by Julian Spivey
The 41st season of “Saturday Night Live” wasn’t really one of the all-time great seasons of the show providing hit or miss comedy much of the time with its misses missing big time and its hits coming a little too infrequent and ultimately not much from the entire season standing out above the crowd. There were some real highlights like Tracy Morgan making his return to Studio 8H for the first time following almost losing his life in a horrible car accident in 2014 and some of the show’s all-time lowest lows like letting Republican Presidential nominee (at the time a hopeful) Donald Trump host the show.
10. Fred Armisen’s Monologue
Monologues are something that ‘SNL’ pays too little attention to almost as if the show feels the monologue is archaic and something they just do because it’s tradition. For this reason, the host’s monologue is typically one of the weakest aspects of each show. But this wasn’t the case with ‘SNL’ alum Fred Armisen during the season finale. Armisen provided the audience with a taste of a one-man show about his ‘SNL’ audition and did so in his typically absurd manner. I don’t know if a lot of people enjoy Armisen because he’s not your average “set-up/punchline” comedian, but his uniqueness really cracks me up.
I like it when ‘SNL’ can take something that’s an annoyance in real-life that the majority of us have experienced at least once and play off of it. The show did that brilliantly in the penultimate episode of the season hosted by hip-hop star Drake when Drake and Jay Pharoah played Rent-A-Car employees trying to explain to a honeymooning couple played by Beck Bennett and Vanessa Bayer that they don’t currently have any cars available, despite the couple having pre-ordered one. The set-up for the sketch doesn’t necessarily sound as if it would be one of the 10 best of the season, but the spot on performances by Drake and Pharoah really provide the laughs because it hits home so well for many of us.
8. Democratic Debate
Election years are years that ‘SNL’ writers and cast members always seem to live for – you always expect a little more from those seasons. ‘SNL’ was unfortunately a little hit-or-miss this season with the politics – maybe because the real-life politics were so laughable in their own right that they were hard to lampoon. But, the one thing ‘SNL’ got right every single time this season was the absolute perfect casting of comedian/actor Larry David as Democratic presidential nominee hopeful Bernie Sanders. David cameoed on the show multiple times throughout the season, which included his first ever hosting stint, as well. His first appearance came in the cold open of the season’s third episode hosted by Tracy Morgan and the spot-on performance (it helps that David is curmudgeonly himself) instantly took America by storm.
7. Bar Talk
Another political highlight from ‘SNL’ this season came in the show’s premiere episode hosted by pop star Miley Cyrus when Kate McKinnon, probably the show’s MVP at the moment, got the chance to show off her terrific Hillary Clinton impression. No disrespect to Amy Poehler or Ana Gasteyer, but McKinnon’s is the all-time great ‘SNL’ Hillary Clinton impression. The great part about McKinnon’s first appearance as Clinton this season was she got to face off against the real-life Hillary Clinton, who played a bartender listening to Clinton’s woes as she was having to face a hard-charging Bernie Sanders. The real-life Clinton was shockingly pretty good at playing dress-up on a comedy show.
6. Brian Fellows/Astronaut Jones
The best thing about former ‘SNL’ cast members returning to the show to host episodes is the hope of seeing recurring characters they played while on the show for the first time in many years. Tracy Morgan had two lovable recurring characters during his time on the show – Brian Fellows and Astronaut Jones. Morgan’s hosting stint on ‘SNL’ this season was a bit of an emotional homecoming for the comedian, who almost lost his life in a tragic car accident in the summer of 2014. Seeing Morgan come back home to ‘SNL’ and kickass with these hilarious characters we’ve always loved seeing him play was perhaps the show’s greatest moment of the season. By the way, I still know every word to the Astronaut Jones theme song by heart.
5. FBI Simulator
Every now and then there is something on ‘SNL’ that you know you shouldn’t laugh at or enjoy, but is so ridiculous that you can’t help but love it. One of these sketches occurred this season during the episode hosted by Larry David when the comedian known for his grumpiness played a fake criminal in a FBI simulator named Kevin Roberts. Seeing David dressed in a bright orange suit with matching tie and orange-tinted shades and spouting off lunacy like “Can a bitch get a donut?” was just too outlandish not to hit me right in the funnies. What really set the sketch over the top though was something that didn’t even air live on ‘SNL,’ but was released a few days later online when the show released the blooper reel showing that David couldn’t get through the bit one time without cracking himself up all through rehearsals – he performed it perfectly on the live show.
4. Thanksgiving Miracle
Everybody loves Adele. That’s the premise of this laugh out loud bit that aired right before Thanksgiving last year in an episode hosted by Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey. A family has gathered for their annual Thanksgiving dinner, but like with many family get-togethers things go array with discussions of politics, racial issues and the like. That’s where Adele comes in. A child, upset with the family fighting, goes to a CD player and turns on Adele’s newest album and voila everybody at the table is instantly in a good mood. The truly hilarious part of the sketch is the family members lip synching to “Hello.”
3. Mercedes AA Class
Every season ‘SNL’ throws out a fake commercial or two that can rival the all-time great fake commercials throughout the show’s legendary history. The one that was hands-down the greatest this season came during the episode hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which was unfortunately the only funny bit of her entire episode, when it mocked both electric cars and car commercials with a car completely powered by thousands of AA batteries. It’s the all-at-once ejection option when all the batteries need to be replaced that will really have your side splitting.
2. Close Encounter
Kate McKinnon is a national treasure. She’s the one cast member on ‘SNL’ that seemingly can make you laugh every time she takes the stage, even if the sketch she appears in isn’t particularly great. She not only has a habit of cracking the audience up, but also her cast mates, which often makes for truly memorable moments like with the Close Encounter sketch during the Ryan Gosling episode. The sketch itself really wouldn’t have been anything special without McKinnon’s outlandishness, which forced everybody else in the scene with her (Gosling, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant and Bobby Moynihan) to lose it at least a little bit during the sketch. McKinnon, Strong and Gosling play people who’ve been abducted by aliens and are answering questions from Bryant and Moynihan about their experiences. McKinnon’s experience wasn’t so great – but leads to the performance of the year by a ‘SNL’ cast member. The bit was so great they brought it back again in a later episode hosted by recent Oscar-winner Brie Larson.
1. The Standoff
The third episode of the ‘SNL’ season that marked Tracy Morgan’s comeback to comedy after the horrific car accident in 2014 that almost took his life was potentially the most anticipated ‘SNL’ episode ever for me and it truly did live up to that anticipation, something that isn’t always the case. Morgan is at his absolute best when he takes the approach of playing a tough guy and then turns it on its head. This was the case during a pre-taped bit called “The Standoff” when his character hits on a woman at a bar (Sasheer Zamata) and offends her boyfriend (Taran Killam). Killam confronts Morgan, who gets all tough and asks, “you want to tango or something?” Killam’s character obviously think he means to fight, but Morgan’s character actually just wants to dance. The way it all plays out and Morgan’s all-in performance truly made this the funniest sketch of the season for me.
What was your favorite sketch from “Saturday Night Live” this season?