NEW YORK – Saturday Night Live has found someone in its own cast to play President Bush -- four-season vet Chris Parnell.
"It is nearly six months since I last addressed you from this room, and I know what many of you are thinking," said Parnell's Bush opening Saturday night's show, the second of this season. "Yes, I do look a little different. You guessed it: Botox."
The comedy show had been at a disadvantage in the first weeks of the season because it did not have a cast member to play Bush since SNL vet Will Ferrell left the show last May.
"The natural person to go was Darrell [Hammond], but the problem we had was that he's everyone else in that adminstration, he's Rumsfeld and Cheney, Ashcroft and Tom Ridge," SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels told The Post Monday night.
"And we just realized that we were just get ourselves into a problem. He's also Gore, and I don't know who's going to run in '04, but the idea that he could possibly be debating himself was problematic."
Parnell, Michaels said, was then the logical choice, and he was told on Wednesday after a table read. "He does a brilliant Tom Brokaw, when we did the debate two years ago he did Jim Leher. He's very good with the written word and very often the Bush pieces can be dry because they're about whatever is happening that week."
Michaels said that SNL vet Jimmy Fallon was also considered for the part.
This was only the second time in nearly 30 years that the show has had to find a new cast member to play the president. The last time was in 1998, when Hammond took over as Clinton after Phil Hartman was killed.
Playing the president is a tradition among SNL cast members dating back to the '70s and Chevy Chase's portrayal of a bumbling Gerald Ford.
Other famous SNL presidential impressions include Dana Carvey's George Bush (the first) and Hammond's Bill Clinton.
When the younger Bush won the election two years ago, Hammond switched to portraying Vice President Cheney.