Ten Underappreciated SNL Skits from the New Millennium

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We are now into the 40th season of Saturday Night Live, which is being celebrated with the same pomp and circumstance as the 100 Anniversary of World War I and the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

Every five year marker provides another excuse for a look back at SNL’s greatest hits.   And why not?  The skits that get shown again and again (“Schweddy Balls,” “More Cowbell,” “Chippendales,” “Lazy Sunday”) are legitimately hilarious.  But there are so many others that should be elevated to the canon.  Here are my candidates, which I’ve arbitrarily limited to the current millennium.

In any event, here are ten frequently overlooked sketches that are as good as the classics:

Numbers 10 and 9: “What’s That Name?”:

what's that name Lady Gaga

I have a very high regard for the two “What’s That Name” sketches in which game show contestants attempt to identify the names of people they should know, but don’t.  In addition to being hilarious, these two sketches make a profound comment on our own self-absorption, especially as it pertains to power dynamics.  In the first sketch, two ordinary people played by Paul Rudd and Vanessa Bayer can’t tell the name of people they see every day.  We can identify with the very ordinariness of these contestants, which creates that feeling of personal discomfort that is the root of great humor.

To watch this sketch click here

A follow-up sketch with Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga playing themselves in a version of “Celebrity What’s That Name” is not quite as biting, because we can’t identify with Timberlake like we do with the Paul Rudd character, but the twist in the way Lady Gaga plays the game is a delight.

To watch this sketch click here

Number 8 “Hermione’s Growth Spurt”

Linday Lohan

Believe it or not, there was a time when Lindsay Lohan was sane enough to be the host of Saturday Night Live.  In this sketch she plays an over-developed Hermione Granger, who causes the eyes of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley to pop out of their heads.  The skit is significant because it’s one example of Seth Meyers actually contributing significantly to a character in a non-Weekend Update role.

To watch this sketch click here: 

Number 7: “Jebediah Atkinson”

Taran-Killam-as-Jebidiah-Atkinson-on-Saturday-Night-Live

The current SNL cast is one of the weakest in generations, with only Taran killam and Kate McKinnon providing consistently hilarious work.  Here’s Taran as Jebediah Atkinson, the critic who panned The Gettysburg Address and every other speech ever made.  Next!!!

To watch this sketch click here: 

Number 6: Angela Merkel

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The aforementioned Kate McKinnon seems to have taken Kristen Wiig’s role as SNL’s go-to girl among the current cast.  Here she is as a world-weary Angela Merkel, acting like the quintessential “good” teen who just wants to have a little fun.  Like many of SNL’s best sketches, this one is extremely intelligent, depending on the viewer not only to know who Merkel is, but also German’s geopolitical position in the world.

To watch this sketch click here: 

Number 5: “Vincent Price’s Halloween Party”

Jon Hamm as James Mason

Vincent Price’s Halloween Party is a complete surprise, spoofing the pop culture icons of 1960: Gloria Swanson, Liberace, James Mason, etc.  Who’d have thought there was any comedy gold left there to mine?  And speaking of James Mason, this sketch is an SNL legend because  Jon Hamm was originally supposed to play a drunken Dean Martin, but literally at the last minute Lorne Michaels suggested that he switch the character to Mason and Hamm nailed it live without ever having rehearsed it.

To watch this sketch click here

Number 4:  “Taylor Swift PSA”

Taylor Swift car

Taylor Swift was one of those unexpectedly great guest hosts who’s full of good humor about herself and has surprising comedic timing.  Here she is as a teen who has produced a Public Service Announcement about the dangers of bad parental driving.

To watch this sketch click here

Number 3:  “Sully, Denise and Nomar”

Nomar saturday-night-live-sully-and-denise-nomar

This sketch might be funnier to Bay Staters than the rest of America, but I’ve been laughing about it for years.  Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch are Sully are Sully and Denise, the working class teens from Lexington Mass who were recurring characters on the show 13 times. In this sketch, Sully’s slutty sister (Kate Hudson) brings Nomar Garciaparra home for a date and Sully and Denise act like tweens at a One Direction concert.

To watch this sketch click here: 

Number 2: “Really? With Seth and Amy”

seth and amy

In case you’ve wondered, yes, this blog is name after the SNL News commentary segment “Really!? With Seth and Amy.” Their first offering of this segment (see below) was by far the funniest.  Before Michael Vick was arrested for Dog Fighting (not funny), he was arrested for trying to smuggle marijuana on an airplane, a circumstance that Seth and Amy found completely ridiculous.  Really, Michael Vick?  How stupid are you?

To watch this sketch click here:

Number 1: “Locker Room Pep Talk”

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This sketch, with Will Forte as a coach who tries to inspire his team with an odd selection of music, is the most egregious example of an underappreciated SNL sketch.  Not only do I think it is the most underappreciated sketch, I think it’s the funniest SNL sketch of all time.  And yet it is never in the top 100 and not even available online.  I have to wonder if NBC refused to pay for the rights to the song or if there’s an issue with the Herb Albert estate, because the only place I could find it was, first, on a Korean website, which was shut down, and then on a Reddit site, from which now links to an empty page.  Now it’s available on a wrap-up article on thewrap.com.  In any event, like Taylor Swift, Peyton Manning turned out to be a surprisingly terrific guest host and boy can he dance!

To watch this sketch click here and scroll down: 

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CORRECTION/ADDENDUM

I was chastised by my wife for leaving out a family favorite — “Tim Tebow Meets Jesus,” in which Jesus (Jason Sudeikis) visits the Denver Broncos locker room during one of Tebow’s prayers of thanksgiving after another amazing victory (boy does that seem like ancient history now).  Jesus asks the team to try a little harder so he doesn’t always have to intercede on their behalf. Hah.  This bit should rank as the funniest final-sketch-of-the-night.  Did Lorne Michaels not realize just how funny this was?  It was so undervalued that the guest host that night — Jimmy Fallon — didn’t even appear in it.

In any event, to watch this sketch, click here.

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