I selected the best lines of the past SNL season a few days ago, and now it is time for the top sketches.
An important skill in comedy is the ability to make an entrance. Many of the best sketches of Saturday Night Live Season 41 demonstrate that quality. A crazy-looking weirdo appears and leaves you thinking: oh boy, where is this going? From space pants, to a bright orange suit, to a skinny white dude playing Oprah, these top ten selections rise to the top with indelible introductions.
10. Farewell, Mr. Bunting
This parody of the end of Dead Poets Society starts out as such a facsimile of the original that it is a little inexplicable. In case you have not seen this one yet, I will not say anything more, except to pay close attention to Beck Bennett. The rest of the sketch threatens to overshadow his performance, but he must be noticed.
9. Close Encounter
Kate McKinnon’s top tour de force this season is the debut of Ms. Rafferty (her second appearance is also pretty great), the victim of a comically invasive close encounter of the fourth kind. Adding to her indignities is the fact that her fellow abductees (a giggling Ryan Gosling and cool-as-a-cumber Cecily Strong), unlike her, experienced transcendence. This sketch is also notable for the debut of the phrase “full Porky Pigging it.”
8. Screen Guild Awards
Taking aim at #OscarsSoWhite, this awards show parody starts off a little too preachy to hit that sweet spot of social change united with laughs. But as it grows more and more ridiculous (white actors are recognized over everyone else despite being less-than-background players to the point that “Unseen Voice on Phone” is a nominee), the growing unreality cathartically reflects a frustrating reality.
7. Oprah Winfrey: A Life of Love
[Video won't embed: Watch here: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/oprah/3016638]
A goofy-looking white guy such as Mike O’Brien playing Oprah Winfrey may very well be a joke, but it’s not a very good joke. Committing to that dumb joke to an inexplicably thorough degree, however, is hilarious. O’Brien filters the career and essence of the Queen of Media through his singular deadpan style, revealing the shared experience of what it means it to be human. Also, it’s just fun to take silliness super seriously.
6. Chad and Mrs. Douglas Show
Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer are a slightly (and therefore unnervingly) passive-aggressive couple, hawking a collection of Christmas performances from the ’70s variety show they used to host. Featured are Amy Poehler as a coked-up disco diva and Tina Fey plus a surprise guest in a revealing rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” But the pièce de résistance is Maya Rudolph as the very sloshed Lola Fabray delivering a performance of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” for the ages.
5. Dead Bopz
With the way technology is headed, it is actually surprising that SNL beat reality to the punch with the release of a compilation album featuring holograms of dead musicians. In a vacuum outside the constraints of the space time-continuum, there is nothing inherently wrong with Roy Orbison crooning a Justin Bieber ditty or Leslie Gore getting down with a ratchet Nicki Minaj banger. It is just that the mechanics necessary to make it all happen are so gauche. It is a lurid display that feels disturbingly possible.
4. bern your enthusiasm
Larry David bungles his way through a world not unlike that of his own HBO sitcom, except that in this instance he is inhabiting his senatorial doppelganger. “bern your enthusiasm” transplants a plot from the 2016 Democratic primary onto the basic structure of a curb your enthusiasm episode, and the transition is seamless – hardly a shock, considering the minutiae of campaigning is apt to reveal the extent of both David’s fussiness and Bernie Sanders’ relentlessness.
3. FBI Simulator
This article started off with praise for great introductions, and there is no greater introduction this season (and possibly in the entire history of SNL) than that of Kevin Roberts – what with that shock of platinum hair, that huge ’80s cell phone, those tinted glasses, and that deafening neon orange suit. Not to mention the indelible catchphrase and profoundly distracting backstory. The real FBI is probably not utilizing Kevin Roberts for their cadets, but maybe they should be.
2. Mafia Meeting
An underutilized comedic strategy despite its frequent effectiveness is starting a sketch as one scene and then turning it into something completely different. The turn is not always as sharp as that from a meeting between mob bosses and their errand boys to a performance by a Devo-esque novelty hit, and therein lies the power of “Space Pants.” Peter Dinklage summoning the spirit of the cosmos as “Jonathan Comets” also helps.
1. Yo, Where Jackie Chan At Right Now?
The all-time top tier SNL sketches defy easy explanation. It can certainly be said that this bit is a TV show hosted by two guys (Tracy Morgan and Kenan Thompson) who are dedicated to pinpointing the whereabouts of a kung fu icon, but that hardly gets at the heart of what “Yo, Where Jackie Chan At Right Now?” is all about. Normal logic or rules of comedy are insufficient. Thus, a circular definition must be resorted to: The reason “Yo, Where Jackie Chan At Right Now?” is the best sketch of Season 41 is because it is “Yo, Where Jackie Chan At Right Now?”
Did you obsess over SNL Season 41 enough to have your own best sketch rankings? Let me know in the comments…