The controversy surrounding comedian Shane Gillis—who was hired by Saturday Night Live last week and fired just days later after racist and homophobic jokes resurfaced—has overshadowed the hirings of two other promising comedians. The only controversy about Chloe Fineman is deciding which one of her hilarious impressions is the best.
Fineman and Bowen Yang will join SNL as featured players for the NBC sketch show’s 45th season, which begins Sept. 28. Yang, a widely admired New York comedian and actor, will become SNL’s first full-time Asian-American cast member. He previously served as a staff writer on the show’s 44th season and guest-starred in one skit as North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Those who like celebrity impressions should be excited for Fineman to join the cast of SNL. Her instagram is filled with clips expertly lampooning a variety of famous people, from Ivanka Trump to actor Timothée Chalamet to the target that resulted in perhaps her most viral moment: disgraced former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.
Celebrity impressions are a hugely important part of Saturday Night Live, especially in the show’s cold-open sketches, which usually parody a moment in American politics from the week before. Instead of forcing actor Alec Baldwin to continue doing a played-out impression of US president Donald Trump that he doesn’t even like doing, SNL would be wise to make generous use out of its new asset.
Many celebrity impressions—including some on SNL—are examples of very good mimicry, but they don’t actually say anything meaningful about the person they’re making fun of. In other words, they’re hollow reflections that hope to draw laughs based simply on how accurate they are.
Fineman’s work, on the other hand, is both excellent (almost uncanny) mimicry, but also deeply perceptive and interesting. Every one of her impressions has a psychological theory of the person behind it. They are both impressions and characters—each one has an implied backstory that Fineman is able to convey solely through voice and body and face contortions.
Her funniest one so far might be Ivanka Trump. Fineman, who is Jewish, takes aim at Trump’s Judaism (she converted in 2009 to marry her husband, Jared Kushner), which critics argue is shallow and performative. Trump will often post anodyne messages on social media during Jewish holidays. During Hanukkah last year, she misspelled “latkes” on a particularly long and self-indulgent Instagram story.
Fineman takes that element of Trump’s life and personality and runs with it, crafting it into the backstory of the character. It’s just exaggerated enough to be incredibly funny, while still being specific enough to be a little scary.
Some other Fineman gems: