Photo: Vanity Fair
I am a self-described (and described by many a friend) Saturday Night Live junkie; in fact, my former roommates once joked that they imagined the head of my penis was just a little version of the head atop my shoulders, and it would quote things like, "Hey, did you guys see the latest 'Weekend Update'?"
My affinity for SNL started around middle school when some of my friends introduced it to me as a "cool" thing to watch. I continued to watch on and off throughout high school, depending on who the host was, and if I was at home around a television at 11:35 on a Saturday night. But over the past five years, with the accessibility of watching the show on Hulu, I've started a Sunday tradition of watching the show from the previous night. I've seen some great episodes and some definite stinkers. Through all the hours spent with the show, I feel I'm uniquely qualified to tell you all what are the top 5 episodes worth your time on Hulu.
Side note: these will be listed chronologically, not in any particular order of greatness.
Season 35, Episode 10 Host: James Franco
Photo: The Wicker Breaker
I mean, come on. Just look how red and squinty Franco's eyes are in this photo. You know it's gonna be a good one. I truly believe that this era of SNL from around Season 35-37 will be remembered as one of the highlights in the show's history. It features an absolute knock-out cast of superstars like Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island 'Digital Shorts,' Seth Meyers with 'Weekend Update,' and as always Kenan Thompson being Kenan Thompson.
This was a lovely time in SNL history when not every cold open had to be political. This episode's cold open begins with Franco as sexy Spanish crooner Rico Garlanda, serenading three beautiful girls about what they would do spending a sensual winter's eve together. The sexy party, however, keeps getting crashed by the fourth girl, a horribly obnoxious and disfigured girl Denise, wonderfully brought to life by Kristen Wiig.
After the opening credits, Franco, eyes wide shut, delivers a hilariously frank monologue about his career choices, complete with an idea ball that he picks from to determine his path. What follows are some truly iconic skits that have become staples of that era; acts like Armisen and Wiig's wonderfully cringey 'The Kissing Family', Kenan Thompson's masterpiece 'What's Up With That', and a classic Andy Samberg 'Digital Short'.
Must See Sketch: 'The Kissing Family'
Season 36 Episode 22 Host: Justin Timberlake
Photo: The Wicker Breaker
This episode is quite simply a WOW. Almost every sketch is one for the books and captures what is so great about this era of SNL. Bill Hader is a star in just about every sketch, it was the premiere of one of the most popular Lonely Island songs/'Digital Shorts,' "It's Not Gay (If Its in a Three-Way)," and (much to my excitement) there is a freaking Andy Samberg 'Weekend Update' feature for 'Get in the Cage with Nicolas Cage'.
Justin opens his monologue talking about how he's stoked to not be doing double duty of hosting and being the musical guest. With pressure from Lorne Michaels to do at least one song, Justin's opening monologue becomes a rip-roaring swing song "I'm Not Gonna Sing Tonight." Throw in classic sketches like the Bill Hader knock-out 'What's that Name' and the Jimmy Fallon brainchild 'The Barry Gibb Talk Show', and you've got easily one of the best SNL episodes of the decade.
Must See Sketch: The Merryville Brothers
I might be the only person on the planet Earth that finds this obscure sketch so funny, but I can't help but lose my shit every time I watch it.
Season 42 Episode 6 Host: Dave Chappelle
This was the first episode after Donald Trump had been elected President. Additionally, it was the first time Chappelle hosted the show, despite being no stranger to sketch comedy with his wildly successful Chappelle Show. To make it an even bigger deal, this was right around when he had begun mounting his comeback and his return to pop culture with a huge Netflix deal.
In a no-holding-back monologue, Chappelle delivers a powerful, uplifting and unifying monologue about what he believes the world will look like under a Trump presidency. He delivered all the laughs and a feeling of "it's going to be okay" that we all needed at the time.
The first skit after the monologue is a hilariously crafted scene where a group of friends is watching the election results live. It begins with all of the white friends celebrating that in a couple of hours, they will have the first female president. Chappelle's character, however, is a bit more skeptical. As election night goes on, they're joined by Chris Rock, and Chappelle and Rock howl with laughter when their friends conclude after the election results that "America is racist." This episode also includes a resurrection of all the iconic Chappelle Show characters in a Walking Dead themed sketch.
The 'Weekend Update' in this episode is another highlight. When Colin Jost and Michael Che took over for Seth Meyers in Season 40, they definitely had big shoes to fill. It took them some time, but at this point in the show, they had really started to find their groove. On top of all this, A Tribe Called Quest is the musical guest. What more could you ask for?
Must See Sketch: Chappelle's Monologue
Season 44 Episode 1 Host: Adam Driver
Adam Driver has hosted three times in the past four years, and each time he has proven himself to be a phenomenal fit with the show. Honestly, it'd be super cool with me if he hosted once every season. The cold open to the highly anticipated (well, at least to me) Season 44 premiere is a retelling of the Brett Kavanaugh trial, with none other than Matt Damon playing the bumbling, unhinged, and ridiculously overdramatic Judge Kavanaugh. While Damon NAILS his performance as the beastly Judge, Kate McKinnon reminds us why she is one of the single most important cast members of the recent seasons with a gut-bustingly funny portrayal of who I can only describe as the sludgy South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
In Driver's opening monologue, he jokes about how the first show of the season is like coming back to school after summer break. Everyone always does the same thing: "Oh you know, worked a little, traveled a little." These somewhat bland conversations becoming instantly more exciting when Pete Davidson comes out and tells Driver, "Nah, you don't wanna hear about my summer," (keep in mind, this is the first show after the summer of the whirlwind romance between Davidson and Ariana Grande, and at this point, they were still happily engaged).
When the 'Weekend Update' comes around, they open with "Well we've been off for the summer, but conveniently enough, so has the government". Jost and Che hold nothing back with their stances on the political climate and have gotten to the point where they seem to really feel comfortable behind that 'Update' desk. Then, 'Update' features what I have been missing greatly ever since Pete had his break down: Pete Davidson comes on 'Weekend Update' just being Pete Davidson. Davidson himself has always said he's never been one for characters or impressions, he's just a comedian. I think when he inevitably leaves the show at the end of this current season, (he's stated in multiple interviews that he feels it's his time to) he will be most remembered, and missed, for his genius bits behind the 'Update' desk.
Must See Sketch: Career Day
Season 45 Episode 10 Host: Eddie Murphy
Photo: Entertainment Weekly
Eddie Murphy: an SNL legend. Returning to the show for the first time since he left the show in '84 — 35 years later! And after all that waiting time, he sure as hell did not disappoint.
Now, a quick SNL history lesson out there for those who are unaware: In 1980, Lorne Michaels, executive producer of the show, called it quits. And when he left, he took his iconic late 70's cast with him. Saturday Night Live essentially had to build back up from scratch. The ratings went downhill fast and it was likely that the show would be canceled — until they found their saving grace. In 1980, a 19-year-old Eddie Murphy essentially saved the show from cancellation, and he's a pretty big reason we still have it around today.
His return to the show saw the return of classic Murphy characters in a modern setting. Sketches like Mr. Robinson exhibiting squatters rights in his newly gentrified neighborhood, Buckwheat as a contestant on 'The Masked Singer,' and Gumby just being Gumby damnit! Oh, and I forgot to mention the 'Cold Open' is a Democratic Debate with the talents of Larry David and Jason Sudeikis reprising their iconic roles as Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden respectively.
On 'Weekend Update', Pete Davidson, who had been noticeably absent for much of the season, came out to do what he does best. BE PETE DAVIDSON. His bit is very funny, but also very honest and poignant as he hints that he'll be going back to rehab after a rough mental health year. Then, as if it could possibly get any better, Colin and Michael do what has become an incredible 'Update' tradition, which is write jokes for the other to read live on the air. These are some of the best jokes to come out of the two because they don't hold anything back when it comes to embarrassing each other with something highly offensive to say. All in all, worth the 35-year wait for Murphy's triumphant return.
Must See Sketch: North Pole News Report
Welp. That's the list. Get to watching ya nerds!