When it comes to the art of celebrity impersonations, it takes a special kind of admiration — or at least, empathy — for a performer to deliver an impression that is truly great. Even Anthony Atamanuik had to plumb the depths of Donald Trump’s psyche in search of some kind of redeeming humanity to craft his pitch-perfect take on him, telling us earlier this year, “You have to have empathy for him. He’s a person. He might be the worst person in the world to a lot of people, but he’s a person. And if you want to understand how he works and what he does, empathetically you must get there.”
This challenge is decidedly a lot less complicated when it comes to a beloved comedy legend like Penny Marshall, and if you’re a big SNL fan, seeing her names in the headlines today may have popped an image in your brain of Fred Armisen’s hilarious impersonation of her. In the wake of today’s sad news that Marshall has died at age 75, we thought we’d remember Marshall by taking a quick trip down Fred Armisen–as–Penny Marshall memory lane, and Armisen himself was kind enough to reflect on his brief time working with her when she guest-starred on an episode of his IFC show Portlandia.
“I loved working with Penny Marshall. I got to spend a little time with her, and I remember she used to quietly make fun of whatever was around,” Armisen told Vulture. “I’d lean in a little to hear what she was saying, and it was always really funny. I also remember her having discussions with strangers about basketball, and both parties were thrilled to keep the conversation going. Her book, My Mother Was Nuts, is great.”
Here’s Armisen starring as Marshall in a trailer for her 2012 book My Mother Was Nuts:
Armisen played Marshall several times during his run on Saturday Night Live, but the best time was, hands down, when he starred as Marshall in “The Looker” sketch from 2008:
He made another small but funny appearance as Marshall in the 2011 “Apocalypse” parody movie trailer:
Then there was Armisen’s other brief appearance as Marshall, covered in gold and glitter, in the 2012 “Bond Girls” sketch:
In a 2013 interview, Marshall was asked for her thoughts on the “Looker” sketch, and she said she thought that Armisen was “hysterical”:
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and thanks to Armisen, Marshall received a whole lot of very funny flattery on SNL and beyond.