At the start of 2016, we didn’t know how much we’d need Kate McKinnon.
This summer, as the Ghostbusters reboot became the latest big-budget female-led comedy to be sucked into a misogynistic Twitter vortex, it was McKinnon’s comic stylings that answered our call. What the movie lacked in critical love was made up for in her memorable take on Holtzmann, a profoundly and charmingly weird engineering whiz (whose science vibes gave zero cares about that nearby hottie Chris Hemsworth).
Her film career has since taken off. Just in time for the holidays, she's in theaters stealing scenes in the ensemble comedy Office Christmas Party, playing it straight as the company's uniquely helpful HR director. And it was just announced McKinnon is set to star in her own film as a scarily magical school cafeteria worker in The Lunch Witch.
But it was this fall on Saturday Night Live that the comedian truly harnessed her talents before an anxiety-ridden nation. The SNL staple had long played Hillary Clinton on the show, but as Election Day came into focus, McKinnon translated the Democratic candidate with new fervor, surpassing Amy Poehler's impersonation and earning the icon status last awarded to Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin in 2008.
Week after week, dressed in a multitude of pantsuits, McKinnon satirized the election's political jousting, often saying what the real Clinton couldn't.
"I'm better than ever, let's do this," she said in the season opener, ducking and rolling before taking a fighter's stance. The sketch was a play on Clinton's bout of pneumonia, though could just as easily have applied to McKinnon's hand in returning the show to must-watch status.
After the second debate, she mocked Trump's attempts to divert attention by giving front-row seats to Bill Clinton accusers.
"Wait, I'm sorry who's here? Mistresses? Bill, how could you? How could I go on with the debate? Oh no, I'll never be able to remember facts and figures now. Oh, Donald, no!" she said sarcastically. "Get real, I'm made of steel, this is nothing. Hi girls!"
Alec Baldwin, like the politician he played, may have dominated headlines, but McKinnon's delivery and range of characters have anchored the new wave of SNL. In the waning days of the election cycle, McKinnon bounced seamlessly from the role of Clinton to Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager and frequent surrogate on news talk shows.
After winning an Emmy in September, McKinnon delivered one of the best sketches of the year, bringing an exhausted Conway to life, imagining the spokeswoman's hard-won day off, Ferris Bueller-style, repeatedly cut short by calls to appear on CNN to explain Trump's never-ending controversial tweets.
And McKinnon's still at it, this past weekend morphing from Conway in the cold open prepping Trump for office to Clinton, in a pointed Love Actually-themed sketch making her last-gasp case on a voting member of the Electoral College's doorstep.
Yet no appearance was more effective than
on Nov. 12, when McKinnon delivered one heck of an electoral finale.
Sitting at a piano in a white pantsuit, the glassy-eyed comedian sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah in SNL's cold open, a moving tribute to those who had hoped for a first female president, and to Cohen, who had died just days before.
No jokes. No cue cards. Just one woman, offering catharsis to a divided nation.
This year, we tip our hat to Kate McKinnon.
Actress Kate McKinnon attends the Los Angeles Premiere of "Ghostbusters" in Hollywood, California, on July 9, 2016. / AFP / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Co-hosts Kate McKinnon (L) and Kumail Nanjiani speak onstage during the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards on February 27, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: (L-R) Timothy Simons, Kate McKinnon and Matt Walsh address the Press Room during the 2014 American Comedy Awards at Hammerstein Ballroom on April 26, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 20: Kate McKinnon attends the 2016 Athena Film Festival day two at The Diana Center on February 20, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Athena Film Festival )
Host actress Kate McKinnon arrives at the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, February, 27, 2016, in Santa Monica, California. / AFP / ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 05: Nasim Pedrad and Kate McKinnon attend the Tribeca Film Institute Benefit screening Of "Skyfall" at the Ziegfeld Theater on November 5, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 15: Beck Bennett, Kate McKinnon and Bobby Moynihan attend 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Opening Night Gala & After Party Sponsored By AT&T on April 15, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for AT&T)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 21: Actress Kate McKinnon attends the American Museum of Natural History's 2013 Museum Gala at American Museum of Natural History on November 21, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Actors Kate McKinnon and Nikki Reed attend the "Intramural" Premiere after party during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at Neuehouse on April 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: Actress Kate McKinnon attends the "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" premiere, sponsored by Buffalo David Bitton, on December 15, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Buffalo David Bitton)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 15: Kate McKinnon attends 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Opening Night Gala & After Party Sponsored By AT&T on April 15, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for AT&T)