Five Lorne Michaels Impressions That Were Meaner Than Dr. Evil
Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels seems like an unassuming guy, low-key and urbane, hardly the type of big personality whose voice lends itself to celebrity impressions. But post-Dana Carvey, it seems as if every SNL cast member has their own version of a Michaels impersonation. The impression has become so indelible that it’s been the basis for the villain in at least four big-screen comedies (the Austin Powers movies and the Kids in the Hall feature Brain Candy). Here are five (or six or seven) of the cruelest fake Lornes in the business…
Dana Carvey and Mike Myers
Carvey claims to be the first SNL cast member to impersonate Michaels (although there’s some debate about that below). Carvey, whose takes on celebrities were often more impressionistic than dead-on accurate, added a pinky to the corner of the mouth, a fey self-indulgence that he admits real Michaels never did. “The pinky thing was a made-up thing,” Carvey told Howard Stern. “Lorne doesn’t do that, but somehow it fit.”
Carvey’s Lorne was also partially behind the rift between the comic and Mike Myers, who appropriated the impression — pinky and all — for the Dr. Evil character in the Austin Powers movies. Myers admits he based Dr. Evil on Lorne, but there were other influences as well. “The Dr. Evil voice is a little bit Lorne Michaels, there are no two ways about it,” he admitted in a Hollywood Reporter oral history, “but there is a lot more Donald Pleasence in there than Lorne.” And a little Will Smith.
Mark McKinney and Robert Smigel
“The only person who did it my first year (on SNL) was Mark McKinney,” says Robert Smigel on the Fly on the Wall podcast. “He did a beautifully accurate Lorne, a well-observed Lorne. The next year I just started doing cartoony Lorne on my own,” a version that could be heard at the beginning of every TV Funhouse. “Come back here with my show!” shouted animated Smigel/Lorne.
As for McKinney, the only comic in the cast of both Kids in the Hall and Saturday Night Live, his version of Lorne can clearly be heard as Don Roritor, the main baddie in Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. What other TV producer has inspired so many crazed miscreants?
Hader had a couple of hooks that cemented his killer impression — Lorne’s propensity for obnoxious name-dropping and his habit of rubbing his eyes in exhaustion while revealing his famous friends. The impression becomes that much more brutal when Hader substitutes serial killers for Lorne’s celebrity pals.
When I say everyone on SNL does a Lorne impression, I mean everybody. Rudolph’s version (at about the 4:25 mark in this video) is somehow more hilarious for its awfulness. That and the idea of Lorne inviting Matthew Fox back to his office for a makeout session.
John Mulaney and Conan O’Brien
It’s another discussion of the “hooks” that define Lorne impressions, with Conan sharing his signature phrases of “No no no no no no” and “I know,” punctuated by celebrity name-dropping.
Hader’s hook, according to Mulaney, is, “Right right right right right.”
As for Mulaney? His Lorne impression sounds surprisingly little like the SNL producer, but it’s a great vehicle to dig at O’Brien. Mulaney’s impression: “(Lorne) would say to me, ‘You’re the greatest Irish-American writer we’ve ever had. By a mile, you’re the greatest.’” Cue the Conan slow burn.