIlzZhTdaH
— Matt (@SquishySnapple) October 3, 2021
Owen Wilson is very good at the Joe Biden impression. SNL cold open was a hot start
— Luke Campbell (@LCWorldPeace) October 3, 2021
So who exactly is this Biden? None other than James Austin Johnson, one of the six new comedians hired as Featured Players this season. Funnily enough, the Tennessee-born comic rose to prominence by imitating another Oval Office occupant: former president, Donald Trump. In August 2020, Johnson dropped a Twitter video where he impersonated Trump riffing on one of the central mysteries of Scooby-Doo: why Scooby himself never seems to actually do anything.
SCOOBY-DON !! pic.twitter.com/DESl7LDplH
— James Austin Johnson (@shrimpJAJ) August 21, 2020
After that "Scooby-Don" video went super-viral — and was followed by several more — Vanity Fair wasted little time labeling Johnson "the best Trump impersonator of all." Yes, even better than SNL's own in-house Trump impersonator: Alec Baldwin, who happily retired his divisive performance last season.
Johnson didn't incorporate any Scooby-Doo references into his inaugural address as Biden. But he did shout-out another childhood animated favorite — Voltron — while talking about how he intended to bring the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party together. He also gave a Biden nod in Trump's direction, saying that what sets him apart from his POTUS predecessor is his desire to stay out of the spotlight. "I'm like an oil change — you don't think about me until you absolutely have to."
Based on the mixed reaction to Johnson's SNL debut, it's safe to say that he won't be named the "best Biden impersonator of all time" title in the immediate future. Once viewers figured out who he was, the takes on his performance were all over the map.
Just saying.. SNL's new Biden
Character stinks pic.twitter.com/ZWcnvnksj4
— Steelers Nation Oklahoma (@OklahomaSteeler) October 3, 2021
Welp this new SNL Biden is better than Jim Carrey but still pretty terrible. Are they just completely unfamiliar with him?
— Ant Murdering She Devil (@ShelleyElwood) October 3, 2021
I don't know who this guy is, but he does a pretty good President Biden.
And Cecily Strong's Sinema is just hitting the crazy nail on the head.
Welcome back, #SNL! pic.twitter.com/84Lcl1LlV6
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) October 3, 2021
@shrimpJAJ just KILLED IT as #Biden on #SNL’s season opener! Congrats! You’ve put in the work, great to see it pay off.
— Culturally Relevant Pun (@andrewTwright) October 3, 2021
I'm sorry, but that was the worst Joe Biden. I'd *almost* rather have Jim Carrey back. 😬#SNL
— 🚴 Team Secretary Pete 😎 (@HelloLynne4Ever) October 3, 2021
The Biden impression was good- much more realistic than Carey’s
Y’all need to relax- it’s freaking #SNL#SNLPremierepic.twitter.com/7R0Pi8EiSb
— Clyve “CarbonClyve” Monroe (@clyveSPEAKS) October 3, 2021
Not good. Really not good. If #SNL can’t nail Biden, this is gonna be a very shaky season. https://t.co/qMxfGJIZEg
— Paul Rieckhoff (@PaulRieckhoff) October 3, 2021
Others felt compelled to mourn Alex Moffat's abbreviated tenure.
no moffat biden we ride at dawn pic.twitter.com/Vy5ZLvBykZ
— peepee bridgers (@wlwmoffats) October 3, 2021
@nbcsnl is hellbent on convincing you that Joe Biden is a senile old man.
Alex Moffat does a great Biden. Whatever that was, was total trash.
— Tigernan Quinn, Furious Irish🌈 (@NPournelle) October 3, 2021
justice for moffat biden
— jay★ (@MOFFCTS) October 3, 2021
But don't cry for Moffat! After all, it's not like he followed Beck Bennett out the Studio 8H exit door or anything. Moffat remains an SNL cast member, and even appeared alongside his replacement in the cold open as… U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer. That's a job that'll last him another three years or another year depending on how the 2022 elections go.
Alex Moffat’s Chuck Schumer is 10x better than his Biden. Great change! #snl#SNLPremiere
— CreedThoughts.Gov (@CreedDotGov) October 3, 2021
While the social media jury's still out on Johnson, they had nothing but praise for the classy way that Colin Jost and Michael Che closed out the first "Weekend Update" of the season. The duo gave the final jokes of the night to their "Update" predecessor, Norm Macdonald, who died on Sept. 14 following a private battle with cancer. (Pete Davidson also honored the late comic, wearing a T-shirt with Macdonald's face on it.) "Norm is the reason I ever wanted to host 'Weekend Update,'" Jost remarked before rolling a clip of classic Norm-isms.
The SNL weekend update tribute to @normmacdonald was a class act 👏👏
— Josh Feldmeyer (@JFelds422) October 3, 2021
Pete Davidson rocking a sweet Norm Macdonald shirt on Weekend Update #SNLpic.twitter.com/9ByrsHv6aM
— Matt Wilstein (@mattwilstein) October 3, 2021
Thank you for paying tribute to the best weekend update anchor ever. @nbcsnlpic.twitter.com/DZ8MAV2o5m
— Joel Kirschenman (@JKirschenman) October 3, 2021
A solid collection of Norm MacDonald jokes on #SNL Weekend update tribute- including the must have OJ punchline.
Laughed and a bit testy-eyed simultaneously.#SaturdayNightLivepic.twitter.com/gA0gYABSvz
— Courtney Theriault (@cspotweet) October 3, 2021
Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC and Peacock
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