On Sunday, Bob Dole, former Senate majority leader and both a vice presidential and presidential candidate, died. He was 98 years old. His cause of death is not yet known, but earlier this year he announced that he had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.
Dole served in World War II, and over his life he overcame both poverty and war wounds to launch a prolific political career. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1951 and he moved to the Senate in 1969. He was Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976, losing to Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. He ran for president in 1996, losing to the incumbent Bill Clinton. (His 1996 website is still, somehow, up.)
It was during this time that Dole’s public profile became bigger than ever. Not only was he regularly on television, he was also an oft-parodied public figure, lampooned repeatedly on The Simpsons. (In one Halloween episode, he and Clinton were both kidnapped and replaced with alien imposters, who subsequently conquered Earth.)
And Dole was sent up on Saturday Night Live. Norm Macdonald made him one of his signature impersonations, portraying the politician as a blowhard who referred to himself in the third person. On the episode that aired November 16, 1996 — a mere 11 days after he lost to Clinton — Dole himself appeared on the cold open, meeting Macdonald in full Dole regalia. The meet-up wasn’t contentious. Instead, Dole showed that he could be a good sport.
This clip of Bob Dole and Norm Macdonald a week after Dole lost in 1996 is so great and it’s beyond sad to lose both of them this year.pic.twitter.com/gUa2B9Dnfg
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) December 5, 2021
At one point, Macdonald broke character and asked him to run for president again, if only so he can continue impersonating him. “It would help keep you on the front pages,” Macdonald told him.
“Believe me, Norm. Running for president doesn’t always keep you in the front pages — unless you take a dive off the podium,” Dole joked, referring to the time, two months prior, when he’d fallen off the stage during a rally. “Thanks for noticing here at Saturday Night Live,” Dole told Macdonald. “I appreciated it.”
Macdonald responded, “I don’t write a lot of this stuff.”
After news broke of Dole’s passing, people shared clips of Macdonald’s impersonation.
Norm MacDonald as Bob Dole in Real World was legendary.
“Nobody eats Bob Dole’s peanut butter without asking!!”
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) December 5, 2021
It was extra bittersweet because Macdonald passed away back in September, prompting an avalanche of mourning. Among those who eulogized him was no less than Bob Dole, who called him “a great talent,” that he “loved laughing with him on SNL. *Bob Dole* will miss Norm Macdonald.”
— Senator Bob Dole (@SenatorDole) September 14, 2021
You can watch Dole’s SNL appearance on Peacock.