Top 20 SNL Sketches of the Century (So Far)

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Top 20 SNL Sketches of the Century (So Far)

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Live from YouTube, it's the best "SNL" sketches of the century so far! Our countdown includes “Election Night," “Lazy Sunday,” “Haunted Elevator (ft. David S. Pumpkins),” and more!
Transcript

Top 20 SNL Sketches of the Century So Far


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 SNL Sketches of the Century (So Far).

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most influential and funniest “SNL” sketches that aired between 2000 and 2020.

What’s your favorite “SNL” sketch? Let us know in the comments!

#20: “Natalie Raps”


Natalie Portman is one of the most accomplished actresses of this century. She generally isn’t associated with comedy, however... or hip hop, for that matter. When she hosted in 2006, audiences were pleasantly surprised that Portman can not only be hilarious, but she’s kind of a boss. An interview takes a shocking turn when the usually graceful Portman breaks out in an angry rap about her life. Although Portman seems like an unlikely person to go on a musical rampage, she sells every profanity-laced lyric, making this “Digital Short” especially priceless. The rap proved so popular that it inspired a sequel, complete with Andy Sandberg’s Viking. Now that Portman’s a mother, she’s even more hardcore. Just don’t mention the prequels.

#19: “Sean Spicer Press Conference”


We often look to “SNL” for political commentary, and part of what keeps us coming back are the spot-on impressions. Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer is one of the strangest casting decisions, but also one of the most brilliant. During his time as White House Press Secretary, Spicer wasn’t exactly known for his calm demeanor or getting all the facts straight. In a transformative performance that helped her win an Emmy, McCarthy captures Spicer’s “spicey” attitude to comedic perfection. The first time you see her, it may take a second to realize that it’s McCarthy playing Spicer. Now, however, McCarthy’s hotheaded performance is intertwined with Spicer’s legacy. While Spicer’s White House stint was brief, McCarthy’s impersonation guaranteed that we wouldn’t forget his eccentric tendencies.

#18: “Diner Lobster”


Sometimes the best “SNL” sketches are the ones that initially showed little promise. “Diner Lobster” was rejected when John Mulaney and Colin Jost wrote it in 2010, but Mulaney dug up the old sketch when he hosted in 2018. It starts off simply enough as Pete Davidson orders a lobster, even though diners don’t exactly have the best reputation for seafood. Despite everyone’s warnings, Davidson insists on having lobster, which turns out to be . . . Kenan Thompson channeling Jean Valjean. This musical sketch is just starting to get weird, as then the lobster’s devastated daughter pleads for his life, and a barricade of lobster traps enters the scene. We’re not sure how we got from lobster to “Les Misérables.” Just like Davidson, however, we can’t hide our laughter.

#17: “The Californians: Stuart’s Dad”


“The Californians” evolved into a recurring sketch parodying “valleyspeak” and soap opera clichés. Above all else, it’s a sketch series about California highways. Even when Stuart’s long-lost father, played by Mick Jagger, pays an unexpected visit, it doesn’t take long for several California streets to force their way into the conversation. A truly great comedian can make reading the phone book funny, but this sketch somehow makes driving directions hilarious. As per usual, the exaggerated accents turn even the most straight-forward lines into comedic gold. What propels this particular “Californians” sketch into Top 10 territory, though, is a last-minute cameo from Steve Martin as a man with amnesia. He may not have his memory, but he does have the hair of a twenty-something-year-old.

#16: “Liza Minnelli Tries to Turn Off a Lamp”


How long does it take you to turn off a lamp? A few seconds at most probably. Yet, this sketch squeezes four minutes of nonstop laughs out of the most basic premise imaginable. As the title suggests, the sketch is about Liza Minnelli, played to over-the-top perfection by Kristen Wiig, trying to turn off a lamp. Liza can’t simply flip a switch, however. This run-of-the-mill task becomes a jazzy – not to mention tipsy – routine right out of a cabaret. All the while, Jonah Hill just sits in a chair with his cigar, even though he could easily get up and turn off the lamp himself. Between Wiig’s dedicated impression and physical comedy gifts, we can’t help but get a kick out of every ridiculous moment.

#15: “Meet Your Second Wife”


Now this one pushes some boundaries. When we see an older man dating a significantly younger woman, most of the time we don’t think much about the actual amount of years separating them. But when you consider how young the woman would have been when the man is already an adult, however, the relationship in this light can seem a little . . . off-putting, to say the least. In this uproarious sketch, three men are given a chance to meet their future second wives on a twisted game show. The oldest is in eighth grade while the youngest is still a fetus. Making matters even more uncomfortable, their current wives are all in the audience. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, an always-reliable comedic duo, play the show’s chipper hosts.

#14: “A Song From SNL: I Wish It Was Christmas Today”


Like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, the appeal of this song lies in its simplicity. The lyrics and melody are nothing extravagant. Even the performance has a phoned-in quality to it, with Horatio Sanz doing the heavy lifting while Jimmy Fallon occasionally plays the keyboard. Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan really don’t contribute much to the song itself, but the sketch would feel incomplete without them. As simple as it is, the song’s catchy nature and irresistible charm struck a chord with audiences, so much so that the quartet returned for an encore. This wouldn’t be their last performance. Whether it’s Memorial Day or Easter, the tune speaks to the kid in all of us, that just wants it to be Christmas.

#13: “Election Night”


When Donald Trump pulled off a surprise presidential victory in 2016, a lot of Americans didn’t know how to react. After such an unpredictable election cycle, “SNL” and guest host Dave Chappelle gave audiences exactly what they needed: a good laugh. Watching the election coverage, a group of Democrats is optimistic that Hillary Clinton has it in the bag. The only one who’s skeptical is Chappelle, but he doesn’t burst their bubble. He lets the news do that. The sketch is made even more hilarious by a cameo from Chris Rock, who sees eye to eye with Chappelle. For a lot of households around the country, this sketch captured the mood to a T, with a spoonful of comedy to make the results go down.

#12: “Close Encounter”


Kate McKinnon has been an “SNL” MVP throughout the past decade and her castmates could barely contain their laughter in this sketch. McKinnon, Cecily Strong, and Ryan Gosling play three people abducted by aliens. Where Strong and Gosling look back on the experience as profound and enlightening, McKinnon’s abduction was more like a really intrusive medical examination. Although we never actually see what happened, listening to McKinnon recount her ordeal while casually smoking a cigarette is arguably even funnier. What’s especially priceless is how matter-of-factly McKinnon delivers her jaw-dropping dialogue. Even after getting fondled by aliens and landing on a Long John Silver’s without wearing pants, she treats the whole night more like a wild bender than first contact.

#11: “The Love-ahs with Barbara and Dave”


That’s “love-ah” with an “ah.” Whenever you step into a hotel hot tub, there’s always a possibility that you’re going to end up soaking with some interesting strangers. For Jimmy Fallon’s Dave, he finds himself sitting across from Roger and Virginia Klarvin. Played by Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch, the “love-ahs” sport thick accents and untamable hair. Matters get increasingly awkward as the two recount their lovemaking escapades and Drew Barrymore’s Barbara Hernandez drops by. The sketch was such a riot that the cast, most visibly Fallon, struggled to maintain a straight face throughout. The character-breaking only makes the sketch more memorable, and given how bizarre the dialogue is, we’re surprised that the cast made it as far as they did without cracking up.

#10: “Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks”


Sean Connery may be MIA, but “Black Jeopardy” has become one of the most popular recurring “SNL” sketches of the past few years. As humorous as Drake and Eddie Murphy’s appearances were, the game show’s most memorable contestant thus far would have to be Doug, played by Tom Hanks. From the second the camera pans to Doug in a “Make America Great Again” hat, the audience can tell that they’re in store for a wicked sketch. Instead of going for the obvious Trump jokes, the sketch continually subverts expectations as Doug fits in surprisingly well on the “Black Jeopardy” set. Just when it looks like the sketch is going to slide by without any awkward moments, however, Doug is given the category “Lives That Matter.”

#9: “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black”


At Super Bowl 50, Beyoncé performed her new “unapologetically Black” single “Formation.” Although the track was met with acclaim for its celebration of African-American culture, its political subtext also attracted a fair deal of controversy. “SNL” poked fun at just how overblown this controversy was in a sketch where white people around the world suddenly realize – gasp – Beyoncé is black! Beyoncé had never made her pride in her identity a secret, but here, when she releases a song more explicitly about her race, white folks react, uh, a little strongly, which plays out like a suspenseful horror movie. Oh, and if you’re not a huge Beyoncé fan, expect to hear from the Beygency soon.

#8: “I Just Had Sex”


The Lonely Island delivered some of their best satirical material during Andy Samberg’s final years on “SNL.” While it’s tempting to single out “Jack Sparrow” or “3-Way (The Golden Rule),” “I Just Had Sex” is truly something boastfully awesome. This Digital Short finds Akon and members of the Lonely Island standing on a roof, announcing to the world about their . . . exploits. As excited as they are, their sexual partners (Blake Lively and Jessica Alba) aren’t all that impressed. The same can be said about the other many listeners who are forced to hear about the guys’ activities. But the enthusiasm proves infectious, though, and by the time the song nears its end, everyone is singing along.

#7: “Sarah Palin and Hillary Address the Nation”


“SNL” has given us some immortal impressions of political figures over the years, but Tina Fey as Sarah Palin easily takes the popular vote. From the debut sketch, Fey fully embodied Palin, from her looks to her distinctive voice. The only thing better than Fey as Palin is pairing her with Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton. As they address the nation, the historic sketch explores how radically different these two are. The only three things they seem to have in common is that they’re both female politicians, both oppose sexism, and both were in reach of the White House. Of course, Palin got much closer in 2008, much to Clinton’s annoyance. The comedians reunited in another Palin sketch, with Poehler channeling Katie Couric this time.

#6: “Celebrity Jeopardy! Kathie Lee, Tom Hanks, Sean Connery, Burt Reynolds”


While “SNL” introduced “Celebrity Jeopardy!” in the ‘90s, this recurring sketch has remained a perennial favorite well into the 21st century. Arguably the funniest sketch was in 2009 when Will Ferrell returned to host. The celebrity lineup includes Kristen Wiig as Kathie Lee Gifford, Tom Hanks as a bubbling version of himself, and of course, Darrell Hammond as the late Sean Connery. Oh, and Norm Macdonald also pops up as Burt Reynolds. Where did he come from? That’s the real million-dollar question. Everything about the sketch, from the nonsensical categories, to Gifford’s uncontrollable drinking, to Connery’s savage insults, to Hanks’ committed incompetence, captures “Celebrity Jeopardy!” at its finest. Tying it all together is Ferrell’s Alex Trebek, who miraculously maintains a straight face throughout the insanity.

#5: “Lazy Sunday”


Although it wasn’t the first “Digital Short,” “Lazy Sunday” was the first to explode into a viral phenomenon. It also helped put Andy Samberg and his fellow Lonely Island members on the map. Accompanied by Chris Parnell, Samberg takes to the streets to rap about two things: baked goods and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” After seeing “Lazy Sunday” just once, people couldn’t get the song out of their heads, guaranteeing they’d rewatch the video a dozen more times. At a time when “SNL” was going through a rough patch, “Lazy Sunday” breathed new life into the long-running sketch comedy, with infectious lyrics, just the right amount of silliness, and a digital format that would appeal to the blossoming YouTube generation. We love it!

#4: “Career Day”


Adam Driver may be best-known for portraying the brooding Kylo Ren, but the “Star Wars” actor has demonstrated surprisingly strong comedic chops on “SNL.” Driver went undercover at Starkiller Base in another sketch, but he completely transformed himself in this instant classic. With the physical appearance of Albert Einstein and devilish persona of Daniel Plainview, an unrecognizable Driver plays Abraham H. Parnassus, an oil man who visits his son’s school on career day. His class presentation quickly escalates into a Shakespearean speech as Parnassus describes how he crushed his enemies and overcame a premature birth. As goofy as Driver looks and acts, he actually manages to bring a genuinely menacing quality to the stone-faced Parnassus, which makes the sketch all the more hysterical.

#3: “Haunted Elevator (ft. David S. Pumpkins)”


On a haunted house elevator ride, a couple comes across many of the usual scary suspects, but they’re thrown for a loop upon encountering Tom Hanks’ David S. Pumpkins and his dancing skeletons. The couple doesn’t understand why Pumpkins is present and the audience is equally baffled by the sketch’s intent. When this hit the airwaves, a lot of people weren’t sure what to make of it. Was this a work of brilliance or a work of random madness? In retrospect, it’s a little bit of both. It’s also developed into an iconic sketch that we look forward to revisiting every Halloween… or basically whenever we need a good laugh. The scariest thing to the mind is the unknown. Something similar can be said about comedy.

#2: “D*** in a Box”


The “Digital Shorts” found their groove with “Lazy Sunday,” but this music video is arguably the most iconic entry in this series. What’s more, it officially solidified Justin Timberlake as one of the greatest “SNL” hosts ever. Timberlake, Samberg, and four other songwriters would win an Emmy for scribing the tune… which is funny in and of itself. Of course, the song totally deserved to win the gold for its sensual, yet goofy, lyrics and outrageous setup. We can’t say if the song will get you in the holiday spirit or the mood. We can guarantee, however, that it will make you laugh hard and repeatedly. The looks on Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig’s faces whenever they look inside the boxes say it all.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Star Wars Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base”
Even on “SNL,” Adam Driver Never Misses a Beat as Kylo Ren

“Bern Your Enthusiasm”
Fun Fact: Apparently, Bernie Sanders & Larry David Are Distant Cousins

“What Up With That”
This One Will NEVER Get Old

“Grouch (Joker Parody)”
All We Have Are Positive Thoughts

“National Anthem”
Maya Rudolph Is a National Treasure

#1: “More Cowbell”


During the early 2000s, Christopher Walken starred in two classic sketches: “Colonel Angus” and, even more famous, “More Cowbell.” This is one of the most quotable “SNL” sketches ever, but what exactly makes it so memorable? Three things in particular stand out. The line, “more cowbell” is already funny, but Walken’s offbeat delivery takes it up to eleven. Will Ferrell, who co-wrote the sketch, brings his wild energy to the cowbell player, and his tight shirt earns bonus laughs. Finally, the idea of centering a whole sketch around a cowbell is so bizarre that it’s impossible not to smile. Now whenever we listen to “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” all we hear is... “more cowbell!”
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