‘Saturday Night Live’: Fred Armisen Returns To Host Season Finale Tonight — Will Billy Smith Or Ian Rubbish Make An Appearance?

Saturday Night Live will be concluding Season 41 tonight, and it is bringing back a familiar face: former cast member Fred Armisen, who has one of the longest resumes in the show’s storied history, People magazine reports.

This will be Armisen’s first appearance on Saturday Night Live since he left in 2013, and he will be joined by musical guest Courtney Barnett.

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Armisen’s Tenure On Saturday Night Live

Armisen joined SNL in 2002, prior to Season 28, leaving in 2013. During his tenure, he played numerous memorable characters including:

  • Billy Smith, a Native American comedian;
  • Leonard, the European host of Club Traxx;
  • Manuel Ortiz, host of The Manuel Ortiz Show;
  • Stuart of The Californians, a soap opera parody;
  • Ian Rubbish, a British punk rocker circa late 1970s-early 1980s;
  • Frondi, who once notably criticized the movie Gigli to Ben Affleck, who starred in the movie that was a commercial and critical flop;
  • and Garth of “Garth and Kat,” a musical duo that often appeared on Saturday Night Live‘s “Weekend Update” segment.

Armisen also did some notable impersonations as a cast member on SNL, including Prince, Steve Jobs, Hugo Chavez, Barney Frank, George H. W. Bush, Ben Bernanke, Saddam Hussein, and Senator (and later President) Barack Obama.

Armisen Criticized For Portraying Barack Obama

Armisen, who is of European and Asian heritage, was subjected to strong media criticism for playing Obama, which The Washington Post documented at the time. The paper asked, “Is Fred Armisen, who is not African American, ‘black enough’ to embody Obama on ‘Saturday Night Live‘?”

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“Call me crazy, but shouldn’t ‘Saturday Night Live‘s’ fictional Sen. Barack Obama be played by an African-American?” The Post quoted Maureen Ryan of The Chicago Tribune. “I find ‘SNL’s’ choice inexplicable. Obama’s candidacy gives us solid proof of the progress that African-Americans have made in this country. I guess ‘SNL’ still has further to go on that front.”

Perhaps, Armisen will portray President Obama again tonight.

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According to Time magazine, Armisen ranks very high on the list of SNL performances. For instance, he is second only to Darrell Hammond and Seth Meyers in time served as a cast member. He has also appeared in 856 sketches, which places him second behind only Kenan Thompson.

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Armisen, Post-Saturday Night Live

Fred Armisen And Carrie Brownstein Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, his ‘Portlandia’ co-star. [Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for SAG Foundation]In 2011, Armisen co-created Portlandia, a satirical sketch comedy, which coincidentally is executive-produced by Lorne Michaels, creator and executive producer of SNL. The show centers around Armisen and co-star Carrie Brownstein, whose characters live together in Portland, Oregon. According to IFC, their characters are based upon Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street, the long-running children’s show on PBS.

Armisen has also done voice work for animated shows like The Simpsons, and he has appeared on late night comedy shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night With Seth Meyers, and Conan.

[Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images]