SNL Bests of the Decade

January 17, 2020

Saturday Night Live has been a fixture of my life for a while now. In middle school, my friend would always show up on Monday mornings asking if I had seen the new episode of SNL on Saturday; together, we would chat about our favorite skits. I would watch them while hanging out with my friends in high school, and we would quote them back and forth to each other on busses to field trips and backstage before high school plays. Given that the decade is coming to a close and my appreciation of SNL began as the decade began (~2009), I now offer up three arbitrary categories and the SNL skits that I think best represent them. They are labeled with the year and host of the episode. May they inspire you to give them a rewatch, and perhaps fall into a SNL skit hole on YouTube for a few hours.

 

Most Random:

“I Am Your Mother” (2009, Zac Efron)

I am your mother featured Zac Efron and Andy Samburg as actors in a Gino’s Pizza Rolls commercial. Fred Armissen played Efron’s mother, who is tasked with delivering the line “Hey, I’m your mother!” after Zac’s character says the pizza rolls are better than her usual cooking. Instead, Armissen screams “I AM YOUR MOTHER” in one of the most dedicated and extreme performances to ever bless Studio 8H. Armissen really went there. And for that, we are grateful.

 

Most Timely:

“Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks” (2016, Tom Hanks)

Black Jeopardy is a recurring skit on SNL, usually featuring two competitors who are familiar with black culture in the US, and one who isn’t, whether that be Drake, who is from Canada, or a basic white girl played by Elizabeth Banks. Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks featured Hanks as a MAGA-hat-clad Trump supporter as the third contestant, against Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata, in late October of 2016 (right before the 2016 elections). The skit begins with much skepticism, because what could a Trump supporter possibly contribute in a game of Black Jeopardy? But Hanks’s character blows everyone away with his mutual suspicion for fingerprint tracking on cell phones. This skit is the third most viewed SNL skit on YouTube, and was brilliant in revealing the social similarities between the experiences of much of the Trump supporters and black Americans, a contrast that hadn’t been so eloquently made before. Still, the skit offers a stark contrast at the end, with the final jeopardy topic being “Lives that Matter,” and everyone is forced to remember the racism that is also pervasive among some of Trump’s supporters. It’s a move that brilliantly pulls the rug out from under the audience, while also providing a condemning commentary. 

 

Best Political Impression:

"Kavanaugh Hearing Cold Open" (2018, Adam Driver)

Truly one of the best political impressions of our lifetime on SNL was Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin. Sadly, her peak was before the beginning of this decade, meaning she is absent from the list, but I had to give her a shout-out anyway. In lieu of Sarah Palin, I give this arbitrary superlative to Matt Damon’s Brett Kavanaugh, from last year’s infamous Supreme Court hearings. Kavanaugh’s hearing took place at the crossroads of the U.S. justice system and the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Hundreds of thousands of people tuned in to watch the hearings, and the world wondered whether the court would respect the words of Christine Blasey Ford more than they believed Anita Hill in 1991. Matt Damon’s impression of Kavanaugh gave us something to laugh about, when very little of the hearings had any shred of positivity. It was an intense time, and SNL and Damon found a way to break the tension.

 

Honorable Mentions:

"High School Theater" (Reese Witherspoon, Emma Stone, Elizabeth Banks)

Is there anything more hilarious than watching high school theater kids try to be woke? No. There is not. This recurring sketch is definitely the one I quote the most often, because it has some great lines, but the other fabulous part about "High School Theater" is the way the cast moves and speaks––like teens who are painfully confident for no reason.

 

Star Wars Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base (2016, Adam Driver)

This skit also made SNL’s top 5 most watched videos on their YouTube channel. Adam Driver absolutely kills it (and some of his coworkers) as his Star Wars character Kylo Ren going undercover as a tech guy named Matt. 

Emma Cooney

Photo Credit: NBC

 

 

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