In my top ten SNL sketches of last year, I hypothesized that SNL would be our company as we entered the end of days. Well, I’m happy to say that hasn’t happened…as of the writing of THIS post. However, SNL has been in the sidecar of the jalopy that was 2017 the whole time as we, engine on fire and tilted-helmet obscuring our eyes, blindly barreled through catastrophe after catastrophe. From the inauguration (that was only just this year, you guys!) to the continued exposure of famous sexual harassers, SNL has held up a funhouse mirror to all of it, reflecting America back to ourselves, but skewed.
Like 2016, my top ten of 2017 will span the entire year. That is to say, the last half of Season 42 and the first half of Season 43. Anything goes: pre-tapes, live sketches, music videos… The only rule I place on myself is that a host is limited to three sketches. This was really hard to do last year with both Adam Driver and Ariana Grande and proved to be difficult again this year with Ryan Gosling and Scarlett Johansson. Also, here’s a shocker: no Trump administration sketches made the cut. It’s not some political statement TO BE SURE and it’s not about using guest stars as most of the key players. What I’m doing here is talking about what sketches were the brightest and funniest this year. Which sketches were the ones that I had to pull up on my phone to show other people. What’s going on in our government rarely checks any of those boxes, even in SNL sketch form. So, while Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer is awesome casting and Alec Baldwin continues to skewer Trump every week, there isn’t any single occurrence of this where I can say “Now THAT was a sketch I need to see again!”
These, however, were of that ilk…
“Totino’s with Kristen Stewart”
Fare thee well, Vanessa Bayer. I will miss your Totino’s woman, who we learn in this sketch never had a name. This one is a prime example of what they do well when a guest host isn’t a comedian: lean into it. Kristen Stewart is admittedly too cool for school. So, what can you do with that? A Totino’s French indie film, obviously.
I had someone tell me last year that they don’t know why Kenan Thompson is on the show anymore. Before I noticed I was talking about loud, I said (in a perfectly calm voice) “You don’t know what you’re talking about…” I would guess saying stuff like that is one of the reasons I’m still single. (Or is it just their fault?) But I digress… This sketch is Kenan’s bread and butter. You’ll see another version of this coming up, too, but Scarlett was too good an accomplice in this one to choose just one. I only hope at my funeral, the deep club tracks I’ve been secretly recording about butts and sex go over as horribly with my family:
This is the second gold medal I’m giving Kenan. These bar band sketches started a few years ago during possibly my favorite episode ever, when Martin Freeman hosted. I delight in them whenever they come on and I’ll take this one a step further: Leslie Jones is great in a ten-to-one sketch. More end of the night Jones, please! Kindly direct your attention to their middle backs and enjoy:
“Leslie Wants to Play Trump”
Speaking of Leslie Jones, this pre-tape kind of went under the radar. I think it was a great commentary both on SNL using Alec Baldwin instead of a cast member, as well as using the “character” of Leslie Jones. I talked about this last year, but it’s very rare for SNL to take a cast member and actually make a character solely out of their real-life persona. Leslie is portrayed as irrational, hot tempered and self-absorbed. Sound familiar? It may actually be perfect, casting. Consider it, Lorne!
“A Sketch for the Women”
This one is more layered than you’d initially think. Sure, there’s the immediate commentary on men “mansplaining” feminism to women and sublimating their voice because they feel like they get it from what’s obviously googling some statistics. There’s also some fun touches for the Beck and Kyle fans, though, like using their '90s keyboard riff music they love to use in their sketches to give it that “written by Beck and Kyle” vibe. Give it a watch, and learn a lot about being a woman from two dudes…
This single sketch made me go out and rent Tiffany Haddish’s standup special and repeatedly listen to her album. She’s a force, and this sketch rests entirely on her delivery as Boo Boo Jefferies. In a less-talented set of comedic hands, this sketch might’ve been too farcical. With Haddish, however, it is a laugh out loud gem. Her only weakness: getting weird in large groups. Why does she do that?
Ryan Gosling… You aren’t afraid to dig deep into your roles, cutting to the bone of humanity and asking “Why?” to the world at large. This sketch is no exception. Why, oh WHY did Avatar just use a barely modified version of Papyrus for its logo??? The ensuing years haven’t made this egregious design choice any easier to bear and what? They’re making more? Watch all the way through for a great Comic Sans burn, as well.
I love it when Kate McKinnon plays older ladies. Any kind of older woman. German chancellors are my particular favorite, but Supreme Court justices and arsenic-poisoned starlets are right up there, too. The latter is the keystone of these sketches in the character of Debette Goldry. She’s been a regular fixture for a couple years now, but her particular bright shining moment came this year in addressing the sexual harassment scandal breaking loose around Harvey Weinstein (among many others, but he’s the specific focus of this sketch). The sketch culminates in Debette turning to directly address the camera, telling us all what we already know but deserves constant reminder and refocus: Violence against women doesn’t just happen to famous actors. It’s everywhere, dammit. Preach, Debette… Just not when Alfred Hitchcock is around. He’ll put his whole fist in your mouth, especially if you’re very blonde at the time.
Vanessa, I started this post with you and I’ll say it again: I miss you! More of Bayer’s special brand of vapid, awful women was on display in this great send-up of those damn fidget spinners. (Full disclosure: I was given one with emojis on it that glows in the dark, which I regularly keep in my purse and play with in public. I’m not too cool for fidget spinners. Not at all.) The pre-tape game was very strong this year, even if there “is nobody good here”. We all know this girl, and would gladly buy her one of these to keep out of our hair at parties:
“Welcome to Hell”
The girls are back… and they’ve got a message of greeting for the guys who’ve gotten woke to the fact that women are harassed all the time. This has been the damn world. This one speaks for itself.
There were plenty of other sketches worth talking about, too. The first of which doesn’t even count as a sketch, so I can’t give you a link to it.
During the week of Octavia Spencer’s hosting gig, a story broke about Kellyanne Conway that you may remember. It was about a picture of her in the Oval Office, barefoot with her feet curled up under her, texting away on her phone without a care in the world while Trump met with leaders from America’s historically African-American colleges. SNL could’ve gone the easy route and simply spoofed this in their pretty much every episode Trump cold open, but instead they did a subtle slow burn, having Kate McKinnon sitting in between commercials as Kellyanne, blasé and unaffected, in the middle of the set. I loved this. Do it again, SNL!
“The Dolphin Who Learned To Speak”
I feel like there’s a lot of pre-tapes on here, perhaps too many. That’s one of the reasons I put this one in the “honorable mention” category. I just don’t want to see a show with “LIVE” in its name leaning so hard on pre-tapes. That being said, this one is perfectly stylized and Tiffany, your journal reading makes me laugh each time. I also respond when players in a sketch are obviously having a good time, and both Kate and Aidy seem delighted to pretend to pleasure a dolphin. For the science.