Not sure if you’ve all noticed, but a bunch of people tuned in to Saturday Night Live this season, enough to make it the most popular season in years. A lot of that had to do with Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump, but A-Game was promptly brought in other capacities as well. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but SNL was damn good this past year.
Here are the top five sketches ranked for your viewing and comments-section-debating pleasure.
Running gags are a staple of quality comedy and SNL in particular. The only problem is these types of jokes can quickly grow stale when the structure of each stays the same and the punchlines begin to wane. But when you can revisit a familiar premise and completely redefine the elements, well, then you have comic gold.
SNL has aired a “Totinos” sketch before each of the last three Super Bowls, but it is the most recent version that stands above the rest. We get the same basic set up – a house wife prepping Totinos snacks for her husband and his friends during the Super Bowl – but a complete curveball when Kristen Stewart’s Sabine sashes her way into our main character’s life. A love story ensues that, like many others, puts Twilight to shame.
4. “Sean Spicer Press Conference”
There have been many, many great Sean Spicer bits this year featuring Melissa McCarthy, but nothing beats her Spicey introduction. One of SNL‘s greatest assets (and, at times, it’s most glaring flaw) is its live TV format. On this night, no one in the audience or watching at home had any idea that McCarthy was going to come out in full Spicey mode and deliver one of the best performances of the year. It was magnetic and far more exciting and enjoyable than discovering the sketch online the next day. Like a hashtag getting hot and trendy in real time.
McCarthy’s sheer force of personality took over the moment she appeared on camera and gave viewers one of the most hilarious impressions in recent memory.
3. “Black Jeopardy”
Political comedy is difficult to pull off, with jokes often feeling inorganic or obnoxiously preach-y. But when done correctly, political comedy can synthesize big ideas into LOL-worthy punchlines. “Black Jeopardy” manages to straddle that line between hilarity and poignancy with deft footing.
Everyone loves Tom Hanks, so it was genius to use him to represent institutional racial tension and socioeconomic divides. Yeah, I know that sounds more like a thesis statement and less like an SNL recap, but the best humor makes you think.
2. “Haunted Elevator”
I did say everyone loves Tom Hanks.
On paper, there’s no reason why this sketch should work. There is no discernible “Oh, I get it” funniness anywhere to be found. It’s a silly concept that gets progressively weirder as the sketch goes on. And yet, it is undeniably hilarious.
Did America just need a dose of WTF-humor right before election day when the sketch originally aired? Did David S. Pumpkins tap into our collective fatigue with self-serious candidates and pompous talking heads? Or, is Hanks just so damn lovable that he single-handedly generated a temporary phenom?
Whatever the reason is, we’re all in on David Pumpkins.
1. “Wells For Boys”
For all of the political coverage SNL provided this season, it’s worth noting that some of their best offerings were smaller, more original affairs.
Co-written by Julio Torres and Jeremy Beiler, “Wells for Boys” is actually based on Torres’s life as a sensitive young boy who used to pretend an empty plant pot was a well he could run his fingers along. I, too, would make fun of that if I was a professional comedy writer.
The commercial parody has long been a go-to for SNL, but “Wells for Boys” helps turn gender-roles upside down and offer a enjoyably slanted point of view.