Jason Sudeikis announced last night that he officially would be leaving Saturday Night Live, a show he has been with since 2003. Hired as a writer, he was bumped up to cast-member in 2005. Sudeikis might not have the laundry list of memorable characters that fellow castmates Bill Hader and Fred Armisen did, but he was a key player in the show’s last era, the leading-man type the show usually has play husbands, dads, cops, bosses, and general straight men. Sudeikis was great at this role, an underrated impressionist, and often very funny. Here is just some of his best work.
Sudeikis started as a cast member at the very end of the 2004–2005 season, but it wasn’t until the December 17, 2005 episode that he found something that clicked. “Two A-Holes Buying a Christmas Tree” was the first appearance of Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig as the world’s most lovable terrible couple. They appeared eight times through the end of the 2007–2008 season, sustaining him until his 2009 breakout. Watch the first one below; note how it takes the audience some time to warm up to them. They were almost too good at being a-holes.
He got lucky with Joe Biden. He first played him in 2007, when Biden was just another candidate in the Democratic primary. So when Biden was named VP, Jason’s status on the show took a big leap forward. And for good reason: Sudeikis’s Biden is one of the best political impressions to ever appear on SNL. Like Chevy Chase’s Ford, Will Ferrell’s Bush, or Tina Fey’s Palin, Sudeikis’s Biden defined much of the public’s perception of the VP. Sudeikis’s Biden was a big, eager, loud buffoon and a perfect sidekick to the more serious president. The show has struggled with finding funny things to do with Obama, but one thing they nailed was turning him and Biden into a classic buddy comedy team.
First appearing in a sketch in 2006, it wasn’t until 2009 that “Jon Bovi” found their rightful home as “Weekend Update” characters. Though he’s wearing a wig, Sudeikis is able to be the more grounded character when sitting next to the lunatic Will Forte.
2009 was also when we were introduced to Peter Twinkle and Greg Stink. Arguably Sudeikis’s most memorable character, he and Forte did this announcing team seven times. Sudeikis excelled at balancing Twinkle’s charm and creepiness.
One more with Forte, also from 2009. “Potato Chip” has become a cult classic for its deadpan absurdity and huge character choices by both Forte and Sudeikis. What I love is how genuinely hurt and conflicted Sudeikis’s character seems. It’s a weird sketch but there is a humanity in it.
It was also in 2009 that Sudeikis started getting more of the classic protagonist roles. For the last four years, he was the straight man, perhaps most famously as the cop in the “Scared Straight” sketches. He doesn’t do a lot – but he perfectly gives Kenan Thompson someone to bounce off of.
Being the straight man also means playing the dad. Sudeikis has played a lot of dads and he is damn good at it. What makes his dad in the “Lord Wyndemere” sketches work is just how excited he is to see the little dandy. Again, he’s not the centerpiece of the sketch, but he heightens it and really makes it what it is.
You wouldn’t guess it from looking at him, but Jason Sudeikis is a really funny dancer. It is why he was one of the best parts, if not the best part, of “What Up With That?” We might miss the track-suited b-boy Vance most of all.
“Kickspit Underground Rock Festival” also premiered in 2009. Appearing seven times, it showed Sudeikis at his most amped. It also helped that he’s kind of tall, making Nasim Pedrad’s Lil Blaster seem all the lil-er.
Sudeikis brought that same energy to “The Devil,” his most popular “Weekend Update” character. Sudeikis’s version of the the Devil was just a regular guy who happened to be the embodiment of evil. The writers took advantage of just how charming Sudeikis can be, more than anything else.
Sudeikis wrote “Maine Justice” years ago, but never was able to get it on the air. He was so passionate about it that it was one of the main reasons he stayed around for another season. And good thing he did, as it was easily one of last year’s top SNL sketches. With that hair, glasses, and accent, I like to believe that he’s playing the character from the “Potato Chip” sketch who went on to change his name, reinvent himself as a judge, and move to Maine. It’s a fitting ending.