Ten actors and comedians (and even a pro wrestler) have portrayed KFC's founder and spokesman.

Mike Pomranz
September 11, 2017

In the past two-plus years, KFC has gone through more celebrities portraying Colonel Sanders than cars at a drive thru. The unique but bizarre campaign started in May 2015 when Darrell Hammond was tapped to play the real-life KFC founder and spokesman who passed away in 1980. More recently—literally last week—the chicken chain posted an ad featuring members of the WWE "auditioning" for the role. Then, over the weekend, another new Colonel emerged: actor Ray Liotta.

In all, by our count, ten notable names have officially worn the Colonel's slim bow tie. Here's our ranking of their portrayals—only based on their work as the Colonel. Nothing personal.

10) Vincent Kartheiser

You'd think the chance to portray Colonel Sanders as a '50s heartthrob would provide a unique angle to work from. But Kartheiser's turn as a Buddy Holly-esque version of the spokesman is all too brief.

9) Rob Lowe

Lowe's portrayal of the Colonel suffers from one major pitfall… Too much Rob Lowe. Not that there's anything wrong with the actor; it's just that in his turn as Sanders, he's just straight reading of the material in Lowe's own voice and mannerisms. Though maybe that's just the Rob Lowe style?

8) Billy Zane

Throughout Zane's take as the Colonel, he's covered in gold body paint. As a result, it's hard to even tell who the actor is. Maybe that's why he decided not to don too think of an accent… the paint was doing all the work.

7) Ray Liotta

Yes, you can only work with what the KFC marketing team gives you, but Liotta's debut turn as the Colonel includes a weird split-personality gimmick that probably takes a seasoned actor like him to pull off, but wasn't necessarily a standout.

6) Rob Riggle

Riggle is a funny guy with a lot of comedic range, but he's also found himself a specific niche as the comedian for guys who love sports ever since he joined the Fox NFL Sunday team. He brought that same persona to his set of Colonel Sanders' ads, which is a far cry from the down-home, grandfatherly personality usually portrayed by the original man himself.

5) George Hamilton

Okay, we get it. You're very tan, George Hamilton. And you're selling Extra Crispy chicken. It's a one note joke, but as far as one note jokes go, it's not bad. And come on… What's not to like about George Hamilton?

4) Jim Gaffigan

As one of best-known standup comedians of his generation, Gaffigan has the skill set to deliver any line and make it funny. As a result, his portrayal of the Colonel is exactly that… very funny. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you're still just watching a standup comedian in a Colonel Sanders outfit.

3) Dolph Ziggler

Look, we all know the WWE is fake. The flip side of that, however, is that many of these pro wrestlers are adept performers. Ziggler is engaged and provides a competent southern accent – and then the Colonel freakin' wrestles a dude in a chicken costume! What more could you want?

2) Darrell Hammond

Of all the portrayals of Colonel Sanders, Hammond's take is the only one that feels truly in character—certainly not in the character of the actual Harland Sanders, but as an actor, Hammond is fully committed to the oddball character he's chosen. It's probably what Hammond does best, and he doesn't slack off just because it's for a KFC ad campaign.

1) Norm Macdonald

Macdonald, a deft comedian, really nails the heart of the campaign: embracing the Colonel Sanders character while also parodying it. His take is equal parts authentic and self-aware, heartwarming and humorous, engaged and detached. As a result, he's the one Colonel that we'd love to see selling chicken as long as possible.