13 SNL Skits From Last Season That Prove The Show Is Still Good

Ellen SNL

It’s a common complaint that Saturday Night Live just isn’t funny anymore. I’ll admit that I roll my eyes at plenty of skits, and I would often rather just watch reruns from the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler days than sit through the new shows. And yes, the show could stand to be a lot shorter. But even amidst all the groaning that the skits go on too long and the hosts are wooden and they did “The Californians” too many times, there’s always the commercial parody that goes viral or the spot-on impression that we rave about Monday morning. The show is full of talented people and clever ideas. It just needs to figure out how to harness that talent and those ideas in the right sketches.

Since the show returns for its thirty-ninth season this Saturday with Tina Fey hosting, we thought it would be helpful to remind everyone of all the best sketches from the past season so that we can put our cynicism aside and go into the episode with a more positive view of a show that still gets it right quite a bit — just not every time.

While looking through the past season and picking out the most memorably hilarious bits, I noticed a few trends. Pre-recorded sketches, whether they’re fake movie trailers or commercials or digital shorts, tend to leave more of an impact, perhaps because they’re more concise than the rambling live sketches, and they offer the opportunity for greater experimentation in formatting and editing. In terms of performers, Kate McKinnon’s stuff stands out as some of the best. Hopefully the show will give her more chances to shine this season. And a lot of it is also dependent on the host. Notice that none of these skits involve Justin Bieber. You gotta choose a willing and able host and play to their strengths. That leads to the best outcome.

So without further ado, we present thirteen SNL skits from last season that prove the show’s still got it.

1. Djesus Uncrossed

A lot of great elements came together to make this spoof of Django Unchained (and Tarantino films in general) really work. It was topical, it involved impressions, and it was controversial enough to get some Fox News hosts riled up. Plus Christoph Waltz is delightful. What more could you ask for?

2. Cecilia Gimenez

Kate McKinnon Jesus shark

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I think this was the moment a lot of us officially fell in love with Kate McKinnon. During “Weekend Update,” Kate played a real-life Spanish woman who painted over a fresco of Jesus Christ in order to supposedly restore it, but turned it into what looks like a scary monkey. It doesn’t matter if you know the story or have ever heard Cecilia speak. Kate totally sells it, right down to her crazy eyes.

3. Lincoln in the Style of Louie

This episode really played into host Louis CK’s strengths as a comedian, allowing him to perform a killer stand-up set as his monologue and relating topical things like the movie Lincoln to his own style. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Louie, you’ll know that this parody is spot-on. And even if you haven’t seen Louie, who doesn’t love watching Honest Abe act super awkward with a black guy?

4. Starbucks Verismo

SNL really shines when it touches on things we can all relate to and depicts them in an unexpected way. That’s what this fake commercial does. There’s a good chance someone’s heard your name wrong at Starbucks, and when was the last time you went there and didn’t see a package of Sugar in the Raw smashed into a puddle of cream?

5. Ellen

Umm, can you say perfection? Kate was so good as Ellen DeGeneres that Ellen let her do the impression on her show in front of her. Plus, say what you will about Anne Hathaway being annoying, but she does a pretty great Katie Holmes. How does she keep her mouth to the side like that?

6. Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney

SNL Dylan McDermott Dermot Mulroney

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OBSESSED. For years I thought I was the only one getting these two actors and their similar-sounding names mixed up, but after this hilarious game show sketch aired suddenly everyone was like, “Oh yeah, I have the same problem!” This brought us together as a human race. Derbil McDillet? Sounds about right. Watch the skit here.

7. Pandora Crashes

Another example of the show playing to its host’s strengths. Here Pandora Radio crashes and intern Bruno Mars is tasked with singing the songs on various stations as they go down. Bruno has great energy and he does some fantastic vocal impressions of everyone from Green Day to Michael Jackson.

8. Melissa McCarthy’s Basketball Coach

Here’s a skit where the host is key. Melissa McCarthy is a goddess, and she gives her all to every character she does. The show took a popular story about a violent Rutgers basketball coach and did a reverse-gender version. This skit is carried by Melissa’s comic genius, and it just wouldn’t be as good without her.

9. The Royal Family Doctor

Bill Hader SNL royal family doctor

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Initially this seemed like it might be one of those skits that goes on for far too long and just isn’t that funny, but thanks to host Martin Short, it ended up being hilarious. He plays the royal doctor prepping for the birth of Kate Middleton’s baby, and he had me at “her Downton Abbey.” Even Bill Hader couldn’t keep a straight face, although he’s not exactly known for straight faces.

10. Mokiki and the Sloppy Swish

I can’t help it. I laughed. I tried the dance out when no one was looking. I fell slightly in love with Taran Killam. So sue me.

11. Brad Pitt’s Perfume Commercial

Speaking of Taran Killam, who could forget his perfect impression of Brad Pitt in his ridiculous Chanel No. 5 ad? The show extended it to various fake commercials throughout the show, advertising things that shouldn’t be spoken of in poetic terms, like Taco Bell. Brilliant.

12. Stefon’s Farewell

SNL Stefon Wedding

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Stefon’s “Weekend Update” appearances were a highlight of Bill Hader’s run on the show, and on his final episode it was pretty much mandatory to give him a proper farewell. What we got was a Graduate-style wedding ceremony attended by various strange characters Stefon had referenced in his club recommendations, from human traffic cones to Menorah the Explorer. And of course he married Seth Meyers. Forget the fact that Seth Meyers is now married to a lady. You can watch the sketch here.

13. 1-800-Flowers

This fake Mother’s Day commercial combines all the details I mentioned make a great sketch. It was pre-recorded and concise, it has Kate McKinnon in it, it’s relatable, and the host is Kristen Wiig. Everything about this video is so true. I’m almost certain I’ve heard my mom worry that her “identity has been thieved.”

(Lead GIF: Tumblr)

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
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