Henry Ross Perot — the Texas billionaire most famous for his 1992 presidential campaign (and a bit less so for his one in 1996) — died on Tuesday, prompting fond recollections of that time a wealthy businessman tried, twice, to run for the most important job in the country. It also reminded many of one of the things that most made Perot incredibly famous: Dana Carvey’s boisterous, shrill, bizarre folksy aphorism-spouting impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live.
During the 1992 presidential cycle, Carvey’s Perot squared off against Phil Hartman’s McDonald’s-loving Bill Clinton as well as Carvey himself, who had been doing his cocky twist on George H.W. Bush since the Reagan years. (When the time came for the big three-way debate sketch, Carvey had to pre-record his Perot bits, which were spliced into the live broadcast.)
For some — including those who were young at the time and received the majority of their political intel from sweetly savage sketches on SNL — Carvey’s Perot, who appeared in 10 sketches, was more famous than Perot himself, and the comedian’s impersonation arguably made him all the more lovable to the masses.
So iconic was Carvey’s Perot that the comic wound up talking, shortly after the news broke, to The Los Angeles Times.
“I really enjoyed doing Ross Perot, such a fun character to play,” Carvey told The Times. “He had this distinct Texas drawl and this old-fashioned pragmatic servitude about his policies, and he’d be very impatient when people didn’t get it. He was a colorful American character.”
Was Perot ever offended by Carvey’s take on him? Hardly.
“He loved it and was very nice about it,” Carvey said. “In fact, he called me up once because he wanted me to be with him in Texas on election night! … He said to me, ‘I got an idea: You go out and do me, and I’ll do me. Then there’s two of me!’ …. He had a very good sense of humor about it.”
Others couldn’t help but find joy in Carvey’s Perot on the sad day.
Not that Carvey was the only top-shelf Perot impersonator of the ’90s. While some cited the star of Opportunity Knocks, others called out Katrina Johnson, who did a pint-sized Perot on the beloved Nickelodeon sketch comedy show All That.
Still, others cited… themselves, for Carvey and Johnson made Perot seem like someone anybody could impersonate.