Saturday Night Live: Who is James Austin Johnson?

Easing into the new job? Definitely not!

Saturday Night Live returned last Saturday for their 47th season. They opened their season with an impression of President Biden by...who? No, like, literally who is that? Viewers across the country were left racking their brains, trying to figure out what celebrity from what had been brought in to impersonate the president. He clearly wasn't an old cast member. That's when, slowly but surely, we began to realize: no, it's not an old cast member. It's a new one.

James Austin Johnson, one of the three new featured players on the show, took on this important role. Within his first seconds on the critically acclaimed live show, he put himself in direct comparison with former Biden impersonators including Jason Sudeikis, Jim Carrey, John Mullaney, Woody Harrelson, Alex Moffat and Kevin Nealon (at least the stakes are low). Can you imagine, at your first day of work, your boss comes up to you:

Hey, I know it's your first day. You're going to open the show doing an impression that many incredibly famous people have done before you. Yes, this will be everyone's first impression of you. No, they won't be able to help themselves from comparing you. GO GET 'EM!

Wild. What's even more wild: how incredibly Johnson did! Once you get past the initial (and understandable) who is this shock, a new thought settles in: Woah! He's great! After one of the most comically accurate impersonations of the commander-in-chief, we have to wonder not only Who is James Austin Johnson but Where did he come from? Well, don't you worry. I've done some sleuthing about the newest Saturday night sensation.

Earlier Days

James Austin Johnson was born on July 19th in 1992. (For those of you already switching over to your calculator apps, I'll just tell you. He is 29 years old.) He was born in Nashville, TN and started performing stand up comedy as a teenager. It's very rare people start experimenting with stand-up comedy as a teenager. It's even more rare that they're good at it.

This teenage endeavour grew into an impressive career (obviously) as an LA comedian. He performed in the Just for Laughs New Faces Festival in 2017 (who, for anyone unsure of how to react to that, is a BIG DEAL).

Johnson's work in sketch comedy has also garnered him some recognition within the field. His work has been featured on Comedy Central Digital in sketches such as Deb & Steph and Girl Kyle.

While it would not be ridiculous to assume that the comedic actor appeared out of nowhere (as many who are cast on SNL do not post previous film credits), Johnson is not a stranger to the art of acting. A Vanity Fair exclusive from 2020 revealed that he started acting training when he was ten and continued through college where he studied Meisner technique. He has been seen in a number of films including Hail Caesar, Blue Like Jazz, Future Man, and others. Some of his TV credits include appearances on notable shows such as Better Call Saul and Adam Ruins Everything.

Johnson's first imdb credit dates back to 2009, which implies he has been working in the field even before then. While his resume promotes him as a hard working, talented actor, none of his projects gave him the acclaim or notoriety of his most important stepping stone on the path to studio 8H.

Trump Impressions

The actor's celebrity impressions of former President Donald Trump are what helped solidify his comedy laden path to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Around the time of the 2016 election, Johnson began doing celebrity impressions of Trump, which went viral. His casual talking to camera style alongside his spot on vocal impression led to entertaining videos that have given Johnson the boost he needed to be recognized across the country.

Johnson's Trump impression did not only give him celebrity within the comedy world. Vanity fair did a piece on the impressionist back in November of 2020 boasting his impression to be, "the best in a sea of Trumps." To the exclusive with Vanity Fair, Johnson said that the videos he created were, "just some lunch break horsing around." You know how during your quick breaks at work you create immediate, high quality, viral content? That's a shared and easy experience, yes?

And Here we Are

It's unsurprising, given the path behind him, that we are now going to be seeing Johnson every Saturday night on the time-treasured stage. James Austin Johnson has hit the stage studio laughing. I can't wait to see the fire he continues to bring for the rest of the season.

The next episode of Saturday Night Live airs on October 9th with Kim Kardashian as the host and Halsey as the musical guest. I can't wait!