In past “Saturday Night Live” political sketches, Taran Killam has been hidden in the shadows, playing one-line characters, like Mitt Romney’s son, Tagg, and former Republican presidential nominee Jon Huntsman.
He was given the spotlight, however, in the cold opening for the show on Oct. 13, in which the comedian played Mitt Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan.
Sporting Ryan’s signature widow’s peak and devilish grin, Killam’s persona mirrored that of the Republican candidate as he re-enacted the debate against Vice President Joe Biden, played by Jason Sudeikis.
Killam nailed Ryan’s dead-set stare with his “shark eyes,” as Sudeikis’s Biden called them. Just like the real Ryan, he chose to fill silences with a set jaw and wide eyes, an observation pointed out by the moderator.
“Congressman Ryan, I’ve just been told America’s small children would like you to stop looking directly into the lens,” she said. “Apparently they find it upsetting.”
Yet, because of his hilariously spot-on impression of Ryan’s looks and mannerisms, it’s disappointing to see how Killam’s lines weren’t all that funny.
About half of his lines were paraphrased from Ryan himself, complete with the deliberate, exaggerated hand motions and slow, condescending speech that’s popular with a lot of politicians.
In choosing to highlight Ryan’s odd stares and excessive water drinking instead of answers about his policies and plans for the country, it’s clear that SNL believes Ryan’s actions are more amusing than anything he has to say is. Perhaps the show thought that repeating Ryan word-for-word was funny enough without a lot of extreme changes.
Yet, if Killam’s impression is any indication, he definitely could have done a lot more with the character.
While he no doubt looked the part, he was often overshadowed by Sudeikis as Biden, whose obnoxious interruptions and off-the-cuff comebacks stole the show. Then again, some would say that this interpretation of the two candidates is more or less accurate.
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