by Julian Spivey
The milestone 40th anniversary season of “Saturday Night Live” was pretty much a trainwreck. It’s the worst season of the show in recent memory, which is quite stunning because the bulk of the show’s cast right now is supremely talented. It was such a weak ‘SNL’ season that three of the 10 best sketches of the year actually came during the show’s 40th anniversary special in February.
10. Musical Montage (40th Anniversary Special)
This one almost seems like cheating to include it, but was one of my favorite ‘SNL’ moments of the season and a true highlight from the 40th anniversary special that aired in February. The musical montage segment from that 40th anniversary special brought back many of the show’s fantastic musical characters and moments for a quick few seconds or minutes of greatness that brought back so much nostalgia. The bit was hilariously hosted by Martin Short and Maya Rudolph as Beyonce and included performances from The Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd & Jim Belushi), Dana Carvey’s Derek Stevens, Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer as The Culps, Steve Martin reprising “King Tut,” Adam Sandler as Opera Man and the funniest moment of all … Bill Murray doing Nick the Lounge Singer performing a theme for the movie “Jaws.”
9. Old New York (Woody Harrelson)
Woody Harrelson hosted one of the best all-around episodes of the 40th season of “Saturday Night Live.” He and Bill Hader were probably neck-and-neck for best host of the year, with both episodes unfortunately coming toward the beginning of the season and making for a good drought afterward. One of Harrelson’s best sketches was as a grizzled New Yorker who stumbled upon a bar of fellow New Yorkers (Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan and Kenan Thompson) reminiscing about how good things used to be in the city. Harrelson’s character keeps talking about how good the cocaine used to be in the old days much to the annoyance of his fellow bar patrons. Harrelson’s performance in this sketch is certainly one of the funniest by a host all season.
8. Sump’n Claus (Martin Freeman)
Kenan Thompson, now the second longest tenured cast member in ‘SNL’ history, has the remarkable talent to turn something that should be annoying and unfunny into something quite enjoyable as he does with the “Sump’n Claus” bit during Martin Freeman’s episode. Thompson’s Sump’n Claus is a pimped out version of Santa Claus who gives sump’n to everybody, even the naughty, and that sump’n is white envelopes filled with cash.
7. The Office: Middle Earth (Martin Freeman)
Martin Freeman is primarily known for three things: the British version of “The Office,” “The Hobbit” and “Sherlock.” ‘SNL’ was able to brilliantly meld two of those things (if only they could’ve added “Sherlock”) in the witty “The Office: Middle Earth” sketch from Freeman’s hosting stint in which the characters from “The Hobbit” movies took jobs at a paper company.
6. Chris Rock’s Monologue (Chris Rock)
The best ‘SNL’ monologues always seem to be when the show gets a stand-up comedian to host, which is not a frequent occurrence. These monologues also tend to be the most controversial, because people can’t take a joke in today’s society. The monologues this season by both Chris Rock and Louis CK drew many complaints from folks on social media claiming the jokes told to be offensive. Louis CK drew complaints due to jokes about pedophilia, while Rock’s monologue, the better and funnier of the two, drew criticism for joking about the Boston Marathon bombing and 9/11. Rock’s stand-up is always hilarious and frequently deemed offensive and both of those aspects were shown off brilliantly here.
5. New Marijuana Policy (Woody Harrelson)
It’s no secret that award-winning actor Woody Harrelson enjoys a little pot, so the New Marijuana Policy sketch was a no brainer for the episode hosted by him about the NYPD’s policy of no longer arresting for a minor amount of marijuana. This news sends the stoners into a frenzy of excitement with all of them spilling out into the streets of New York to celebrate. The funniest moment comes at the end with new cast member Pete Davidson, a noted pot lover himself, starts to light up a joint and the cops explain that the law allows people to carry it on their person, but not actually smoke it in public.
4. Wayne’s World (40th Anniversary Special)
Mike Myers and Dana Carvey’s Wayne’s World sketches are a must-have for any true “Saturday Night Live” fan, so it was not much of a surprise when Myers and Carvey reprised Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar for the 40th anniversary special in February. The sketch featured Wayne and Garth giving one of their famous Top 10 lists with the topic being the appropriate “Top Ten Things About ‘SNL’.” It’s always nice to see two of the greatest characters in ‘SNL’ history again.
3. Herb Welch (Bill Hader)
You always like to see former great cast members return to host “Saturday Night Live” once they’ve left to do other things and Bill Hader returned to the show for his first hosting stint this season after leaving the cast two years ago. Hader was a breath of fresh air during a mostly horrible season and brought back some of his fan-favorite characters like Stefon and Herb Welch. Hader always brings the laughs as the cantankerous newsman Herb Welch who likes to berate his interviewees and occasionally bat them on the head with his microphone.
2. Lincoln Commercials (Jim Carrey)
The greatest sketch of the 40th season that actually came from one of season’s 20 new episodes was Jim Carrey’s hilarious take on the Matthew McConaughey Lincoln car commercials that you frequently see on television. Those commercials just beg for parody and ‘SNL’ did it right. Who knew Carrey has such a spot on McConaughey impression and the pseudo-commercials with him riffing like the real McConaughey does in the real-life commercials was absolutely brilliant. Three fake Lincoln commercials aired during Carrey’s stint as host. He would then reprise his McConaughey impression in the sketch at No. 1 on this list.
1. Celebrity Jeopardy (40th Anniversary Special)
“Celebrity Jeopardy” is potentially the greatest recurring sketch in the legendary 40 year history of “Saturday Night Live” so its reprisal for the 40th anniversary special in February was almost a necessity. The sketch gave the brilliant Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond and Norm Macdonald the opportunity to bring back their uber-hilarious Alex Trebek, Sean Connery and Burt Reynolds impressions and also allowed for other past cast members and famous hosts to show off their impression skills. It almost seems like it’s cheating to include a moment from the 40th anniversary special at No. 1 on this list of the best sketches from the show’s 40th season, but there’s little doubt in my mind that this bit produced the most laughs of any sketch all year.