Jeff Labrecque
October 15, 2012 AT 08:35 PM EDT

On Thursday night, as Joe Biden got his Irish on and Paul Ryan hydrated like a camel during their contentious vice-presidential debate, you just knew that Saturday Night Live‘s writers were foaming at the mouth. In fact, when Saturday night’s show opened with a debate sketch, some of the best punchlines were verbatim quotes from the candidates themselves.

In recent years, SNL‘s debate sketches have become less cartoonish and more straight-forward mimicry — mostly because the candidates are more ripe for satirical study. Four years ago, Tina Fey skewered Sarah Palin with many of the Alaska governor’s own words. (Granted, “And I can see Russia from my house,” was pure Fey.) Twelve years ago, Darrell Hammond’s Al Gore was such a sharp parody that the candidate’s campaign staff made the vice president watch in order to bring attention to his annoying sighs and negative body language.

Ahead of tomorrow night’s crucial presidential debate at Hofstra, track the evolution of SNL‘s debate history.

Gerald Ford (Chevy Chase) versus Jimmy Carter (Dan Aykroyd), 1976

Ford gets needled. Carter compares his opponent to a German dictator.

Teddy Kennedy (Bill Murray) versus George Bush (Jim Downey), 1980 consolation debate

The 1980 election’s also-rans battle for third place.

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