40 Less-Iconic ‘SNL’ Sketches That We Love Anyway
With Saturday Night Live‘s 40th anniversary special this Sunday, it seems everyone is posting their lists of all-time best sketches and mean-spirited cast member rankings. And while we appreciate “Behind The Music: Blue Oyster Cult,” “Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker,” and “Sinead O’Connor’s Pope Portrait Gallery” as much as the next SNL-phile, we’d like to recognize a collection of bits that remain near and dear to us… despite, or perhaps because of, their less-famous status.
As ignorant millennials who were born too late for that golden Belushi era (Jim Belushi, right?), our picks lean heavily on post-1990 SNL. This is by no means a comprehensive list — just a group of overlooked sketches that we personally love. Some of these seemed too peculiar to fully land with the studio audience on the night, while others were interesting one-offs that got lost in a sea of more popular recurring characters. And then there are a few beloved cult classics that never seem to make it onto other best-of lists, so we’re putting them on ours. “The Falconer” deserves some kind of lifetime achievement award, right?
The Falconer: Time Travel. The ninth and final “Falconer” sketch is proof that recurring sketches don’t always have to run out of steam — sometimes they end in a blaze of ensemble cast member glory. Oh, Donald.
Mousetrap Seminar. There are just too many fun things at play here — Kevin Nealon’s calm unpackaging of the mechanics of a mousetrap, the way Farley drops his hand, Jan Hooks’ cluelessness as she asks, “Yeah, but what if you really want that cheese though?” — that just makes this sketch work, even if it doesn’t bring the house down.
Tennis Talk with Time Traveling Scott Joplin. “Tennis Talk” is just a perfect sketch, plain and simple. Here’s what former SNL writer Leo Allen told us about the sketch last year:
We had this sketch “Time Traveling Scott Joplin” that I liked, with Maya [Rudolph] playing time traveling Scott Joplin. That was because our office was next to Jeff Richmond, Tina’s husband who did the music. He would have to wait around all night because people would come to him and get him to help them write songs. He was just in his office and he had a keyboard. He was playing ragtime nonstop right next to us. We were supposed to write this sketch that Slovin had pitched, a tennis idea that Lorne liked, and then we realized it was actually a terrible idea. So we had to write something about tennis. That assignment plus Jeff Richmond playing ragtime nonstop for hours turned into that sketch.
Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute. This late ’70s Aykroyd sketch is the perfect take on “professional hygiene, discretion, and animal gratification” and gives Bill Murray’s “Steve Baxter: Hollywood Gynecologist” a run for its money.
Carpool. It’s rare to see a strong display of acting ability on SNL outside of big characters, but Baldwin and Wiig bounce off each other so well, they elevate this simple premise into a textbook example for all sketch comedians to follow.
TV Funhouse: Saddam and Osama. While Will Ferrell pulled his punches as George W. Bush in the early 2000s, Robert Smigel’s one-off TV Funhouse cartoons helped SNL maintain a biting political edge — especially while sneaking in dark propaganda into children’s programming.
Hidden Camera Commercials. This Tom Schiller short about unaired hidden camera commercial footage quickly devolves into insanity, chaos, and darkness thanks to Chris Farley and Colombian decaffeinated coffee crystals.
Wake Up and Smile. Considering how much SNL players rely on cue cards, it’s risky for the show to air a sketch about morning news show hosts losing it after their teleprompter breaks, but Nancy Walls, David Alan Grier, and Will Ferrell absolutely nail it. “The Order of the Hand will rule!”
Spelling Bee. It’s a shame there’s not a better video of “Spelling Bee,” because it’s Will Forte doing what he does best — taking a simple concept then driving it into complete absurdity.
Anal Retentive Chef. Phil Hartman never achieved the catchphrase character stardom that Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, and Jon Lovitz commanded, but his few recurring bits are notably nuanced, from his famous Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer to his anal retentive TV host who can never quite get his segment underway.