Live from New York, it’s 45 years of Saturday night! Since its debut on October 11, 1975, SNL has altered the way we look at weekends — as well as pop culture and politics.
The late night show famously casts a comical lens on current events through dead-on impressions mixed with quippy one-liners from over-the-top characters. Known for its intense, fast-paced writers’ room, many sketches have become so ingrained in our culture that its characters have even made their way to the big screen (like Wayne’s World, The Blues Brothers, and A Night at the Roxbury). Plus the NBC show has become a breeding ground for some of the greatest comedians of the last four decades (Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy, and Jimmy Fallon to name a few).
Created and still executive produced by Canadian-American Lorne Michaels, the variety sketch show holds the highest honors in several late-night TV categories: longest-running, most Emmy-nominated, and highest-rated weekly.
So here, for the show’s 45th anniversary, we're taking a trip down memory lane in 30 Rock’s Studio 8H to look at 45 of the best sketches.
1. Weekend Update (October 11, 1975)
The only sketch to appear on every episode of SNL, "Weekend Update" started with Chevy Chase behind the news desk for the show’s inaugural episode. Conceived by Herb Sargent and Chase, who was a writer at the time, it was originally meant to feature Lorne Michaels on camera as the anchor. “I’d done the equivalent of ‘Weekend Update’ in Canada,” the SNL creator told Deadline. “But as we got closer to the air show, I began to realize that I didn’t think I could be the person who cut other people’s pieces and left my own in. So I gave ‘Weekend Update’ to Chevy.” Chase anchored the segment for just 31 episodes during the first two seasons (including the above 1976 episode), but he set the tone for the next four decades, with ridiculous bits like a recurring update that “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead” and his own catchphrase, “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.” The segment was briefly renamed “SNL NewsBreak” and “Saturday Night News” in the '80s, but it quickly went back to its original title.
2. The Judy Miller Show (1977)
Gilda Radner donned a Brownie uniform and rewound time to play the delightfully awkward little girl Judy Miller, who hosted her own talk show from her frilly pink bedroom, playing every character — from the French Queen to a ballerina — and even staging her own commercials. The recurring character also returned with a show dedicated to hating her sister Jennifer — that is, until Jennifer wanted to play Barbies. Radner was so dedicated to the role that she once bruised her ribs during rehearsal and still slammed her body into walls and doors as Judy for the live show right after the incident. This series kicked off a trend of regular kid characters, like Jonah Hill as Adam Grossman, Amy Poehler as Kaitlyn, and Heidi Gardner as teen movie critic Bailey Gismert.
3. Coneheads (1977-1979)
Among the most visually recognizable SNL characters are the bald, pointy-headed, monotone-voiced Coneheads, hailing from the planet Remulak. The sketches — with Jane Curtain as homemaker mom Prymaat, Dan Aykroyd as driving instructor dad Beldar, and Laraine Newman as teen daughter Connie — premiered in 1977 and followed the family at home, on outings to the movies, and most memorably on Family Feud (seen here in a 1978 episode). Decades later, Curtain and Aykroyd reunited to bring the aliens to the big screen in a 1993 film. Alas, the movie was a critical flop: The New York Times review said it was “squarely aimed at those who found Wayne’s World too demanding.”
4. Roseanne Roseannadanna (1978-1980)
Inspired by New York City local ABC news anchor Rose Ann Scamardella, Radner put on her big hair and brash attitude to play Weekend Update correspondent Roseanne Roseannadanna starting in 1978. Each segment started with her dissing New Jersey, in the form of answering a letter from Richard Feder from Fort Lee. Then, no matter what she was covering, somehow Roseannadanna would end up telling long-winded, off-topic stories that grossed out “Weekend Update” correspondent Jane Curtain. Actress Emma Stone donned the wig and recreated Radner’s character on SNL's 40th anniversary special in 2015.
5. Point/Counterpoint (1978-1979)
At the time this sketch premiered, the newsmagazine program 60 Minutes featured a debate segment called Point/Counterpoint, which was primed for an SNL parody. Curtain and Aykroyd took sides on “Weekend Update,” mouthing off on current issues such as the famous Lee Marvin and Michelle Triola palimony lawsuit in 1979 — this was the sketch where Aykroyd famously countered with “Jane, you ignorant slut.” The segment made a comeback in 2001 with the ultimate East Coast baseball face-off: Seth Meyers, as a Boston Red Sox fan, and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter argued the premise “Derek Jeter sucks” versus “No, I don’t.”
6. The Blues Brothers (1978)
Technically they were the musical guests. But since this performance featured two cast members in character, it was kind of a sketch as well. In any case, the Blues Brothers — Aykroyd as harmonica player Elwood Blues and John Belushi as state prison alum singer “Joliet” Jake Blues — defied both musical and comedy genres.
The real-life pals met at Toronto’s Second City before becoming part of SNL’s inaugural cast in 1975. While they came up with the idea for these characters in a club in November 1973, it was SNL composer Howard Shore who gave them the name Blues Brothers. Michaels didn’t believe they were ready for their close-up, but he let them warm up the audiences before tapings — and eventually put them on the January 17, 1976, show, but dressed as insects for a “Killer Bees” sketch. Finally, two years later on April 22, 1978, the Blues Brothers took the stage performing “Hey, Bartender” and “Soul Man.” The characters went on to appear in two movies — The Blues Brothers in 1980 and Blues Brothers 2000 — and on numerous albums, with various lineups, after Belushi’s 1982 death.
7. The Nerds (1978)
From noogies to mosquito bite-sized breast jokes, the Nerds sketches were chock-full of one-liners that were, well, nerdy (like “that’s so funny I forgot to laugh”). The sketch’s high school couple Todd DiLaMuca and Lisa Loopner were played by then-real-life couple Bill Murray and Gilda Radner and offered a light-hearted and sweet look at the awkwardness of teen romance.
8. Buckwheat (1981-1984)
Eddie Murphy’s impression of the Our Gang/Little Rascals character Buckwheat could do everything. In his first appearance, he sang. Later, he hawked his own line of Buckwheat Jeans with his trademark saying, “Otay,” on the back pocket. The character became so popular that Murphy killed him off in a mock ABC Nightline news segment after fearing that he’d be typecast as that one character. Even so, Buckwheat continued to be mentioned. When Murphy returned as a host in 1984, he alluded to the fact that the death was faked. And when he returned again in 2019, Buckwheat reappeared during a Masked Singer sketch, singing an awful rendition of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” from under a corn cob costume.
9. April May June (1982)
Before she was dancing up a storm as Elaine on Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus honed her comedy chops as a cast member from 1982 to 1985. One of her most memorable characters was the evangelist April May June, whose memorable moments included a Christmas message with her own retelling of Jesus’ birth and a pledge drive plea where she recounted details of her recent missionary travels. Louis-Dreyfus has since spoken out about her time on SNL, calling it “brutal” and “very sexist” (case in point: the last half of the pledge drive sketch).
10. Gumby (1982-1984)
He’s Gumby, dammit! Only Murphy could give the green 1950s clay animation character new pop culture significance as a showbiz diva, perhaps best captured in this 1983 season nine sketch where he directs his own life story. When Murphy returned to host in 2019, he slipped back into the pliable costume to interrupt Colin Jost and Michael Che on “Weekend Update.” “I’m the one who made that Eddie Murphy a star,” Gumby chirped at the current hosts. “How the hell are people not going to know who I am?! I’m Gumby, dammit! I saved this damn show from the gutter!”
11. White Like Me (1984)
“A lot of people talk about racial prejudice. Some people have gone so far as to say there are two Americas — one Black and one white — but talk is cheap,” Eddie Murphy declared at the beginning of this mockumentary, where he went undercover as a white man. He claimed he prepped for the role by watching “lots of Dynasty” and reading “a whole bunch of Hallmark cards.” Once in character, he found a dance party on the bus after the other Black man got off, and said that “when white people are alone, they give things to each other for free.”
12. The Church Lady (1986-1990)
As the host of the fictional Church Chat, Enid Strict — better known as the Church Lady — interviewed celebrities in order to call them out for their sins and judgmentally berate them. Created by and portrayed by Dana Carvey, the Church Lady doled out advice while sitting in front of a stained glass window in her purple and blue dress suit. In one memorable episode, after telling “Shirley MacLaine” (played by Jan Hooks) that she didn't “think the Heavenly Father [was] a sassy little redhead,” she completed a quick football pass with Joe Montana and Walter Payton, who were on to promote the 1987 Super Bowl. But perhaps the Church Lady’s biggest cultural impact was her snarky catchphrase: “Well, isn’t that special?”
13. Wayne's World (1989-1994)
“Wayne’s World! Wayne’s World! Party time! Excellent!” Mike Myers first debuted the metal-loving character Wayne Campbell on the CBC show It’s Only Rock & Roll, in a segment called “Wayne’s Power Minute.” When he joined SNL in 1989, he recruited Dana Carvey to join him in the basement as Garth, and the two doofuses hosted their own public access show in Aurora, Illinois. The beloved sketches eventually moved from the couch to the big screen, with two films, Wayne’s World in 1992 and Wayne’s World 2 in 1993. The car singalong scene of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the first movie was so popular that the song flew back up the charts to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, Wayne’s World was how future Queen singer Adam Lambert was first exposed to the band’s music. Party on!
14. Nikey Turkey (1990)
During his first season on SNL, a young Chris Rock starred in a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air-like rap video that acted as a faux Nike commercial. What was he advertising? A Nikey Turkey that, like the pump sneakers of its day, required Thanksgiving dinner-goers to “Pump It!” to feed the table. Apparently the pilgrims also pumped their bird.
15. Simon (1990-1994)
Inspired by the British children’s show Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, Mike Myers’ young Simon was also British but broadcast his shows from the bathtub. Simon would share his childlike drawings, but they were often filled with oddball violent scenes. He also spent an inordinate amount of time asking his audience, “Are you looking at my bum?” and laughing it off with “cheeky monkey!” Guests like Macaulay Culkin and Danny DeVito joined him in the tub to share their “drawwwerings.”
16. Coffee Talk (1991-1994)
"Coffee Talk" was one of the most influential sketches of SNL — discuss. Mike Myers played Linda Richman, the over-the-top host of a public access show. A Brooklynite based on his then-mother-in-law (a fact that the real Linda Richman absolutely loved), the character would get “all verklempt” discussing things she was obsessed with — specifically Barbra Streisand. (“Her voice, it’s like buttah!”)
17. Daily Affirmation (1991-1995)
Need a dose of inspiration? Look no further than the mock self-care show Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley, starring Al Franken. Smalley calmly worked to replace your negative thoughts and self-doubt with positive affirmations, like his trademark: “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” In one 1991 segment, he imposed his mindset on Michael Jordan (though Jordan turned the tables on him). The character sparked a 1992 book and the 1995 movie Stuart Saves His Family. Though it was seen as a box office flop, Stuart would never see it as a failure … even if denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
18. Deep Thoughts (1991-1998)
Fade in: “And now, Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.” Motivational poster-like stock footage soundtracked with ethereal music set the scene for scrolling, quasi-philosophical musings by Jack Handey, a writer for the show who fairly often had to assure people that was his real name. A likely contender for shortest sketch series (or perhaps tied with The Weeknd’s 2016 Weeknd Update), the recurring sketch featured memorable lines including these from the “Family Vacation” episode: “I remember a bigger, older guy we called ‘Dad.’ We’d eat some stuff, or not, and then I think we went home. I guess some things never leave you.”
19. Matt Foley (1993-1997)
He’s 35 years old, thrice divorced, and lives in a van down by the river. Chris Farley’s character Matt Foley might be one of the most depressing motivational speakers imaginable, but he was also the funniest. Created by SNL writer Bob Odenkirk (now best known as Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame), Foley brought his brand of loud, tough love to people at a gym and in prison. “[There’s] a lot more to it when Chris did it, and he made that character whole,” Odenkirk told The Chicago Reader. “It's not a gimmick. You felt like there was a real person in that character.” Rolling Stone ranked it the top SNL sketch of all time in its 2014 list.
20. The Chanukah Song (December 3, 1994)
Adam Sandler didn't just create a funny “Weekend Update” appearance with his song for Jewish kids who don’t have enough songs to sing about their winter holiday — he entered holiday radio infamy, as “The Chanukah Song” still gets put in rotation each December. In his signature warble, Sandler lists out some of the many famous people who are Jewish. With memorable lines like “Paul Newman’s half Jewish, and Goldie Hawn’s half too. Put them together, what a fine looking Jew!” and “So drink your gin and tonic-ah, and smoke your marijuani-kkah,” it’s enough to make anyone want to put on their yarmulkes to celebrate the eight crazy nights.
21. Spartan Cheerleaders (1995-1997)
The electric combination of Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri as Spartan cheerleaders Craig and Ariana was so electric that the humor just tumbled out of them, whether they were seven hours early for cheerleading auditions or at a chess tournament. Future cast member Kate McKinnon called it one of her all-time favorites in Rolling Stone, because it’s a “man and a woman trying to be cool and just selling the crap that they’ve got.” Proof of their pop culture significance? They have their own Funko Pop collectible figurines.
22. Mary Katherine Gallagher (1995-2001)
On paper, awkward Catholic school girl Mary Katherine Gallagher was funny enough to make it onto the list to rehearse on Saturday before the show. But the sketch was at the bottom, making it likely to be one of the first to get cut — that is, until Molly Shannon demonstrated who Mary Katherine was in rehearsal. “I really showed 'em what it was, that she was going to fall and it was physical, and she would jump and jump into chairs,” Shannon told Today. Whether she was in a spelling bee, auditioning for West Side Story, or trying to join a gang, she showed her competitive sass. Shannon’s Gallagher even landed her own 1999 movie, Superstar.
23. The Roxbury Guys (1996-1998)
Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan were hanging out at a bar when they noticed a particular type of guy hanging around. “He was holding a beer, and to the beat he was looking for some girl to hopefully look at him so that moment can happen of some sort of connection,” Kattan told The Hollywood Reporter. “He danced to the music kind of waiting. We thought it was funny to see this guy with a beer sort of dancing, but waiting for someone to notice him dance.” Thus the Roxbury Guys were born. When Jim Carrey hosted in May 1996, he joined Ferrell and Kattan, and the three opened the skit by bobbing their heads to Haddaway’s Eurodance banger “What is Love?” The sketch spawned the 1998 comedy flick A Night at the Roxbury.
24. Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet (1999-2003)
He loved animals and they loved him back. In this recurring skit, Safari Planet host Brian Fellow asked all the questions you wondered about most — that is, if you ever wondered, “How many cigarettes does the beaver smoke?” or “Does this donkey fix cars?” In true Tracy Morgan style, this nature show parody was anything but expected. After all, as the intro of the segments stated, Fellow was not an accredited zoologist and only had a sixth-grade education. That just might explain why his default answer was so often, “I’m Brian Fellow.”
25. More Cowbell (2000)
“I put my pants on, just like the rest of you, one leg at a time. Except once my pants are on, I make gold records,” host Christopher Walken memorably declared as producer Bruce Dickinson. A fictionalized reimagining of the real-life band Blue Ӧyster Cult (played by Will Ferrell, Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan, Chris Parnell, and Jimmy Fallon), this sketch found the group in the studio to record their hit “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” Walken’s Dickinson was focused on one thing: “More cowbell!” The 20-year-old sketch has had a lasting effect on Walken’s life. In 2019, Ferrell said Walken once told him, “The other day I went for an Italian food lunch and the waiter asked if I wanted more cowbell with my pasta bolognese.”
26. Debbie Downer (2004-2006)
Rachel Dratch introduced her Debbie Downer character, who could only see the downside of every situation, in a 2004 sketch set at a Walt Disney World family vacation. Debbie worried about mad cow disease and terrorist attacks, as characters like Pluto and Tigger ran around carefree. Every negative statement was enhanced with a cartoonish “wah-wah” sound. Appropriately, the character was brought back in a 2020 coronavirus-themed sketch, in which she wore a gas mask to a wedding reception.
27. SNL Digital Shorts (2005-2018)
Most of these stand-alone segments, which were shot ahead of time on location, are attributed to Lonely Island — the name of the comedy group started by former cast member Andy Samberg and SNL writers Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. Primed to go viral, the first one aired December 3, 2005, and showed two friends mourning a loss by eating heads of lettuce. But the shorts really started to pick up online traction with a rap called “Lazy Sunday,” in which Samberg and Chris Parnell juxtaposed their rap skills with the sweet activities of buying Magnolia cupcakes and watching The Chronicles of Narnia on the Upper West Side. Other popular Digital Shorts from the trio include “I’m on a Boat,” “Like a Boss,” and the Laser Cats series.
28. Target Lady (2005-2013)
Sporting a red vest and a haircut that looked like a full head of bangs, Kristen Wiig played a way too loud — and way too honest — Target cashier, much to the annoyance of customers who ended up in her lane. She reminded one that the fertilizer they were buying was part dirt and part feces, and told another that her hair was so long, it would look like a Kaiser roll tied up. “I have a special place in my heart for the Target Lady, simply because I did her at Groundlings before I got SNL,” Wiig told Variety in 2017. “I did her in my audition and I remember being so nervous having the sketch at the table read and thinking to myself, ‘If this doesn’t go well, then how am I going to do on the show?’”
29. D*** in a Box (2006)
In the great tradition of ‘90s R&B music videos, this Christmas-themed romantic ballad found Andy Samberg and host Justin Timberlake singing about a very personal holiday gift for a lover. After shooting an entire Friday until 3 a.m., they were told by the FCC that they couldn’t say the world d*** on air. Eventually, they found a compromise: They could air the Digital Short, but only if they bleeped out the word. “The irony of that is that bleeped-out version, I think, is the funnier version,” Timberlake told The Hollywood Reporter of the 16 bleeps. A sequel, “Motherlover,” about Mother’s Day gifts, followed in 2009, with Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clark playing the characters' moms.
30. Really!?! With Seth and Amy (2006-2008)
Reflecting the exasperated feelings we all have about the news, “Weekend Update” co-anchors Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler used this recurring segment to rhetorically ask the many questions that run through our heads when we see a ridiculous headline, all the while throwing up their hands and shouting “Really!?!” When Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was caught in a corruption scandal, an irritated Poehler gave him some unsolicited advice on his grooming habits: “The hair — really?! It looks like you’re wearing a toupee that’s also wearing a toupee.” Meyers continued the segment during his solo anchoring years and also brought it back in 2018, joining new "Weekend Update" anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che to discuss Kanye West and Donald Trump’s meeting.
31. MacGruber (2007-2010)
Ticking time bombs were no distraction for wannabe action hero MacGruber, a parody of the '80s television drama MacGyver. Played by Will Forte, MacGruber focused on the minutiae during high-pressure moments, whether it involved a workplace rumor, sensitivity training, or simply a guitar. MacGruber was far less skilled than his inspiration though — his sketches always inevitably ended with an explosion (as did his 2010 film, which bombed at the box office).
32. Sarah Palin (2008)
Tina Fey was SNL’s first female head writer, but she’d already left the show by the time the 2008 election cycle was in full swing. However, when Republican nominee John McCain chose Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, people began to take note of Fey's resemblance to the politician. (Even Fey’s 3-year-old daughter would often mistake the governor for her mom.) Fey returned as a guest throughout the election cycle, and her folksy, winking, “freakishly spot-on” impersonation won both her and the show widespread acclaim. In one cold open featuring Fey’s impression, the camera suddenly flashed to Lorne Michaels watching the monitor backstage with the real Palin. “Lorne, I just didn’t think it was a realistic depiction of the way my press conferences would have gone,” Palin quipped, just before Alec Baldwin came by and mistook her for Fey.
33. Stefon (2008-2013)
Stefon had everything: perfectly side-swiped locks, a forest green Ed Hardy shirt, secrets to all the NYC hotspots, and the cutest giggle this side of wherever the hottest new club was. Cast member Bill Hader and writer John Mulaney came up with the clubber-influencer character Stefon by combining a club owner Mulaney knew and a barista Hader came across in Chelsea. Although he debuted in a sketch as Ben Affleck’s character’s brother, Stefon found his footing behind the “Weekend Update” desk, particularly when Mulaney would change the cue cards for the live shows, adding details like “three screaming babies in Mozart wigs,” so that Hader would break character and have to attempt to read the ridiculous additions with a straight face. In Stefon’s final episode, when he was set to wed Anderson Cooper at a ceremony attended by everyone Stefon ever mentioned (including DJ Baby Bok Choy), Seth Meyers rushed in to stop the wedding and run off with Stefon.
34. Dooneese on The Lawrence Welk Show (2008-2013)
Featuring one of the catchiest tunes in SNL history, the recurring spoof of The Lawrence Welk Show featured Fred Armisen as the famed band leader, complete with a baton in hand and bubbles around him, introducing the Maharelle sisters from the Finger Lakes. (Which one? “The longest dirtiest one.”) The lovely singing and bobbing sisters — who have been played by Amy Poehler, Casey Wilson, Jenny Slate, Abby Elliott, Vanessa Bayer, Nasim Pedrad, Maya Rudolph, Cecily Strong, and Ana Gasteyer — were then interrupted by Kristen Wiig as Dooneese, the fourth sister, who had unnaturally tiny hands, a large forehead, and a rambling potty mouth.
35. Drunk Uncle (2011-2015)
When writer Colin Jost asked Bobby Moynihan if he had any ideas for a “Weekend Update” character, he knew he had a drunk voice in his repertoire. “Maybe a Drunk Uncle-type thing?” he blurted out without thinking. They wrote the first sketch in 15 minutes and it quickly became a recurring character. “At first Drunk Uncle was very calm and quiet, very sedate,” Moynihan told Rolling Stone in 2014. “Now it’s about trying to go as crazy as possible.”
36. RBG (2012-2020)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's status as a pop culture icon in the latter years of her life was no doubt helped along by Kate McKinnon's SNL portrayal of her, which started in 2012 and hilariously included signature “Gins-burns.” In addition to her frequent appearances on “Weekend Update” (Jost called her “spry”), she starred in a 2018 rap video with Pete Davidson and Chris Redd, as well as in a home workout video. Dressed in RBG’s trademark black robe and white lace collar, McKinnon’s Ginsburg was particularly hip and witty, not unlike the real RBG. SNL and McKinnon paid tribute to the late justice with a solemn send-off during their season premiere on October 3, 2020.
37. Five-Timers Club (2013-2019)
Leave it to Tom Hanks to come up with the concept of the Five-Timers Club. “It was his idea, actually, that there was this private club where only people who had hosted five times just met up and spent time,” Lorne Michaels told The New York Times. So when Justin Timberlake collected enough hosting gigs on March 9, 2013, it seemed like the perfect launching pad. During his monologue, he earned his gold Five-Timers card and was transported into an old-fashioned lounge, where Hanks, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, and Candice Bergen just happened to be hanging around. Martin, surprised to see Timberlake, quipped: “I always thought if an *NSYNC member was going to make the Five-Timers Club, it would be Joey Fatone.” Later inductees include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in 2017 and Jonah Hill in 2018.
38. Black Jeopardy (2014-2019)
In one of SNL's longest-running game show segments, Kenan Thompson (who also has the longest tenure on the show, with 17 years and counting) played the host of Black Jeopardy, Darnell Hayes — or as he called himself on one episode, “Alex Treblack.” The parody played off stereotypes, testing the players on their knowledge of Black culture, usually with a fish-out-of-water third player, such as Tom Hanks, who stepped in as a Trump supporter, and Chadwick Boseman as his Black Panther character T’Challa. Among Thompson’s descriptions of the show were: “The only Jeopardy where our prize money is paid in installments” and “The only game show where the contestants are in church clothes.”
39. David S. Pumpkins (2016-2017)
PSA: There’s an official SNL YouTube video that’s a solid hour of David S. Pumpkins dancing on repeat. That’s how beloved the ridiculous character — played by Tom Hanks and created by Mikey Day, Bobby Moynihan, and writer Streeter Seidell — has become. So, who is David Pumpkins? “His own thang,” Pumpkins answered in the inaugural sketch, as the riders on a Tower of Terror-like ride watched him appear and reappear with his duo of dancing skeletons on 73 of 100 floors. The sketch originally aired during the Halloween episode just before the 2016 presidential election, so some critics suggested its popularity grew because it was one of the few non-political bits. The following Halloween, David S. Pumpkins got his own animated special on NBC. Any questions?
40. Chad (2016-2020)
Beware the power of Chad. People mysteriously fall for the oblivious slacker, played by Pete Davidson, who responds to every proclamation of love with an indifferent “OK.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Jennifer Lopez (who even considered leaving A-Rod for Chad!) have all played characters who get swept under his spell. Chad has had other adventures too, including being saved from murder by his own nonchalant attitude, and being recruited by RuPaul to be the next great drag queen.
41. Sean Spicer (2017)
When the character of former press secretary Sean Spicer appeared on the February 4, 2017, episode, it took a minute for the audience to realize it was a perfectly costumed Melissa McCarthy, nailing everything from Spicer's walk and speech pattern to his gum-chewing habits. “I had no choice but to laugh,” Spicer later wrote in his book. “Like many SNL sketches, I think they milked it too long, but there was no denying it was funny.” Among McCarthy’s return appearances was Spicer dressed as the infamous White House Easter Bunny (a role he really had played years before).
42. Diner Lobster (April 14, 2018)
After five years as a writer on SNL from 2008 to 2012, John Mulaney returned as host in 2018 — and subsequently in 2019 and 2020 — in what seems to now be an annual affair dubbed Mulaney Week, according to one sketch. With each return, Mulaney has also brought along his love of musicals. The inaugural fake musical was “Diner Lobster,” set to the music (and elaborate stage design) of Les Misérables, complete with Kate McKinnon playing Claws-ette. Mulaney and Colin Jost had unsuccessfully pitched the sketch in 2010, but in his newfound role as host, his clout must have landed it on the air. (In a move they couldn’t possibly have expected, “Diner Lobster” won a PETA Elly Award for shedding light on lobster rights.) The Mulaney musical format was repeated with “Bodega Bathroom” in 2019 and “Airport Sushi” in 2020.
43. Chen Biao (2019-2020)
When Bowen Yang joined the cast in 2019 after a year behind the scenes as a writer, the openly gay and Asian American comedian brought more diversity to the show. He played presidential candidate Andrew Yang as well as the regular “Weekend Update” character of Chen Biao, a Chinese trade representative who was thrilled about the ongoing trade wars. "I’m basically the Lizzo of China right now,” he dished in the first of three appearances. “You need us more than we need you because we can survive without your movies starring the Rock, but good luck without iPhones!”
44. Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood (December 21, 2019)
When Eddie Murphy returned after 35 years away from the show, he brought back many of his best characters and skits, including his take on Fred Rogers’ beloved Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood. In a true sign of the times, the lesson that 2019’s Mister Robinson had for kids was about gentrification. “My neighbors was all Black, but now they white,” he sang, before explaining, “It’s like a magic trick. White people pay a lot of money and then poof, all the Black people are gone.”
45. Stuck in the House (April 25, 2020)
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, SNL showed how nimble it could be by filming three episodes of SNL At Home remotely, from cast members’ homes all over the country. While it gave former YouTube and Instagram stars like Chloe Fineman a chance to show off their creativity (as she did with two MasterClass promo parodies, nailing impressions of Carole Baskin, JoJo Siwa, and Britney Spears), the mentality of lockdown was best captured by Pete Davidson’s “Stuck at Home” music video costarring Adam Sandler and both of their families, with directing credit going to “Pete’s Mom” and Sandler’s daughters “Sadie and Sunny Sandler.”
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