Saturday Night Live gets a lot of heat for its uneven (to put it lightly) writing, but every once in a while, everything comes together, and a sketch just works. It may not be enough to truly justify watching the show every week, but it’s always exciting when something genuinely funny happens. And while this season had a couple of episodes that undeniably bombed entirely (hi, January Jones), and seemed unusually weak over all, there were a few redeeming moments.
1. Stefon on Weekend Update (Gabourey Sidibe/MGMT)
People gave Jimmy Fallon a lot of flack for frequently cracking up mid-sketch, but I almost always enjoy sketches more when the cast members fail to contain their laughter. On this Weekend Update segment, Bill Hader played “Stefon”, a “City Correspondent” recommending New York City hotspots. He reprised the character for the season finale, too, but his giggly, lusty turn here made for one of the most memorable moments SNL has had in years (for me, at least). From the monosyllabic night club names (“Crease”, “Wesh”) to the descriptions of the colourful characters found within (“screaming babies in Mozart wigs”), everything is bizarre. But you’ll have to watch the above clip to answer one burning question – what exactly is a human fire hydrant?
2. What Up With That? (Gerard Butler/Shakira)
SNL sometimes hits a homerun with its bizarre, out-of-left field concepts (though they more commonly bomb), and somehow everything came together with their spoof of BET programming. Keenan Thompson’s nonstop enthusiasm, Bill Hader’s ever-snubbed Lindsay Buckingham, and Jason Sudeikis’ sweet dance moves have propelled this sketch through repeated rehashing. But the bizarreness of it all the first time around (wait, so you got James Franco on the show, but never let him speak?) is what made it work so well.
3. The entire Betty White episode (Betty White/Jay-Z)
This highly anticipated episode may have not featured the “soon-to-be-classic” sketches that many had hoped for, but as a whole, it was very charming (largely thanks to White, of course). The inspired hosting choice and the joy that surrounded the whole thing (including Jay-Z dedicating “Young Forever” to Ms. White) made it a highpoint in the season. And we’ll always have “The Wizard of Ass”.
4. Laser Cats 5 Digital Short (Sigourney Weaver/The Ting Tings)
Taking full advantage of their guest host, The Lonely Island topped their Laser Cats series with an entry “directed by James Cameron”. They got Cameron himself to cameo (trying desperately to prove that he has a sense of humour), and their spot-on low-budget spoofs of Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar were both topical and timeless.
5. Threw it on the Ground Digital Short (Ryan Reynolds/Lady Gaga)
The Lonely Island are at their best when they inject some sly, silly social commentary into their Digital Shorts. And this random riff on self-righteousness gets better each time they repeat the gag. The ending is a bit of a cop-out, but I was too busy laughing at the first three-quarters to care.
6. Zach Drops By the Set (Zach Galifianakis/Vampire Weekend)
In additional to Galifianakis’ glorious non sequitur of a monologue, this sketch – in which he appears in the background of various NBC programs – provided all of the offbeat charm that I’d expected from the host. It’s a simple concept, but it worked far better than most of the purposely “random” sketches (such as the lengthy, unfunny bidet one) that the writers threw at him.
7. Kickspit Underground Rock Festival (Blake Lively/Rihanna)
It should have been a throwaway fake ad, but this send-up of music festivals somehow managed to nail all of the skeevy details of what a heavy metal gathering might consist of (“Everyone gets a pitchfork!”). The follow-up during the Ryan Phillippe episode (a music video honouring the death of “Ass Dan”) was equally hilarious. For once, SNL showcased sharp, succinct writing.
8. Hamm and Buble (Jon Hamm/Michael Buble)
Jon Hamm is one of the best recent hosts the show has seen, and his second time hosting provided a few memorable sketches (though perhaps none as memorable as “Jon Hamm’s John Ham”), such as the Closet Organizer, and the character’s subsequent return a couple of sketches later. But pairing Hamm up with the affable musical guest made for the best sketch of the night. Hamm played the owner of a pork and champagne restaurant (get it? Ham and Bubbly?) who ruled with an iron fist, and both men delivered the laughs.
9. Smash Mouth (Jennifer Lopez)
This is a sketch that had no business working (and for many viewers, it probably didn’t), but I loved the completely unexpected reference point (yes, the 90’s band Smash Mouth). The premise was pretty thin, but the visual humour of the goateed rockers popping up around the set really worked for me.
10. Boombox Digital Short (Jude Law/Pearl Jam)
Featuring The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas (whose strange charisma served the sketch well), this digital short was initially confusing, catchy, and even disturbing. But on subsequent viewings, the whole thing suddenly and inexplicably became hilarious to me.