Saturday Night Live has seen its ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and yet, despite the excruciating lows, I stick it through to experience those hilarious highs. Such highs are listed ahead in this exhaustively written account of SNL in its thirty-sixth season on the air.
Special thanks to http://snltranscripts.jt.org for a little assistance in providing exact lines for me to use. Hope you enjoy, and I hope I spark a little debate.
Here we go!
25. OBAMA-JINTAO PRESS CONFERENCE (November 13)
PRINCIPALS: Fred Armisen (Barack Obama), Bill Hader (Hu Jintao), Nasim Pedrad (Translator)
SNL performed, essentially, the same sketch one year earlier, except with Will Forte playing the Chinese President. The premise is that America owes China $800 billion, and, at last November’s G20 Conference, Obama conveniently did not broach the subject of the debt during his talks with Jintao. This leads to Jintao (via his stoic translator) accusing Obama of “doing sex to him” in a variety of broken-English phrases and gestures, including applying lipstick, and bending over before him with his pants down.
GREAT LINE: “Go ahead; be as rough as you like. You can pull my hair or choke me too, I don’t care anymore. I just want it to be over” – Bill Hader, through Nasim Pedrad
24. BEST OF BOTH WORLDS (April 9)
PRINCIPALS: Andy Samberg (Hugh Jackman), Taran Killam (Gerard Butler), Kenan Thompson (Ice Cube), Helen Mirren (Julie Andrews)
A creative concept for a sketch; Best of Both Worlds is a talk show featuring entertainers with two distinct sides to their performances (i.e. Jackman playing Wolverine while hosting the Tony Awards). Samberg’s Australian accent was kinda crappy, but was more than made up for by Andrews’ killing a stagehand with a trident while Thompson aided her with his glock.
GREAT LINE: “QUICK! LET’S ARM WRESTLE AND SING KARAOKE!” – Andy Samberg
PRINCIPALS: Russell Brand (King Reginald), Taran Killam (Taster), Bill Hader (Chef)
Set in a castle centuries ago, King Reginald and his chef are going through a particularly nasty spat (in which the king disapproved of the previous night’s meal, so he had the chef’s family killed). After it’s overtly revealed that the chef could be next in line for the throne, subtleties are thrown out the window, and the chef makes it clear that he’s going to poison the seemingly oblivious king, horrifying the taste tester. Many message board fans saw this as Killam’s breakout sketch.
GREAT LINE: “What? Oh, come on! Blast! What’s the worst he could do?” “FEED US POISON!” – Taran Killam and Russell Brand
22. DISNEY CHANNEL ACTING SCHOOL (March 5)
PRINCIPALS: Miley Cyrus (herself), Kenan Thompson (Raven-Symone)
A commercial parody that, while not the funniest thing I’ve seen, was a nice “in your face” that I can endorse. In less than three minutes, SNL deconstructed every brain-rotting, stupidity-doling Disney Channel show by satirizing what it takes to be a good Disney Channel thespian. Things like “wearing obscenely bright clothing” and “pausing while eating” that are Disney sitcom staples were rightfully mocked, as was the classic “reacting to smelly feet”.
GREAT LINE: “THE FUNERAL’S MONDAY!!!!!” – Kenan Thompson, zipping by on a scooter
21. TSA (November 20)
PRINCIPALS: Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan, and Bill Hader (TSA agents), Kristin Wiig, Abby Elliott, and Nasim Pedrad (Phone sex models)
Another commercial parody, this time SNL sent up the controversial pat-downs that the TSA was using on prospective flyers. Done in the style of the timeless late night sex chat commercials, the three women lured you in with promises of tawdry talk, only to have Kenan’s booming voice disrupt with his groin-grabbing reality check.
GREAT LINE: “But it’s probably gonna be US! Now TAKE OFF YOUR DAMN SHOE!” – Kenan Thompson
20. VINCENT PRICE’S 1960 HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (October 30)
PRINCIPALS: Bill Hader (Vincent Price), Jon Hamm (John F. Kennedy), Kristin Wiig (Judy Garland), Fred Armisen (Liberace)
Though not as funny as the Vincent Price special from two years prior when Hamm hosted (where he played James Mason), there’s still plenty of laughs. Hamm’s JFK was a typical caricature (no one can ever do JFK’s voice right), but Wiig playing Garland as a drugged-out mess pushed the limits of good taste. Of course, SNL is best when those lines are pushed, so yay for that! Also, Liberace makes pumpkin-fornicating jokes, to the delight of all.
GREAT LINE: “Judy, those are very clearly pills you drew M’s on.” “I drew M’s on them so I knew who they were for. This one’s for me…..and this one’s for me….and this one’s for me….” – Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig
19. WXPD NEWS NEW YORK (May 21)
PRINCIPALS: Bill Hader (Herb Welch), Justin Timberlake (Dan McDonald), Jason Sudeikis (Jack Rizzoli), Nasim Pedrad (Wanda Ramirez), Fred Armisen (Ken Yi)
The weakest of the three Herb Welch bits (well, that spoils some of the other entries) sees a gas leak at a school, where Herb attempts (loosely) to interview a hipster art teacher, played by Mr. Cry Me a River himself. In this one, we learn that Herb doesn’t like working with women, and has a hatred of Asians due to his involvement in a past foreign war. Plenty of microphone smacking, to be sure.
GREAT LINE: “THEY BURNED MY FRIEND!” – Bill Hader
18. LIVIN’ SINGLE (February 12)
PRINCIPALS: Vanessa Bayer (Dina D’Angelo), Russell Brand (Damian Cryer), Taran Killam (DJ Terry)
Not to be confused with Living Single, the forgotten star vehicle of Queen Latifah, Bayer shines in this one as a single woman hosting a television show promoting, well, the single lifestyle. Conflict arises when her guest, a rather amorous pastry chef, spends the entire program kissing and dry humping her into oblivion. Those tired of Kristin Wiig hogging the major female roles should check this one out, as Bayer (who reminds me of a less frail Cheri Oteri) is game for Brand’s physical humor. Killam adds to the sketch as the show’s DJ, who is spurned by Bayer, and can’t stand watching her melt in Brand’s hands.
GREAT LINE: “JUST SHOW US THE CAKE!” – Taran Killam
17. JULIAN ASSANGE (December 18)
PRINCIPALS: Bill Hader (Julian Assange), Andy Samberg (Mark Zuckerberg)
As Zuckerberg goes to thank TIME Magazine for naming him Person of the Year, Assange hacks into his feed to provide a holiday message for everyone, just after his release from prison. The sketch was quick, only running about two minutes, but Hader’s Assange is always good for a laugh. I just wish the WikiLeaks founder hadn’t fallen out of the news. More Julian!
GREAT LINE: “Here’s a status update: democracy is dead. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” – Bill Hader
16. EMBRACING CIVILITY (January 15)
PRINCIPALS: Kristin Wiig (Greta Van Susteren) Nasim Pedrad (Michelle Malkin), Jason Sudeikis (Glenn Beck), Bobby Moynihan (Sean Hannity), Bill Hader (James Carville), Abby Elliott (Rachel Maddow)
After the Tuscon shootings, Fox News promises to be kinder and more civil, extending an olive branch to liberals. James Carville shows up and baits the conserva-pundits into getting angry with liberal rhetoric. Hilarity ensues.
GREAT LINE: “We ate at a Vegan restaurant, which is nice because it means no animals got hurt. Which is important, because animals are just people with fur. Isn’t that nice Sean Hannity?” – Bill Hader
15. NOODLES (March 12)
PRINCIPALS: Zach Galifianakis and Kristin Wiig (parents), Abby Elliott, Nasim Pedrad, and Bobby Moynihan (children)
Now we enter the wonderful territory of “Zach Galianakis is insane and should host every episode of SNL”. Noodles would be the beloved dog of the children, and Zach and Kristin are tasked with explaining the dog’s apparent death. After trying some basic approaches like “doggie heaven”, the kids, too smart for their own good, question their parents’ explanations. The premise peaks, pun intended, when mom and dad explain that Noodles died during auto erotic asphyxiation. Other than Will Ferrell, could anyone other than Zach have pulled this one off? (Hey, another jerk-off pun!)
GREAT LINE: “It was the ONLY way he could CLIMAX!! He would tighten his collar and LICK himself DRY!! And it went too far!!” – Zach Galifianakis
14. WAYNE’S WORLD (February 5)
PRINCIPALS: Dana Carvey (Garth Algar), Mike Myers (Wayne Campbell) (But you already knew this)
After an eighteen year exile, Wayne and Garth return to give their Oscar picks for 2011. It’s almost scary how little Myers and Carvey have aged, yet it’s also weird hearing them, in character, discuss wanting to have sex with Anne Hathaway. Talk about your anachronisms.
GREAT LINE: “Wait, how old are you?” “……that was never determined.” – Mike Myers and Dana Carvey
13. THE AMBIGULOUSLY GAY DUO (May 14)
PRINCIPALS: Jon Hamm (Ace), Jimmy Fallon (Gary), Steve Carrell (Bighead), Stephen Colbert (Dr. Brainio), Ed Helms (Half Face)
Included merely because I’m a fan of Robert Smigel’s work, even if this is just an attempt by SNL to create a viral video for giddy teenage fans to spread around (which is what we have SNL Digital Shorts for). It was mostly true to the spirit of the animated versions of AGD, and it was a nice touch having three former Daily Show correspondents as villains. All that was missing was Samantha Bee as “The Humorless Hag”.
GREAT LINE: “I agree with Brainio! Nobody is bi! That is just a gay guy who occasionally bangs a lady!” “Well, what’s Andy Dick then?” – Steve Carrell and Ed Helms
12. WXPD NEWS NEW YORK (January 29)
PRINCIPALS: Bill Hader (Herb Welch), Jason Sudeikis (Jack Rizzoli), Jesse Eisenberg (Derek Smalls), Kenan Thompson (College RA)
The second of the Welch Trilogy centered around a college drug bust, with Eisenberg wearing plaid pants that I believe I had as pajamas when I was seven. Hader and Thompson briefly break character with laughter, adding to an already silly bit. Of course, anything where Hader has the lead tends to have wings anyway.
GREAT LINE: “Well, there you have it: a city college now fully integrated!” – Bill Hader
11. ZACH’S NEW ASSISTANT (March 12)
PRINCIPALS: Zach Galifianakis (himself), various children
A charming piece, showing that Zach doesn’t always have to wallow in comedic muck (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In the Digital Short, Zach interviews several children for an assistant position (as the title reads), playing off of their natural reactions with his poker-faced comebacks and set-ups. Those who typecast Galifianakis as merely a weed-smoking raunchist should give this one a look, as it shows a shockingly endearing side to the comedian.
GREAT LINE: “Usher is Justin Beiber’s dad, right?” – Zach Galifianakis
10. WHAT’S THAT NAME? (December 11)
PRINCIPALS: Bill Hader (Vince Blight), Paul Rudd and Vanessa Bayer (contestants), Kenan Thompson and Kristin Wiig (menial employees)
A twist on the classic SNL game show parody. In an idea that I’m surprised nobody has done before, the concept of the game show offers big money to contests if they can just remember the first names of the blue collar, low-income employees that are a part of their everyday lives. Of course, Rudd and Bayer have no idea, being that they’re six figure-salaried, self-absorbed snobs. Wiig was particularly funny as the downtrodden maid.
GREAT LINE: “I’m sorry, what’s that?! Say hi to my wife? Yeah, okay — I’ll take the BUS… out to Forest Hills CEMETERY… and tell her that you said HELLO!!” – Kenan Thompson
9. SCARED STRAIGHT (March 12)
PRINCIPALS: Kenan Thompson (Lorenzo McIntosh), Zack Galifianakis (Larry Bernstein), Jason Sudeikis (Officer Sikorsky), Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, and Bobby Moynihan (troubled teens)
A sketch done many times before, wherein Thompson plays a boisterous inmate tasked with “scaring the kids straight”. His partner is interchangeable, depending on the host, so this time Zack fills in on a Hannibal Lecter-style hand-truck, complete with face mask and strait jacket. The usual movie situations disgused as rough situations are thrown about, but with Zack’s blustery delivery making them work.
GREAT LINE: “And ya won’t get hit in the head with cans of paint. You’ll be getting hit in the mouth, with nuts and taint!” – Zack Galifianakis
8. RETURNS AND EXCHANGES (October 9)
PRINCIPALS: Jay Pharoah (Denzel Washington), Bobby Moynihan (employee), Jane Lynch (customer)
One of Pharoah’s breakout moments; the youngest SNL cast member ever (chronologically) brought the house down by playing Coach Carter, who was practicing for a role as a retail employee by working in the customer service area of Macy’s. Lynch plays a woman returning a handbag, and gets the business from an exaggerated version of Denzel. It’s re-watchable, merely because Pharoah nails every aspect of the impression, mannerisms and all.
GREAT LINE: “Then, excuuuse me, speak up! You’re at Macy’s! Their rules and regulations! If you got a complaint, I want to hear it, ha HAAA.” – Jay Pharoah (admittedly, there weren’t many great lines; it was just a hilarious impression)
7. ANDY AND PEE-WEE’S NIGHT OUT (January 15)
PRINCIPALS: Andy Samberg, Pee-Wee Herman, and Anderson Cooper (themselves)
One of the few funny Digital Shorts this season, and it took a disgraced child star to make it work. Samberg and Herman get wasted out on the town, reprising the ‘Tequila Dance’ in the process. Mayhem ensues when Cooper and a policeman are assaulted, and several SNL cast members (as well as Pee-Wee’s old Playhouse friends) encourage them to end their destructive friendship. I’m pretty sure Anderson Cooper and Conky have never been in the same place before, or since.
GREAT LINE: “Oh, Anderson! HERE’S A HEADLINE!” – Pee-Wee Herman
6. BACK TO THE FUTURE SCREEN TESTS (October 30)
PRINCIPALS: Various cast members (and Jon Hamm) as 1980’s-based stars
This one is a retread of the Star Wars screen tests bit in 1997 (which Kevin Spacey owned in), but it’s okay with me, because this was hilarious as well. Done in two parts, among the auditions were Bill Hader’s picture-perfect impression of Alan Alda, Hamm giving us his best Robin Williams, and Pharoah enhancing his resume with his turn as Eddie Murphy. Although Andy Samberg should retire that awful Nicolas Cage impression. Just call Jimmy Fallon if you need one.
GREAT LINE: “Wow! Well, this is, uh, this is a real WILD movie you guys are making here, uh… Godspeed! I want in! Who do I f–k?” – Bill Hader
5. DON’ YOU GO ROUNIN’ ROUN TO RE RO (February 12)
PRINCIPALS: Russell Brand (Rastaman), Bill Hader (Terry Donovan), Fred Armisen (gangster)
If you can’t understand British actors (especially Whose Line alum Stephen Frost), you may find humor in this faux commercial for a British-based crime drama. The actors involved mumble in, to paraphrase Blazing Saddles, ‘authentic Limey gibberish” for the duration of the ad. Interspersed with the gritty, shadowy imagery of redemption and deceit is the silly dialogue, which is a rare time these days that SNL hits the dichotomy zeitgeist.
GREAT LINE: “Time magazine says: “Is there a way to turn on subtitles for a movie in English? If so, which button is it?” – voiceover
4. JULIAN ASSANGE (December 11)
PRINCIPALS: Bill Hader (Julian Assange), Nasim Pedrad (Diane Foster)
The best of the Assange bits. The WikiLeaks founder was still in prison, and there he unveiled his master plan to wreak havoc, should he not be released from captivity. Among his threats were to have his supporters overtake the likes of Facebook, Netflix, and the free porn sites on the web, among other popular entities. The calm demeanor in which Hader plays Assange, combined with the outbursts of maniacal self-indulgence, have made this character a hit. As I stated earlier, it’s a shame the real Assange fell out of the headlines.
GREAT LINE: “Day Five: Netflix. Have you seen the fourth season of “Hanging With Mr. Cooper”? You’re about to! It’s first on your queue!” – Bill Hader
PRINCIPALS: Jim Carrey (Lily), Nasim Pedrad (Nina), Bill Hader (director)
If this were 1996, Carrey’s sketches would have been ranked like Zack Galifianakis’ sketches. However, in what was a pretty good episode from Carrey, only this one truly stood out. Auditions for the role of the Black Swan have come down to the petite, but timid, Pedrad, and the bold, albeit clearly male, Carrey. What works is Carrey chewing the scenery, hamming it up with exaggerated dance moves. It was a reminder that Jim Carrey used to be the man who didn’t care, letting it all hang out on screen, instead of toning it down and going for an Oscar that he may never win.
GREAT LINE: “Oh, I’m already warm. I’m all…..swampy in my pants” – Jim Carrey
2. WXPD NEWS NEW YORK (November 20)
PRINCIPALS: Bill Hader (Herb Welch), Jason Sudeikis (Jack Rizzoli), Anne Hathaway (Maria DiSalvo)
The first Herb Welch sketch involved a late night shooting, and Welch interviewing a civilian who lived near the scene of the crime. The sketches were based on a real life, live-TV argument between an anchor and elderly reporter during a broadcast of New York GoodDay and Hader and Sudeikis capture the spirit of the infamous clip (located here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOc4XgBespw). Paul Brittan is the only castmember I haven’t mentioned yet (other than the tepid Seth Meyers), so I’ll acknowledge him being beaten by Herb’s mic.
GREAT LINE: “This broadcast is brought to you by Kale’s Brill Creme!” “No, it’s not” “You son of a bitch—” – Exchange between Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader, with Hader attacking the camera with his microphone
1. ZACH GALIFIANAKIS’ MONOLOGUE (March 12)
PRINCIPALS: Zach Galifianakis
In an era where SNL hosts are brought in for their looks or plastic fame, and need the cast to help them get through the monologue, Zack Galifianakis brought his irreverent humor to the table, setting the tone for the best episode of the season with both awkward stand-up, followed by stripping down to a red dress like Little Orphan Annie and lip syncing “Tomorrow” while displaying random messages on a gigantic notepad. From Andy Kaufman to Jim Carrey to Will Ferrell to Zack Galifianakis, it’s good to see the mantle of offbeat, non-sequitir comedy still done right.
GREAT LINE: “I wear a lot of Axe body spray. But I live in a black neighborhood — it’s called Ask body spray. And, if you don’t get that joke… then, you’re not racist.” – Zach Galifianakis
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.