A Brief History Of Kate McKinnon’s Justin Bieber Impression

With a pitch-perfect spoof of Justin Bieber’s grey-toned attempt to wear big-boy pants in the #MyCalvins ad campaign for Calvin Klein, Kate McKinnon once again proved why she is a Saturday Night Live rock star. But while the CK ads may be the best example of McKinnon’s Bieber impression, she’s actually been grabbing attention with it for a little more than a year, so I thought it would be a good idea to look back at the evolution of Kate McKinnon’s Justin Bieber transformation.

The Birth Of The Bieber Impression

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McKinnon’s first attempt at Bieber was actually buried at the end of a cold open Piers Morgan parody that focused on celebrities in the midst of a scandal, with Bobby Moynihan playing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and host/musical guest Drake playing baseball player Alex Rodriguez. Here, McKinnon debuts the scared squirrel/constant selfie pose loop combination that perfectly captures what the Biebs is all about now that he’s in his Zoolander “Blue Steel” phase.

Interestingly, this sketch aired one year and one day prior to the Calvin Klein spoof.

Kate McKinnon Talks To Ellen About Bieber

McKinnon went on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon a few days after the Piers Morgan sketch and compared Bieber impressions with Fallon — who had previously played the Biebs on SNL — but I can’t find a clip of that, so we’ll have to settle for McKinnon telling Ellen that Bieber came to her in a dream and asked her to stop impersonating him.

Justin Bieber Kisses President Obama For Healthcare

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Again, the Bieber impression is buried in the background of a cold open. This time, President Obama’s staff tries to build on their Between Two Ferns momentum by walking the President into more viral moments like a Vine dance video with the Pope and a pic with Kim Kardashian. Kissing Justin Bieber so that a child with a golden heart can get healthcare is the main event, though.

McKinnon Breaks Down Her Bieber Impression For Conan

So impressive is McKinnon’s impression that Conan O’Brien felt the need to delve into the construction of the character when he had McKinnon on his show last June. The simple answer to what smakes for a good Justin Bieber impression? “It’s looking like a puppy who just piddled and is sort of sorry about it.”

The Biebs As Joseph In The Jingle Ballerz Sketch

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McKinnon’s interpretation of Bieber as Joseph in this pop-star impression-laden nativity sketch from the December 6th episode of this season is solid, but amazingly, she is actually overshadowed by Nicki Minaj’s Beyonce impression. That’s not a knock on McKinnon, though — she didn’t have a lot to contribute to the sketch and Minaj’s Beyonce was other-worldly.

The #MyCalvins Sketches

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Though McKinnon professed her love for Bieber during her appearance on Ellen, there seems to be more bite to these #MyCalvins sketches than we’ve seen before — and that’s not a bad thing. Bieber’s image has taken a few hits in the year since McKinnon started lampooning him and the his reputation behind the scenes at Saturday Night Live isn’t great either. The CK campaign is clearly an effort to transform Bieber from a teen heartthrob and misbehaving brat to a confident sex symbol, but that’s a laughable effort to some and McKinnon and the writers did a great job of explaining why that is.

They also deserve praise for not overreacting to the attention that McKinnon’s Bieber impression has received since it debuted last year. In a way, The Saturday Night Live writers are still paying for the sins of their past brethren and the perception that they beat every popular character into the ground, but in truth, SNL has gotten better at spacing things out and McKinnon’s Bieber impression is a prime example.

If we had been expecting McKinnon to smackdown Bieber with these sketches or been exhausted by her impression after over-use, the laughs might not have been as big and the impact might not have been as full. As weird as it sounds, this brief Saturday Night Live pop culture takeover owes almost as much to anyone in the writer’s room who abandoned a half-formed Bieber sketch as it does to McKinnon’s talent.