Whether they like it or not — and usually they most definitely do not — US presidential candidates are prime punchline bait on “Saturday Night Live.”
But it the case of self-made Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who died Tuesday at 89, he was very much in on the joke. “SNL” standout Dana Carvey captured the outsider politician with jumbo ears and a twangy, rambling delivery in 10 sketches from 1992 to 1997.
“He had a very good sense of humor about it — he loved it and was very nice about it,” Carvey tells the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, he called me up once because he wanted me to be with him in Texas on election night! He said to me, ‘I got an idea: You go out and do me, and I’ll do me. Then there’s two of me!’”
The chameleon-like Carvey fleshed out a host of funny folks on NBC’s iconic sketch comedy series, from the prissy Church Lady to head-banging Garth in the “Wayne’s Word” sketches and films with his “SNL” partner in comedy, Mike Myers.
But Perot still holds a special place in his collection of characters.
“I really enjoyed doing Ross Perot, such a fun character to play,” Carvey tells the Times. “He had this distinct Texas drawl and this old-fashioned pragmatic servitude about his policies, and he’d be very impatient when people didn’t get it. He was a colorful American character.”
While audiences ate up the Perot jokes — his political rivals weren’t laughing. In 1992, Perot snagged 19.7 million votes, or 19% of the popular vote, one of the best showings by an alternative candidate in the 20th century.
Here are five of Dana Carvey’s best “cold open” moments as Perot:
The first appearance: In the debut of his Perot impression, Carvey hypes the deep pockets of the billionaire turned 1992 presidential hopeful. Alas, it wasn’t long before the “powerful” man briefly called off his campaign.
The race is back on: Perot swiftly re-entered the presidential race — allowing Carvey to revive his crowd-pleasing impression with this mock “United We Stand, America” campaign ad.
Larry King Live: Facing off with a young Will Ferrell as CNN’s talk show titan, Carvey’s squirrely Perot angled to expose weaknesses in other third-party presidential wannabes. (Note: Carvey also embodied Perot opposite two other “SNL” players as King: Norm MacDonald and Kevin Nealon.)
NAFTA is nasty: Perot was an outspoken critic of North American Fair Trade Agreement and here he defiantly introduced viewers to Floyd Taylor (Tim Meadows), aka “the very first man to lose his job because of NAFTA.”
Call out dirty tricks: Carvey’s Perot claims that the Republican party played some “dirty tricks” on him this sketch that aired days before the 1992 election.