Saturday Night Live is a television staple that, at some point, we have all probably seen. From “Willie and Frankie” to Chris Farley’s “Chippendales,” plenty of SNL sketches have made us laugh hard. And Donald Trump’s upcoming episode is sure to do the same, good or bad.
SNL has produced thousands of memorable moments, so we polled our staff to get their favorites…
I love a lot of them — Schmitt’s Gay, the Stevie Nicks Fajita Round Up, almost everything Jack Handey wrote — but for some reason, the one that sticks out in my mind is the sketch where Sylvester Stallone is playing the clerk at a computer store, only he doesn’t know anything about computers because the computer store used to be an Orange Julius where he worked. One of the few lines I remember is, “I’m sorry, sir, but this computer is, uh, for gays.” Stallone’s comedy skills are wildly underrated.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this, and nearly settled on the Turd Ferguson sketch of Celebrity Jeopardy, but there’s only been one host who I would tune in to watch live, and that’s Christopher Walken. He’s had a lot of fantastic sketches, but the most Walken was Pranksters, where he played a dangerous lunatic gleeful at the prospect that there’s a TV show on which he can play his snuff films. The way he switches from ludicrous put-on to dead-eyed psychopath is chilling, and a big shout-out to sound FX guy Ted.
My favorite SNL sketch is probably Robert Goulet’s Red Ships of Spain, for a few reasons. First, obviously, because Will Ferrell’s Robert Goulet impression fills me with joy. (Remember when he did an appearance on Conan in that character and kept calling Conan “Johnny?” I think about this once a week.) But the main reason I like the sketch, I think, is because it’s just so deeply, deeply weird. Like, imagine trying to pitch it at a meeting with no visuals to help you explain it:
“So, it’s a five-minute promotional video for a musical about buccaneering starring Robert Goulet and his family, and everyone is doing a caricature-like impression of Robert Goulet and all the reviews are awful and one of the Goulet brothers is playing a character named Sebastian L. Corazon.”
I recently went through the long, grueling process of naming my first son, and not a moment went by that I wasn’t thinking of this all-time great sketch. Being a man named Ashley always had this sketch hitting a little too close to home, but every time someone, be it my wife or a kindly hobo with a heart of gold, suggested a name for my child, I instantly went into a routine of breaking down every single way some a-hole bully could make fun of him for it. Thank God we settled on the classic Greek name Pagina Burns. It’s both masculine and impervious to harassment.
As for the actual comedy of this sketch, today’s SNL writers could learn an important lesson from this simple yet wonderful bit. At five minutes, it’s the perfect length and never drags on, even as crazy young Nic Cage weirdly shouts, “NAAA-AAAAAAATE!” But it’s the punch line that is quick and effective, and also unexpectedly hilarious, and it doesn’t leave the audience confused as to why that sketch just ended, something that has become a staple of today’s lackluster efforts.
Much like horror movies, choosing my favorite SNL sketch is like choosing which child is my favorite because I am all about this show through good times and bad. But I’ll give some special props to SNL‘s political sketches, mostly the older ones because I feel like nowadays they’re fun, but not nearly as great as Dan Aykroyd’s Jimmy Carter talking down a caller tripping on Orange Sunshine. And while they go against the whole concept of a live sketch show, the pre-taped shorts have been magical and amazing since the very beginning. It gives the cast and crew a little more freedom to really nail something satirical and fully present a whole different universe, especially in the Schiller Reels. They can be a little more experimental (“White Like Me”) and truly spoof a genre (like the Lonely Island music videos — “Dick in a Box” and “I’m on a Boat”), and they can also look really, really beautiful (“Love Is a Dream”). But I feel like I’ve always been more about actors than sketches, because whenever I see Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Phil Hartman, Aidy Bryant, or Taran Killam, I laugh automatically.
My favorite SNL sketches have always been fake commercials: Cluckin’ Chicken, Happy Fun Ball, Colon Blow, Big Red, Chris Parnell’s instructional pamphlet “Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford,” and (of course) Old Glory Robot Insurance, for when my metal cousins come for you (and they will).
I never had much luck getting through a Stefon sketch without making laughter noises not typically associated with the human kind. Created by Bill Hader (Stefon) and former SNL writer John Mulaney, this series of Weekend Update desk bits has everything: absurdist comedy, the sight of Hader almost pissing himself when Mulaney changes up the cards to add even more surprising ridiculousness, the interplay with Seth Meyers (who embodies the perfect straight man/object of desire), and more obscure references than a ’90s era Dennis Miller jackoff session in front of a mirror. Most importantly, though, these sketches ring true because, once you hit 30, everyone’s weekend plans sound as fantastic, horrifying, and confusing as what Stefon pitches as an ideal night on the town.
Okay, everyone: Your favorite Saturday Night Live sketch (video clips encouraged). Go!