Person of the Year: The Finalists

Poty Kate Mckinnon

KATE MCKINNON: SNL MVP

Saturday Night Live’s inarguable MVP Kate McKinnon was already having a great year thanks to her scene-stealing role in the decidedly feminist reboot of Ghostbusters when she thanked Hillary Clinton in her Emmy speech this September. And she did it with good reason. 

With the general election just two months out, it was’nt surprising for one of Hollywood’s elite to throw support behind a major party candidate from the podium of an awards show, but McKinnon’s shout-out to Clinton was an acknowledgment that her relationship with the former secretary of State is symbiotic. While Clinton inadvertently helped McKinnon get to that Emmy stage by providing source material for the sketch comic to emerge as a key satirist in this year’s election, McKinnon tapped into the essence of one of the most notoriously guarded women in the public eye and imbued her portrayal with keen wit and pathos. 

A sketch from October of 2015 titled “Hillary Clinton Bar Talk” had McKinnon’s Hillary bellied up to a bar pouring her heart out to a wise bartender named Val, played with ironic self-reflexivity by Clinton herself. It was in that moment that McKinnon secured her role in the election cycle as the person who would continually highlight the often polarizing politician’s humanity and humor as well as hold her feet to the fire in areas where Clinton has been routinely scrutinized. 

In the sketch, Clinton’s Val (with a wink and a nod) praises McKinnon’s Hillary for getting behind marriage equality so early. 

“It could have been sooner,” McKinnon’s Clinton volleys, winking and clucking her teeth.

“Fair point,” Clinton says, humbling herself before her critics before coming out from behind the bar bearing a wide grin to embrace McKinnon and croon a chorus of “Lean on Me” together. 

SNL’s first out lesbian cast member, McKinnon had played Clinton several times since beginning her tenure on the long-running show in 2012. But that sketch resonated deeply, in part because Clinton appeared with her, but also because McKinnon uncannily tapped into the essence of woman notorious for being secretive and guarded.

By the time the primaries were in full swing this year, McKinnon had established herself as a key player in managing the public’s perception of Clinton, and her portrayal became anticipated destination viewing. 

Earlier this year she verbally sparred with Larry David’s spot-on Bernie Sanders before arriving at this fall's cathartic series of debate sketches that had her toe-toe with Alec Baldwin’s unhinged Donald Trump. Through it all, McKinnon’s Hillary walked a razor-thin line between a caricature of the ambitious career woman never content to bake cookies and a deeply qualified, much-maligned public servant struggling for recognition and her rightful seat in the Oval Office — much like the woman herself. 

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