Comedian Jay Pharoah spoofs Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Saturday Night Live.
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Saturday Night Live pulled no punches in its parody of last week’s Republican debate in Las Vegas, mocking everyone from front-runner Donald Trump to ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Carson, who was once close to outpacing Trump in the polls for the top spot earlier this fall, is now teetering at third place in surveys of voters in early-voting primary states.

Voters once applauded Carson’s soft-spoken demeanor as antithetical to Trump. But Carson has become a punch line as he sought to exert his toughness by recounting stories about his violent youth.

SNL cast member Jay Pharoah portrayed Carson in the show’s opening segment, where the moderator asked if he “has the experience and toughness to deal with world leaders like Vladimir Putin.”

In what can only be described as a selfie face, Pharoah mugged and smiled for the camera with his hands clasped at his chest before responding mildly to the question.

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“Well, that question makes me furious,” the comedian said. “I might go HAM up in here. Of course, I can be tough. As a surgeon, I had to tell people things they didn’t want to hear. Not that they had to have brain surgery, but that it would performed by me, a man who they believed to be asleep.

“But I'm not asleep. I’m amped, I’m jacked and I’m ready to throw down,” he said, doing a little shoulder dance. “What do you think of that, Mr. Putin?”

Bush, portrayed by Beck Bennett, also did not escape the heat. Since Trump essentially cast him as a weak candidate, Bush, the once-presumed front-runner, has been sinking in the polls.

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SNL added to the character assassination, with Trump, portrayed by Darrell Hammond, calling his rival “Jebra” and “a girl.”

Sen. Ted Cruz was played by Taran Killam, Sen. Marco Rubio by Pete Davidson, Carly Fiorina by Cecily Strong, Sen. Rand Paul by Kyle Mooney and Gov. Chris Christie by Bobby Moynihan.

Watch the sketch here:

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Lynette Holloway is a contributing editor at The Root. The New York-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor at Ebony magazine.

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