One of the most baffling things in entertainment has been the continued success of Fred Armisen. Other than, say, The Californians, can you remember a Saturday Night Live sketch he was funny in? His two best-known characters—Billy Smith, the Native American stand-up comedian, and Fericito, the Venezuelan, uh, stand-up comedian—both derive their humor from telling anti-jokes that are meant to fall flat. This is not exactly a recipe for success. At best, it makes the characters merely annoying; at worse, they totally kill any momentum on Weekend Update. And they take away valuable Stefon time.
So it's also always been with Armisen's Barack Obama impression. Sure, he has the mannerisms down, but an SNL impression is not funny until you harp on one particular characteristic of the guy for laughs. Think Will Ferrell playing off George W.'s intellect, or Darrell Hammond taking down Al Gore for being so boring. For Obama, that characteristic ripe to make fun of has always been his at-times irrational confidence. Armisen never took advantage of that, which is why we're thrilled to see that Jay Pharoah will be taking the reins for this election cycle.
Pharoah is a criminally underused SNL cast member who has been perfecting his Obama impression for years now. Watch him here in 2009, talking about how Obama would woo women back to his dorm room in college.
And here, when he talks about poppin' bottles after winning the '08 campaign:
Pharoah's Obama is going to be a major thing to watch in pop culture over the next few months. In fact, we're going to go ahead and call the race now: The 2012 election will see some of the funniest political skits in the show's history. Even without a loon like Sarah Palin involved in it all.