Now that the 35th season of Saturday Night Live is in the books, it’s time to take a look back at what most observers would classify as a solid-B season of the show. Admittedly, the show never quite reached the dizzying heights that it did last year in its 34th season, but then again, the writers and castmembers didn’t have the benefit of the frenzy of an election year to fall back on. Even without that well of material, this season saw plenty of its own highs: Kenan Thompson blossomed into a star (as Kristin Wiig faded ever so slightly), the Lonely Island guys had their most consistent season of their five seasons on the show, and newcomers Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad helped to stabilize the show after the off-season losses of Casey Wilson, Michaela Watkins and Darrell Hammond.
Without further ado, here are our picks for this season’s ten most memorable sketches.
10. “On The Ground” starring Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan, Jenny Slate, Ryan Reynolds and Elijah Wood
Even though none of the digital shorts that the Lonely Island contingent produced this season struck the kind of viral paydirt that predecessors like “Lazy Sunday” or “Dick In A Box” did, it was quite a consistently funny year for Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer (this despite the fact that
SchafferTaccone was doing double duty in the editing booth putting the finishing touches on the MacGruber movie). This particular short revolves around the exploits of one of those annoying, anti-social types who are always prattling on about their revulsion to things like “the system” and “the Man.” As a means of showing his disgust with the rules of society, this goateed hipster with misplaced anger issues takes his frustration out by whipping things like energy drinks, hot dogs and his girlfriend’s Blackberry at the ground. “Happy birthday to the GROUND!”
9. “Potato Chip” starring Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis and Blake Lively
This was one of those delightfully bizarre end-of-show sketches that never quite catches on with the audience at the live taping but becomes more and more impressive after repeated viewings. Frankly, we kind of wish that host Blake Lively would’ve got out of Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte‘s way in this sketch and these two comedic powerhouses go toe-to-toe. That said, watching Forte unleash his rage while staying in character (see also: Fart Face) always makes for essential television.
8. “Scared Straight” starring Kenan Thompson, Jason Sudeikis, Bobby Moynihan, Andy Samberg, Bill Hader and Betty White
In a lot of ways, this was Kenan Thompson‘s breakout year on the show. His recurring series of “Scared Straight” sketches, in which he portrays the movie-obsessed jailbird Lorenzo MacIntosh, gained tons of momentum this year and became an audience favorite. We really liked the sketch he did with Charles Barkley (“Instead of ‘Show me the money!’, he’ll be saying ‘Blow me for free!’”), but then again, you can’t really beat Betty White screaming “WIZARD OF ASS!”
7. “Teacher” starring Tina Fey and Justin Bieber
We’re pretty sure that Justin Bieber dropped out of school about 20 million YouTube views ago, but on the off chance he didn’t, we sincerely hope that he asks Tina Fey to prom.
6. “Hamilton” starring Will Forte and Gabourey Sidibe
This was one dynamite, envelope-pusher of a sketch. Will Forte has always excelled at creating characters with really weird backstories (think MacGruber, think Jeff Montgomery, Sex Offender), but this extension of Hamilton — a character we’ve seen pop up at various public functions involving a microphone over the years — was pretty bold. He’s overtly racist, he traces long passages from Robert Ludlum novels onto his lover Gabourey Sidibe’s back with his penis, and would prefer to go to Larry Bird theaters, if only they existed. More humor that makes people feel uncomfortable, please!
5. Monologue: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Wow, just wow! Okay, we admit that this doesn’t exactly fit in the category of “funny,” but can you remember the last time that a guest host put this kind of effort into winning over an audience during a monologue? We certainly can’t.
4. “Stefon” starring Bill Hader and Seth Meyers
We’ve already discussed this bit at length. An instant classic.
3. “What Up With That?” starring Kenan Thompson, Kristin Wiig, James Franco, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Jenny Slate, Nasim Pedrad, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Mike Tyson and Jack McBrayer
Oooh, wheee! Kenan Thompson‘s performance as Soul Glo’d BET host Diondre Cole is a comedic tour-de-force of irrepressible energy, enthusiasm and sweat. This character first debuted in the episode hosted by
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Gerard Butler back in October, but quickly became such an audience favorite that he appeared in five total episodes this season. And while there’s no denying that Kenan is glue that holds this sketch together, the non-speaking roles portrayed by Fred Armisen and breakdancing b-boy Jason Sudeikis really provide the icing on the cake (that is, if you will allow me to mix my metaphors).
2. “Hamm & Bublé” starring Jon Hamm and Michael Bublé
In just two appearances as host of Saturday Night Live, Jon Hamm has shown that he has the potential to one day reside alongside hosts like Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken, Tom Hanks and Steve Martin in the (as yet non-existent) SNL Guest Host Hall of Fame. The thing that we love about this particular sketch is the way it derives its strength from the menacing side of Jon Hamm, a side which he frequently shows off on Mad Men in his portrayal of Don Draper. Sure, he’s hands down one of the most handsome actors working in Hollywood today, but it’s his embrace of the dark side that really separates Hamm from other one-note pretty boys. That is not to take anything away from Bublé‘s performance here; the skit balances on him effectively cowering in fear of the champagne and pork-obsessed Hamm and he nails it.
1. “Pageant Talk” starring Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate, Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader
This was one of those glorious moments on SNL where an individual’s performance connects with both their fellow actors and the audience in such a way that the entire sketch gets elevated into instant classic status. In this case, Zach Galifianakis’s perfect turn as the pageant-obsessed “old queen” Gene Shimp was so hilariously eccentric that it nearly caused Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader to break character. Add in SNL rookie (and old Best Week Ever alum!) Jenny Slate’s perfectly blank performance as the object of Gene’s obsession, daughter Wanda Gale Shimp, and you have yourself a sketch for the ages.
Honorable Mentions: Crazy Lady Yelling From A Window (“My daddy used to sell Wikipedias!”), Kickspit Underground Rock Festival (R.I.P., Ass Dan), Lolene (“Maybe he’s right. Maybe I am just trash. Just an old piece of trash with a one-way ticket to Trash City.”)
So, what did we miss? What sketches and/or characters will you and your friends always remember about this year? Who are your favorite cast members? What needs to be retired? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!