The Saturday Night Live cast member mill has ground plenty of absurdly talented performers to unappreciated comedy-meal in its day. Just a quick rundown of the “washouts”: Michaela Watkins, Sarah Silverman, Casey Wilson, Joan Cusack, Michael McKean, Mark McKinney, Jerry Minor, Tim Robinson, Jenny Slate, David Koechner, Rob Riggle, Laura Kightlinger, Harry Shearer (twice), and that Julia Lous-What’sername. Still, it’s a rough gig, and getting the call up to the big leagues doesn’t guarantee you get to stay there, meaning that, every season, there’s somebody who’s going to get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes a struggling player makes a direct appeal to the audience (as did Bill Murray, who, unbelievably, was almost fired after a handful of shows), while some luck into a character that takes them off into catchphrase heaven. (Mike Meyers’ Wayne Campbell, Julia Sweeney’s Pat, Goat Boy—look, they can’t all be classics.)
And sometimes, a featured player just has to go on Weekend Update and demand time and space to show off the skills that are being wasted on the bench. That’s certainly been the case for new cast member Chloe Fineman, who was hired largely on her reputation as an impressionist, and who has had precious little chance to impersonate anyone. (Thank producer Lorne Michaels’ recent obsession with either bringing in high-profile ringers or having Kate McKinnon dress up as every other male member of the Trump administration.) On last night’s RuPaul-hosted episode, Fineman finally took the bull by the horns and steered the show into her lane for four impressive, and impressively funny minutes. Of impressions. Using the old “Oscars preview” standby, Fineman ran through this year’s nominees as they engaged in the other old standby, “steering wheel acting.” You know, when the heroine emerges from a stressful situation and then laugh-cries behind the wheel of her unmoving vehicle? Fineman ably aped everyone from Lara Dern, to Meryl Streep, to Saiorse Ronan, to Knives Out’s Ana de Armas, to Update co-anchor Colin Jost’s partner Scarlett Johansson, to a bashfully inarticulate Timothée Chalamet. And if you’re asking about steering wheel acting coming from three of the stars of Little Women, that’s called buggy-acting, smart guy.