Among Claire Foy’s open, political skits and jokes about Netflix’s over-abundance of original content, Saturday Night Live took a moment to make a tribute filled with uncharacteristic gravitas. The show used the moment to say goodbye to late President George H.W. Bush, whom they frequently lampooned in skits during his time at the White House.
During “Weekend Update,” Michael Che broke from the segment’s typical sarcasm to say, “On a serious note, Friday night, former president George H.W. Bush passed away. He was 94 years old. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Co-host Colin Jost added, “That’s right. President Bush, who famously was a warm and gracious man who always understood the power in being able to laugh at yourself. So, take a look.”
With that, they cued up a montage of Dana Carvey impersonating Bush — which is considered one of the defining “characters” of Carvey’s career. In the montage, Carvey can be seen deadpanning some of Bush’s more famous lines, as well as gesturing wildly with his hands.
In a response video also shown (originally aired in 1994), Bush good-naturedly pokes fun at himself, insisting the impression is “bad, it’s bad,” all the while gesturing with his hands in Carvey fashion.
Not only was the tribute funny and fitting, but it also speaks to an even more remarkable backstory that exemplifies the good humor Bush was known for.
In December 1992, the then-President had been defeated by Bill Clinton and was preparing to leave the White House. To say goodbye to his staff, or so it seemed, Bush asked everyone to report to the East Room for a Christmas greeting.
Only, Bush wasn’t the person who walked into the room full of waiting staff. Instead, it was Carvey, whom Bush had secretly summoned to come roast him.
Video captured by C-SPAN shows Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, laughing and cheering along with the staff as Carvey cracked jokes at the president’s expense.
“Dana has given me a lot of laughs,” Bush said once he took the podium. “He said to me on the phone, ‘Are you sure you really want me to come there?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I hope I’ve never crossed the line.’ I knew exactly what he meant and as far as I’m concerned, he never has.”
Bush then added, “The fact that we can laugh at each other is a very fundamental thing.”
It was that moment in time that led to a lifelong friendship between Bush and the comedian who once made fun of him for a living. Following the news of Bush’s death, Carvey issued a poignant statement about his unlikely pal.
“It was an honor and a privilege to know and spend time with George H.W. Bush for over 25 years,” said Carvey. “When I think of those times what I remember most is how hard we would laugh. I will miss my friend.”
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