On the campaign trail, Bernie Sanders can’t help but be himself: Whatever the political weather this year, the Democratic insurgent was relentlessly on message, voicing outrage about inequality and corporate greed in his unmistakable Brooklyn accent. That’s why his fans love him so much—and it’s also what makes the Vermont senator a godsend for comedians everywhere. Here are the year’s best Bernie impressions, ranked in order of greatness:
5. Donald Trump
Trump is the master of turning political insults into entertainment, and he let loose with the theatrics at this Iowa rally in November. Launching into an attack on the Democratic presidential field, he described Bernie’s confrontation with Black Lives Matter activists over the summer. “A couple of young women took over the microphone from Bernie a month ago, right. They took it over and he was like this,” Trump said, adoping Bernie’s characteristic hunch and pretending to walk dejectedly off the stage. It hasn’t been The Donald’s only foray into physical comedy.
4. Stephen Colbert
Colbert waded into Bernieland on his new late-night show, riffing on an Internet meme of babies dressed up as Bernie Sanders. He launched into a bit imagining Bernie’s campaign for babies. “The time has come for change of my diapy,” Colbert said, dropping into Bernie-inflected accent. “My diapy is currently 40 percent poop, 20 percent wee-wee—we need to change it.” It’s not quite a full-fledged impression, but it doesn’t take much to evoke Bernie, and Colbert gets extra points for absurdity.
3. James Adomian
No one has been a more devoted Bernie impersonator than Adomian, who’s brought his impression of the candidate to New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade and Funny Or Die. “The corporate controlled media says I can’t win because I look like a train conductor with cotton-candy hair,” Adomonian intones in character. He certainly nails Bernie’s vocal cadence and has fun with his message. But still, there’s some room for improvement: Adomian’s voice tends to rise a bit too quickly into higher registers that Bernie rarely reaches, and his hand gestures are a bit all over the place. (Bernie’s gesticulations are constant but controlled, as though he’s “petting a series of progressively larger dogs,” as Mother Jones’s Tim Murphy puts it.)
2. Larry David
Does Bernie have a doppleganger in Larry David—or does David have a doppleganger in Bernie? Either way, it is our collective good fortune that these two are contemporaries. David didn’t have to do very much to pull an utterly convincing Bernie on Saturday Night Live, where he’s already appeared twice in character: He already has the look, the Brooklyn accent, the entire career of comedic outrage. But that almost makes it too easy for David, who lets the Bernie cadence slip a bit as he keeps going.
1. Vermont Residents
The greatest Bernie impressions this year came from his home state of Vermont, where his constituents have been listening to the former mayor of Burlington for decades now. The New York Times had the brilliant idea to film a whole bunch of them. Vermonter Joel Najman—heard at 0:25 and 0:55—had the most uncannily accurate impression. But really, all of them seemed to be animated by the spirit of Bernie.