Of SNL‘s 38 seasons, I’d wager that at least 30 of them fall somewhere between a B- and B+ on the ratings scale. The show’s never as bad we think it is in the moment, but it’s also never as good as we remember it being. Every season, you’re going to get a handful of great sketches that you’ll never forget, just as you’ll get a ton more terrible ones that you wish you could. This season was no different. You had your duds (boring Daniel Craig, nervous Jeremy Renner, too-soon Kristen Wiig), your instant classics (up-for-anything Louis C.K. and Melissa McCarthy), and then there’s everything else, from Seth MacFarlane’s unmemorable premiere to Ben Affleck’s celebratory finale.
Today, though, we’re not focusing on the B- and B+’s or the boring, dreary cold opens, of which there are many — after the jump are the 10 best and 5 worst sketches from SNL season 38. Please share your favorites, too.
Date: September 15, 2012
Host: Seth MacFarlane
Sketch: “Puppet Class”
Howard Stern, of all people, put it best or at least most enthusiastically: “The sketch with Bill Hader doing this puppet class is the funniest thing I’ve seen ever on the show, maybe.” I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but “Puppet Class” could certainly follow Stefon on Bill Hader’s Best-Of DVD.
Date: November 3, 2012
Host: Louis C.K.
If “Lincoln” had ended with Kenan’s emancipated slave sarcastically thanking our 16th president at the bar, it would have been good enough — but then the familiar Louie theme began playing, and “Lincoln” became an instant classic. (I wonder if there’s anyone out there who had no idea what was being spoofed?) It’s so pitch perfect, from the font of the credits, to the way it was shot, to Lincoln’s self-effacing jokes. The only thing missing was Louie/Lincoln balancing against the Comedy Cellar brick wall with one hand. According to Late Night writer Mike Shoemaker “Lincoln” was written by Seth Meyers, so props to you, Mr. Meyers. In honor, I’ll refrain from commenting on your mugging during “Weekend Update” for one week and one week only.
Date: November 17, 2012
Host: Jeremy Renner
Best of the night. The cast looked tired, everyone wanted to go home, and “Thug #2″ was still fresh on our minds, but the writers finally discovered how to make Renner funny: keep him sedentary and make him play an idiot. “Coroner” was hilarious, and Renner’s stilted delivery was a big reason why. There may have been 85 minutes of crap before it, but watching the entire episode was worth it for “Morris Day and the Time?”
Date: December 8, 2012
Host: Jamie Foxx
Sketch: “McDermott or Mulroney”
Ran for just the right amount of time, everyone hit their beats perfectly, and it played off one of the host’s most prominent attributes. Namely, that Jamie Foxx is — SPOILER ALERT — black. If the contestants had been Jay, Kenan, and, say, Tim Robinson, “Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney” wouldn’t have been nearly as funny or even possible, especially with the “Djimon Hounsou or Chiwetel Ejiofor” capper.
Date: December 15, 2012
Host: Martin Short
Sketch: “What Up with That?”
If “What’s Up with That” was 20 minutes long and appeared in every episode, I would be ecstatic. There’s something about this sketch that does it for me — maybe it’s Kenan’s increasingly sweaty face, maybe it’s J-Suds’ Running Man dance, maybe it’s Fred’s saxophone playing, maybe it’s Lindsey Buckingham. OK, it’s all those things, plus last night’s iteration featured the one-two punch of my secret girlfriend Carrie Brownstein and Samuel L. Jackson, who maybe stopped himself from saying “f*ck,” but definitely let loose a “bullsh*t.” (Kenan’s “that costs money” response was a nice save.) PLUS, there was a breakdancing Tiny Tim. If this was the final “What’s Up with That?” I’m glad they saved the best for last.
Date: February 16, 2013
Host: Christoph Waltz
Sketch: “Djesus Uncrossed”
“JESUS H. CHRIST.” “The ‘H’ is silent.” Excellent. Waltz’s giddiness was apparent and justified, Taran Killan’s spot-on Brad Pitt impression returned, and it was smart for the sketch to not just focus on Django, but Quentin Taratino’s entire filmography, including Pulp Fiction-era Ving Rhames. Best of all, there are going to be some upset Christians today. Dejesus is ready.
Date: March 9, 2013
Host: Justin Timberlake
Sketch: “Moët & Chandon”
A+ Not sure the biggest laugh: “Monica and Chandler Champagne,” the jerking off a horse line, “I graduated magnum cum loudly,” Ricky V.I.Penis, “I did this weird shoot in Mexico and two of the girls disappeared but I survived. Thanks champagne,” “One time, I woke up covered in blood. But it wasn’t mine. I was like, ‘Hello?’” Actually, the whole thing was perfect. Kind of like feminist porn.
Date: April 6, 2013
Host: Melissa McCarthy
Sketch: “Pizza Business”
Many of the season’s best sketches involving that episode’s host have had a simple premise: two people, sitting down, talking. I’m thinking back to Kate and Louis CK’s hookup last year. “Pizza Eater Loan Application” follows that simple formula, with McCarthy trying to convince Jason Sudeikis to give her money to start a business — and it’s hilarious. Barb Kellner is just the right amount of endearing to offset the weird, and the sketch never felt like it was merely telling a fat joke. Though I haven’t read Rex Reed’s take yet.
Date: May 4, 2013
Host: Zach Galifianakis
Sketch: “Darrell’s House”
As anyone who’s seen Portlandia or Comedy Bang Bang or Archer knows, editing is just as important to a comedy as well-written jokes. Gags can bomb if the camera cuts away a second too quickly or a second too late. By its nature, a live show and all, SNL doesn’t much rely on editors, which is what “Darrell’s House” makes so special and so brilliant. That, and Jon Hamm.
Date: May 18, 2013
Host: Ben Affleck
Goodbye Stefon, you and Gizblow and Menorah the Explorer and Teddy Graham People and Gay Liotta and Black George Washington and Germufs and DJ Baby Bok Choy and Asian Balkis and Human Parking Cones and Bologna Danza and Spud Webb will be missed, at least until you inevitably return next season.