by Julian Spivey
10. Dr. Anthony Fauci Cold Open (April 25, 2020)
Dr. Anthony Fauci has become something of an American hero during the Covid-19 pandemic and when asked by CNN in April who he would like to see portray him on ‘SNL’ he said Brad Pitt (everyone seems to say Pitt – “Tiger King” Joe Exotic wanted Pitt too). ‘SNL’ and Pitt granted Dr. Fauci his wish on the second At Home episode that aired on April 25 as Pitt starred as Dr. Fauci correcting some of the idiotic statements made by President Donald Trump on Coronavirus. One of the funniest corrections is when President Trump responds to Covid-19 testing being a beautiful thing and Dr. Fauci says, “unless your idea of beauty is having a cotton swab tickle your brain.” The hilarious sketch turns touching at the end when Pitt removes his glasses and wig to thank the real Dr. Fauci and all first responders across America for their service during the pandemic.
9. Joan Song (November 16, 2019)
‘SNL’ had a handful of really good comedy songs this season, but my favorite was “Joan Song” featuring Aidy Bryant in the episode hosted by singer Harry Styles. Song in a really sweet, nerdy voice that Bryant pulls off brilliantly she sings about the love of her life being her chihuahua Doug. My favorite line of the song is “we talk for hours and then I take him out to piss.” Midway through the song turns into a duet when Joan’s chihuahua metamorphosizes into Styles, in one of the more creative CGI moments you’ll ever see from ‘SNL.’ One of my favorite things about the sketch is Styles mimics David Bowie’s voice for Doug the chihuahua, which just seems right.
8. Cecily Strong on Weekend Update (February 8, 2020 & March 7, 2020)
There didn’t seem to be as many great recurring Weekend Update characters this season as in past years, but Cecily Strong was certainly a WU superstar with her recurring characters of Cathy Anne and Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party (her first breakout character on the show in 2012 – it’s hard to believe she’s already been on the show that long). Cathy Anne and ‘Girl at a Party’ are similar in that they seem like incredibly hard characters to portray as both stumble over their words and create new words by combining others and just show off Strong’s excellent gifts as a comedian. Cathy Anne’s most recent appearance was on President Donald Trump’s impeachment in which she hilariously claims, “I wish I could have a trial with no witnesses – but I always have my transgressions in very public places.” The appearance also includes the memorable: “You can do all the crack in the world, but you still can’t out pizza the hut.” ‘Girl at a Party’ about how the Coronavirus pandemic, this was shortly before the entire country essentially shutdown, was “misrespectful and blown so far out of abortion” and spends much of her appearance trying to shove her entire hand into WU anchor Michael Che’s mouth.
7. First Thanksgiving (November 23, 2019)
‘SNL’ had a couple of great sketches this season where they play on the different views on politics from the eyes of differing peoples. Host (and greatest all-time ‘SNL’ cast member, in my opinion) Will Ferrell appears as the Native American grandfather of Pocahontas (played by Melissa Villasenor) and looks upon the white (or “paleface” as he mockingly racist calls them) foreigners entering his country in a parody of how some white people are reacting to immigrants entering the country in today’s world. Ferrell’s Native Americans mimics typical conservative talking points of today and when Pocahontas’ parents (guests Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen) question him on his ignorance he exclaims he got his news from “The Fox,” which “makes a lot more sense than that lying peacock you talk to.” In the end, the Natives and John Smith (played by Beck Bennett) come to the realization that people are basically the same when they all realize none of them can completely digest corn.
6. Sleepover (January 25, 2020)
This was probably Kate McKinnon’s finest moment of season 45 for me. She plays a teenage girl who has wrecked the bathroom at a friend’s house during a sleepover by flushing a sanitary pad in the toilet and going to incredible lengths to cover it up. Adam Driver plays the distressed homeowner just looking to get the truth out of the girls so he can explain what happened to his insurance company. Driver’s descriptions of the lengths McKinnon’s character went to are hilarious, as are her reactions.
5. American Households (December 14, 2019)
Being an election year almost every “Saturday Night Live” cold opening was political and even though this has been the show’s bread and butter for much of its run I think most of us can admit we’re tiring of attempting humor out of the mess that is politics in this country. The show did an admirable job with its coverage of the many Democratic candidate debates, but I believe it’s smartest take of the year came in the episode hosted by Scarlett Johansson when it opened on three different types of households and their reactions to the impeachment of President Donald Trump. You had the stereotypical white liberal take where everyone is thrilled with the impeachment, the stereotypical white conservative family that feels the Democrats are attempting a coup and then a black family (where the real humor of the sketch comes through) who’d rather talk about “Bad Boy 3,” because they know white America is just going to give Pres. Trump a pass and then re-elect him.
4. Airport Sushi (February 29, 2020)
Every time stand-up comedian and former ‘SNL’ writer John Mulaney returns to host the show – this was his third hosting stint – he breaks out an elaborate Broadway tribute featuring some of the worst aspects of New York (memorably previously doing a musical on bodega bathrooms). This time he went full on epic tribute to Broadway taking on La Guardia Airport. Pete Davidson attempts to buy airport sushi for his flight and the event begins with the “Phantom of La Guardia” – played by Kenan Thompson as a goose hit by Sully Sullenberger’s “Miracle on the Hudson” plane – parodying “The Phantom of the Opera.” Throughout the incredible sketch there are parodies of numbers from “West Side Story,” “Annie,” “Wicked,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and then the week’s musical guest David Byrne joins the group with a parody of “Road to Nowhere” from his own Broadway show “American Utopia.” It’s truly a marvel, especially for anyone who might be a theater nerd.
3. The War in Words: William & Lydia (October 5, 2019)
Mikey Day’s “Letters From the Front” is a bit that I’ve loved ever since the first time I saw it on the short-lived summer variety series “Maya & Marty” in 2016 before Day was a cast member on ‘SNL’ (he was a writer on the show at the time though). It’s also one that has only been done a small number of times between “Maya & Marty” and ‘SNL.’ Day and the show brilliantly pulled out the sketch for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who’s comedic delivery is absolutely perfect as the ditzy British wife receiving correspondence from her solider on the front with responses like “I miss out dog too” when her husband talks about how he misses everybody at home, even the mutt. Day is absolutely brilliantly with the building distressed experienced by his character after so many letters to his life return with stunningly dense responses.
2. Medieval Times (January 25, 2020)
Adam Driver has hosted ‘SNL’ three times since 2016 and has quickly risen to become one of my favorite repeat hosts of the show. Driver is also perhaps the most unique ‘SNL’ host I’ve ever seen because he brings the same intensity with which he plays Oscar-nominated dramatic roles to his job as host, which leads to just incredible moments like this season when he played a fake knight at a Medieval Times type restaurant, but does so as a method actor trying to truly immerse himself into the role with homemade outfit and weapons to boot.
1. Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood (December 21, 2019)
Eddie Murphy returning to “Saturday Night Live” to host an episode for the first time since leaving the show almost four decades ago was truly a gift for longtime fans of the legendary sketch comedy show. Having Murphy come back was great enough, but we all wondered for months after the announcement whether or not he’d bring back classic characters that were so old. He didn’t disappoint as he brought back Buckwheat, Gumby, Velvet Jones and my absolute favorite of the night Mr. Robinson. Coming shortly after Tom Hanks’ Oscar-nominated portrayal of Fred Rogers in the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Murphy reprised Mr. Robinson, a parody of Mr. Rogers featuring a black man in a poor neighborhood. Well, a lot has changed to Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood since the early ‘80s and it leads to probably my favorite line of the best sketch of the season in: “Can you say gentrification, boys and girls? It’s like a magic trick. The white people pay a lot of money and all the black people disappear.” It was great seeing something with so much nostalgia still be so incredibly funny so many years later.