January 6, 1984– Kate McKinnon:
“I always gravitate towards things that are not beautiful, but broken and weird and fascinating.”
It is nice to have Saturday Night Live back on an up-swing, although NBC’s 40 year old sketch show has always been at its best when skewering American politics. Kate McKinnon’s spot-on Hillary Clinton is already deliciously demented, and I can just imagine the fun that will be had before the Democratic convention this summer. Funny and fearless, out and proud McKinnon has been killing it on SNL since joining the cast in 2012.
She was born Kate McKinnon Berthold and grew up on Long Island. McKinnon is a gifted musician & musical mimic. As a kid she played piano, guitar and cello, plus she performed in school productions. After graduating from high school, McKinnon majored in Theatre at Columbia University.
McKinnon, got her big break in television as part of the ensemble cast of Big Gay Sketch Show on The Logo Network. She was cast after a series of grueling auditions for the show’s producer Rosie O’Donnell. One of my favorites of her many memorable characters on the series was Fitzwilliam, the young English boy who wishes to be a girl.
McKinnon joined the cast of Saturday Night Live as a featured player with the departure of Kristen Wiig, who left the show to pursue a career in films. In May 2013, McKinnon played Wiig’s mother when the former cast member guest-starred on an episode of SNL.
McKinnon is one of only a 2 openly gay Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players in the history SNL history. Gay guy Terry Sweeney was first hired a writer on SNL in 1983 and he became part of the cast in 1985-86 season. But Sweeney was conspicuously missing from the former cast members at the SNL 40th Reunion Special in 2015, even though his hysterical Nancy Reagan imitation was a highlight of the show during the middle of the Regan era. Besides Sweeney, Robert Downey, Jr., Joan Cusack, and Randy Quaid were also fired from the landmark show. Lesbian Danitra Vance was also fired from the cast during that season, but she was not out of the closet during her time on the show. Vance was taken by cancer in 1994. Tellingly, she was especially good as Diahann Carroll playing Dominique Deveraux on a Dynasty take-off, featuring Sweeney as Joan Collins.
McKinnon has been one of the few breakout actors on SNL in this century. She has also worked doing voice-overs, appearing in animated series like Ugly Americans. She regularly performs sketch with the NYC edition of Upright Citizens Brigade, and in her one-person shows, including Kate McKinnon On Ice, Disenchanted, and Best Actress.
In 2009, McKinnon received Logo’s NewNowNext Award for Best Rising Star. She has been nominated for 2 Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series, and another for Outstanding Original Song. McKinnon won the 2014 American Comedy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
I find her to be smart & hilarious, especially with her original characters, but her imitations of famous people are the work of a cracked genius imagination: Iggy Azalea (rapping in an Australian accent), Ingrid Bergman, Justin Bieber, Susan Boyle, Penelope Cruz, Robert Durst, Edie Falco, Jodie Foster, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hozier, Janet Huckabee, Kris Jenner, Billie Jean King, Lorde, Ed Sheeran, Martha Stewart, Tilda Swinton, Keith Urban & DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
I thought it was remarkable to watch her do Ellen DeGeneres for Ellen on her show, and her Justin Bieber is uncanny, but affectionate. She can even imitate Jane Lynch, I mean, who apes Jane Lynch?
SNL has given audiences first-rate parodies of politicians: Dana Carvey as George H. W. Bush, Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton, Will Ferrell as “W” Bush, & Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Of HRC, her most famous creation, McKinnon says:
“A good impression is sort of a juxtaposition of disparate elements. For instance, Angela Merkel, to me, is a very emotional German. She may not be in real life, but that’s how the writers and I conceived of the character. With Hillary, it’s that she’s a staunch, passionate lady, and in our culture, unfortunately, there’s something funny about that. What I find so lovable about her is her conviction. And I feel like I have that. I just love how badly she wants to fix stuff. I would like to do that. I’m just not smart enough.”
I have watched SNL since its debut in 1975 & McKinnon is as strong as any cast members of any season. Like the late, great Phil Hartman, she is the glue that holds many of the sketches together. Like the late, great Gilda Radner, she can turn mundane material to measured mayhem. Like Eddie Murphy, she brings lunacy and anarchy to a franchise that can use a kick in the pants.
Later this year, McKinnon is to appear with Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Sigourney Weaver in a big-screen Ghostbusters reboot.