Brian Boone brianbooone Saturday Night Live has aired thousands of sketches during its plus years on the air. It's hard work turning out 90 minutes of live, original comedy, and the quality is naturally going to vary. Some of those bits have stood the test of time and become classics, while others have become memorable because they were so ill-conceived.
There's also the matter of taste—one person's all-time great is another's trash. In no particular order, here are 12 of the very best sketches to ever air on SNL…along with 12 of the very worst. That lent the character a depth and backstory that sketch characters generally don't have.
Because he's a bombastic life coach and motivational speaker, parents hire Foley to talk some sense into their wayward kids. It works…because the kids end being terrified that they'll end up like Foley, "living in a van down by the river. Worst - It's Pat In the current pop culture landscape, Jeffrey Tambor has won two Emmys for his thoughtful and sensitive portrayal of a transgender woman on Transparent.
In the early '90s, SNL featured a recurring bit with Julia Sweeney as a gender-ambiguous character with the gender-ambiguous name of Pat. The joke was that observers couldn't tell if Pat was a woman or a woman, and Pat would obscure things further by dating a gender-ambiguous person named Chris.
The character was annoying and obnoxious then—Pat constantly simpered, wined, and winced—but is problematic if not offensive now. In this delightfully silly Halloween-themed bit, a couple Beck Bennett and Vanessa Bayer try out a haunted house thrill ride in which an elevator is supposed to expose them to monsters, ghosts, and other spooky creatures.
Instead, it just keeps stopping on a random guy Tom Hanks in a pumpkin-print jacket named David Pumpkins—sorry, David S. Pumpkins—and his two dancing skeleton friends. In this sketch, she's another distant and mysterious character: Grace Kelly during the making of the classic movie Rear Window.
While Jones would later show a real gift for comedy on The Last Man on Earth, she comes off in this sketch as awkward and strange—probably because the premise is entirely based around her inability to stop farting. In SNL's first season, the most popular movie around was Jaws, and the show found a unique way to send it up: Chevy Chase, in a cheap costume, plays the very sneaky shark who stalks his prey on land, fooling people into letting him into their homes with ruses like "plumber," "candy gram," and "I'm only a dolphin.
And then there's Gilly, a recurring character so obnoxious and difficult to enjoy that she feels like a parody of recurring characters. Dressed in a fright wig, Wiig plays a little kid who acts innocent even though she's obviously guilty of savage pranks. The greatest prank ever pulled on the audience, however, is this character's stubborn refusal to go away. Best - Word Association Satire is a big part of SNL, and once in a while, that satire elevates to the downright dangerous.
That's the power of comedy. In the show's early days, it was particularly risky with its social commentary, never more so than in this sketch featuring cast member Chevy Chase and guest host Richard Pryor, one of the funniest and most controversial stand-up comics of all time.
In this fast and furious bit, Chase interviews Pryor for a job, and administers a word association test. Words and tempers escalate quickly, demonstrating just how tenuous race relations can be. Worst - The Couple This may not be one of the worst written sketches in SNL history, but it's among the worst executed. Former cast member and host Chris Rock stars opposite the fantastic Leslie Jones as a long-married bickering couple getting ready to go out. The sketch isn't particularly funny; it's loaded with so much emotional nuance, story, and poignancy that it feels more like a short play.
When it aired, the scene was besieged with so many technical difficulties and messed-up lines that none of the actors could pull it out of a tailspin. Best - Celebrity Jeopardy! The premise is simple: SNL stars and guest hosts get to show off their celebrity impersonation skills while competing on Jeopardy!
The questions or answers, rather are remarkably easy, and the contestants' continual failure to answer them correctly is an endless source of exasperation for Alex Trebek a simmering Will Ferrell.
The only celebrity that can truly make Trebek lose his cool, however, is the wildly hostile and profane Sean Connery Darrell Hammond. Worst - Commie Hunting Season SNL can, should, and does try to skewer people from all walks of life, but there's a fine line between social commentary and pointless cruelty. In this sketch that aired during SNL's strike-shortened misbegotten '81 season , a bunch of angry guys with thick country-fried accents can't wait to go out hunting "Commies"—America's number one enemy at the time.
Charles Rocket's character is so repugnant that he actually says the N-word on the air. The studio audience responded with utter silence. That is, until the robots show up. That's pretty much the sum total of the joke. A guy in grimy, Victorian-era London flashes people rather than murder them, and investigators are pretty sure it's a member of the royal family because the culprit wears a luxurious robe.
Derek clearly doesn't have anything, so he just kind of wings it, blurting his way through an overwrought breakup song about "choppin' broccoli.
That little bit of wordplay substitution led to this Christmas bit, in which the trio on their way to deliver presents to the Baby Jesus were instead members of the Mafia. Or at least, that's probably what they're doing. They're so difficult to understand especially Stallone that it's hard to tell exactly what's happening.
In other words, it concerns their futile, un-sexy attempts to "get a little nasty" in childhood bedrooms that haven't changed since these ladies were His recurring characters, however, needed some work. The joke is that they annoy everybody, but if the sketch also annoys the audience, what's the point? Worst - Copy Machine Some of the most common criticism SNL receives has to do with its reliance on recurring characters and catchphrases.
Rob Schneider plays an office worker—"the Richmeister"—who sits by the copy machine and riffs on co-workers' names, then says "makin' copies. What might have been a clever sketch for two minutes one time gets old quite fast when one office employee after another makes copies…and then SNL repeats the whole thing week after week. Best - Mister Robinson's Neighborhood When Eddie Murphy arrived at SNL in , he brought a youthful energy and an urban African-American perspective the show had never seen—and applied those talents to play Mister Robinson, an unrepentantly criminal, inner-city version of Mister Rogers.
It's not easy to parody Mister Rogers, one of the sweetest and most well-meaning men in history, but Murphy doesn't really make fun of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as much as he points out how unrealistic it was for a large portion of the audience.
Worst - Airport Security Check Sharon Stone shot to fame with Basic Instinct, a sexually charged psychological thriller in which she bared a lot more than her acting chops.
SNL seemed more interested in her physical attributes than talents, however, and cast her in this sketch as a woman airport security finds so attractive that they keep making her remove articles of clothing to "make sure" she isn't "smuggling anything. This SNL sketch takes the concept to its logical and tasteless end—Prince Charles Dana Carvey announces his abdication from the line of royal succession so as to get together with some scientists and literally make that wish come true. On a public affairs show called "Consumer Probe," Bergen's host takes shifty, menacing toy maker Irwin Mainway Aykroyd to task for his extremely dangerous but profitable products, such as "Mr.
Skin Grafter" and "Doggie Dentist. Be careful with "Bag O' Glass"—because it's a bag of broken glass. They're generally stiff, dull, and not funny, so the show has to rely on tired tricks to get through those episodes—which usually includes dressing the manly jock in women's clothes.
When New York Yankees great Derek Jeter hosted, he played the wife of a Yankee hanging out with other ballplayers' wives in the Yankee Stadium grandstands. The entire joke here is that Derek Jeter is wearing a dress, and it's funny for about as long as you'd think.