I like to think I’m smart, but when it comes to pop-culture references, I’m dismally behind the times. Last year alone, I was amazed to learn that “POTUS” stood for “President of the United States” and had to ask who Paul McCartney was, so it should come as no surprise to you to learn that I had also never heard of Saturday Night Live.
My journey to America’s longest-running sketch-comedy show was about as roundabout as could be (Parks & Recreation → Yes Please → Bossypants → 30 Rock → Ghostbusters → Kate McKinnon’s IMDb page → half of season 38 before it left Netflix), but once I found it, I loved it. I loved the humor and the energy and the risk of performing live, but most of all, I loved the goodbyes.
As a newly-christened post-grad adjusting to life after college, watching everyone pile onstage to hug and laugh and cry made me ache, not for glamor and fame, but for my chosen family of friends and professors I’d been forced to leave behind. I saw everyone hugging, and I wanted to belong.
I won’t ever stand on that stage or walk those hallowed halls, but eight months and twenty-one episodes later, I do feel like I belong. I belong to the SNL fandom.
Here’s a look back on my favorite moments from season 42.
#15 – Bobby’s Moynihan’s Last Drunk Uncle
Weekend Update is full of pop culture icons (Stefon, Roseanne Roseannadanna, Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy), and Drunk Uncle is one of my favorites. Bobby Moynihan perfectly parodies the people on my Facebook feed who stress me tf out while still managing to make them lovable. Part of me is sad to have joined the SNL party at the end of Bobby’s run, but the rest of me is grateful I got to witness his last Drunk Uncle (as a cast member) live.
#14 – Cecilia Gimenez Talks the Bust of Cristiano Ronaldo
I’m hopelessly biased, but Kate McKinnon’s characters are my favorite Update guests. This season featured all the old favorites (including Olya Povlatsky) and introduced a few new ones (most notably Senator Elizabeth Warren), but the one that made me laugh the loudest was the return of the Ecce Homo Jesus painter, Cecilia Gimenez.
#13 – Scarlett Johansson’s Trump-Loving Pug
Sketches on SNL are often hit-or-miss. Sometimes the writing’s great, but the host can’t sell it; other times the host is great, but the jokes fall flat. Occasionally, though, everything clicks — like in this sketch from episode 16 — and when it does, the results are hilarious.
#12 – Melanianade
Beyoncé, political commentary, and the women of SNL — what’s not to love about this Lemonade parody?
#11 – Kellyanne Conway’s Day Off
I love all of Kate’s Kellyanne sketches, but this debut impression is my favorite because it’s smart and funny without being too on-the-nose (because, you know, Trump kind of made that impossible). It pokes fun at Trump, the media, and the craziness of the election, but it also humanizes Kellyanne Conway, which — let’s be honest – is a feat I thought impossible.
#10 – The Second Presidential Debate
I haven’t been able to laugh at the debate parodies since the election, but Kate’s awkward leaning and Alec’s shark-like stalking still deserve a spot on this list. Also — can I get an amen on Cecily’s opening line?
#9 – Cold Open, Saturday Before the Election
“By the third debate, it had become so blech and toxic, there was nothing more we could say,” Kate recently said about this cold open in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “We just wanted to remind everyone that we all live in the same country and that there still is goodness in the world because I think we had all lost sight of it.” Amen.
#8 – The Return of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Kate McKinnon has been the real MVP this season, and when it comes to political impressions, there’s nothing she can’t do. Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Kellyanne Conway, Betsy DeVos, a sheepish Jeff Sessions — it doesn’t matter if they’re German or American, Republican or Democrat — she’s got ’em nailed. But perhaps my favorite impression (at least, when it comes to laugh-factor) is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her November Update visit added some much-needed humor to my post-election mood.
#7 – Hillary Actually
I blame this sketch for my odd sense of affection & tenderness toward Hillary Clinton.
#6 – Jingle Barack
One of my favorite things about SNL is that it manages to make me giggle even while I’m low-key panicking at the thought of the months to come. This Christmas reminder that “Barack’s still here” was the perfect way to close out a disheartening year.
#5 – Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer Impression
Radical moose lambs. ‘Nuff said 😂😂👌🏼
#4 – Thank You, Scott
I’m not saying that “you fight for our rights while you’re on the toilet” is my favorite line of the season, but… it’s my favorite line of the season.
#3 – Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks
I can’t decide which I love more — Tom’s grizzled performance or Kenan’s astonished expressions.
#2 – Christmas Miracle
If you haven’t met Colleen Rafferty, you’re seriously missing out. This third installment of the misadventures of Kate’s chain-smoking abductee was indeed a Christmas miracle, and wins my vote for best sketch of the season.
#1 – Post-Election Cold Open
As funny as SNL has been this year, it isn’t Ms. Rafferty or Drunk Uncle or even Ruth Bader Ginsburg that comes to mind when I think about this season. Instead, it’s Kate’s teary-eyed cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” the Saturday after the election. I’ve written about it before and I’m sure I’ll write about it again, but for now, suffice it to say, it was a formative experience.
Over the past eight months, Saturday Night Live has become more than a comedy show to me. It’s made me laugh when I could barely smile, encouraged me to care about politics, and given me something to look forward to amidst the fog of depression. I’d say that’s pretty remarkable.
Here’s to a great season.
“Greatest Hits” honorable mentions:
- Whiskers’R’We with Kristen Wiig
- Kellyanne Conway (Chicago Musical Spoof)
- Totinos with Kristen Stewart
- Republican Movie Trailer
- Just Desserts (5 solid minutes of Melissa McCarthy getting pied in the face)