Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live early in his campaign, but no sitting or former commander-in-chief has ever taken that gig.
Maybe Barack Obama should put it on his to-do list. He’d kill. The 44th president exited the main stage Friday, but not before leaving behind a legacy of laughs that evoke Abraham Lincoln’s quick wit, Ronald Reagan’s comic timing and Jack Kennedy’s stage presence.
He was also gifted with a deft partner in Michelle Obama. Honest Abe would have ruled the talk-show circuit, but Mary Todd would have had a stroke if Jimmy Kimmel had asked her to read Mean Tweets.
Here are the first family’s greatest bits from the past eight years:
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“Evolution of Mom Dancing”: On the road to the White House, Michelle Obama was a reluctant campaigner, but she got into the spirit of things, especially when busting a move with a cross-dressing Jimmy Fallon for two Tonight Show segments in 2013 and 2015. The first lady’s Batdance wouldn’t make the cut on American Bandstand, but her version of the Dougie was so spirited that her dance partner surrendered the floor. Her most memorable step came when Fallon slipped into an impression of her husband. She stopped in her tracks and gave a look that could launch a thousand ships. Assault ships.
Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis: It’s one thing when celebrities show off good sportsmanship by subjecting themselves to this purposely low-rent “talk show.” It’s quite another when it’s the leader of the free world. Obama gave as good as he got in this 2014 deadpan duel between two masters of mock exasperation. Obama got the winning stab when he poked fun at his disrespectful host. “If I ran a third time, it’d be a little like doing a third ‘Hangover’ movie,” he jabbed. “Didn’t turn out very well, did it?”
“Mean Tweets”: Obama took on his most ardent critics — ones with such handles as Duckpunks and RWSurfergirl — while reading tweets on two episodes of Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2015-16. Nothing was off-limits, including big ears, mom jeans and the president’s responsibility for the high price of Coors Light. The only slip-up came when Obama dismissed a social media diss from someone named @realdonaldtrump.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Either Obama was a huge fan of Seinfeld, or he had an unusually light schedule one day in 2015 when Jerry Seinfeld transformed the White House into a sitcom set. Viewers got 20 minutes of a what-me-worry president, wistfully reflecting on the cars of his youth and the joys of an anonymous walk through the park. “I always wanted to be on a show about nothing, and here I am,” he said. The only thing missing: Joe Biden barging into the Oval Office to raid the refrigerator.
“Carpool Karaoke”: Like her husband’s visit with Seinfeld, Michelle Obama’s joy ride last summer on The Late Late Show With James Corden was limited to the White House driveway, but she took full advantage of the opportunity. Turns out duties of state hadn’t prevented her from learning Snapchat lingo or honing Beyonce hand gestures. “We’re making honey to put in our lemonade!” she said after singing along to Single Ladies. Makes you happy Barack put a ring on it.
White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2016: Politicians usually make fun of themselves at this annual event, but Obama went the extra mile in a video that featured a cameo from rival John Boehner tempting him with cigarettes and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer reporting on the “couch commander’s” 347th round of golf. The video didn’t quite top Bill Clinton’s 2000 submission, which co-starred Kevin Spacey, but Boehner isn’t an Oscar-winning actor. Yet.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show: Amiable talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres risked getting Tasered by the Secret Service during a trip to a CVS store last fall when she used a backscratcher on the first lady and chided her on needing ointment for a rash. Obama played the patsy to the hilt, even letting her shopping partner call her “Shelley.” DeGeneres may pay a price for her chutzpah; Obama has the charm, gravitas — and soon, the time — to take her place as the queen of daytime. Plus, The Shelley Show has a nice ring to it.