02 June 2013

The Best Sketches of the 38th Season of SNL

A few days ago we reviewed our favorite hosts of the past season of Saturday Night Live and their best sketches. There were many more great moments throughout the year, though, which deserve some recognition. Many of these were either subpar or lackluster hosts that may have really shined during one or two great skits. We'll also go over the greatest musical guests and other strange incongruencies during the year.

Best Monologue: Vince Vaughn (04/13/2013)

It's incredible that in nearly forty years on the air it is still possible to innovate in a monologue like this. Now, for certain, most of the monologues this year were pretty awful, mostly consisting of a ton of songs, no matter who was hosting (even Jeremy Renner). While Melissa McCarthy's high heels schtick was pretty funny if not one note, there was hardly a more positive moment in all of television this year as this Vince Vaughn monologue. It's everything that makes Vaughn great - the rapid fire delivery, small sly jokes, and a relentless enthusiasm - this is all stuff we've been missing from Vaughn since Wedding Crashers (2005). Even though he has some flicks coming out this summer, picking him a host was kind of bizarre. This half-pep talk, half-motivational speech set the tone brilliantly for the night. The episode that followed wasn't that great, but the use of real audience members here is fantastic.

Second Place: It's really just a bit of his stand-up, but the Louis C.K. (11/03/2012) "Old Woman" monologue was probably the funniest of the year.

Best Digital Short: Lincoln C.K. (11/03/2012)

This may be the best sketch of the year. There was no better mash-up, including "Djesus Uncrosseded", which really received more controversy than it earned and never rose above a simple juxtaposition of Tarantino movie dialogue and tropes and biblical themes. "Lincoln C.K.", though, fully integrated the Lincoln mythos, which was booming at the time thanks to Lincoln (2012) into the style of Louie while also making in-character jokes that were both appropriate for the time period and hilarious today. It's magnificent. Forget Daniel Day, Louis C.K. deserves to be our definitive portrayal of Honest Abe.

Second Place: I can't really explain the "Sad Mouse" sketch from the Bruno Mars episode (10/20/2012) but I think that's why I like it so much.

Best Song: Mokiki (11/10/2012)

Anne Hathaway delivered a serviceable episode, but the standout was "Mokiki", which failed to really catch on, but in a post-Lonely Island Era, it's the best we're gonna get. Kenan's endless glee, Taran's empty stare, and a ton of fake vomit make this pretty damn worthwhile.

Second Place: Perhaps I spoke too soon about Lonely Island. After giving Samberg such an appropriate send-off last year I was actually bummed to see him come back to hock another single off the group's new album. "Yolo" from Adam Levine (01/26/2013) is fine, but far from their best stuff.

Best Bridesmaids Alum Sketch: Acupuncture (05/11/2013)

This sketch is bloody brilliant. The high concept is so obvious, yet they run with it so unbelievably and gruesomely well. From Sudeikis' completely complacent victim role to Bobby's yelling from the street, it has an incredible flow. The real stars, though, are Kristen Wiig and Aidy Bryant, who attempt to keep their cool while being covered with blood from head to toe. Kristen had a fairly uneven episode, but this was a golden brazen sketch.

Second Place: It wasn't another ranch dressing sketch, but the first uneven episode with a Bridesmaids (2011) cast member this year, Melissa McCarthy (04/06/2013), featured one great Pizza Business sketch that didn't really work until its final moments.

Best Pay Off: Darrell's House (05/04/2013)

SNL experimented with two sketches this year that ended without a lot of fulfillment (like just about every sketch), but came back around with some decent pay-offs by the end of the episode. The far more successful of these was Zach Galifianakis' "Darrell's House", which comes off as sort of funny in its first incarnation, but mostly a random and awkward. The best part comes, though, about a half-hour and four horrible sketches later when you get this pay-off where every bad joke just works. It was the only thing that really worked in that epsiode - and impressive little editing feat for live television.

Second Place: Kevin Hart's "Z-Shirt" sketch (03/02/2013) is at once a spot-on 90s youth commercial parody and only successful because the sketch itself is aware of its irritating qualities. Seeing it pop up again at the funeral was totally unexpected, though, and wouldn't have worked nearly as well without thoroughly understanding that irritation.

Best Sketches that Went No Where: Firehouse Incident (01/26/2013)

There is nothing to this sketch. It really is just Bill Hader screaming for five minutes. But in the immortal words of Will Ferrell, "Yelling is funny." The slow exposure of the degree of Hader's character's overreaction (including his response to the news that Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 was cancelled) as well as Nasim Pedrad's brilliant last lines "You know what? I got the reaction I wanted" just make me crack up every time I see it. I realise I may be the only one on this boat.

Second Place: Vince Vaughn's "Short Term Memory Loss Theater" and Bruno Mars' "Wilderness Lodge" are also both real random sketches that exhibit what SNL should be doing - giving A-list stars the best supporting cast out there and making them do really strange things.

Best Deleted Sketch: Bathroom Cobra

Who knows why this was deleted. Perhaps because of the high level of poop jokes. But it's a crazy extension of a very relatable premise. I wish I had a Bathroom Cobra right now. It may have been SNL at its silliest this year, and that's a good thing.

Other Thoughts:

There were other great hosts who just had terrible material to work with. You could tell that Jennifer Lawrence and Christina Applegate were totally game but they just got crap to work with. There also hasn't been a more malleable host than Christoph Waltz, who did everything from game show hosting to playing a creepy but well-intentioned foreign security guard, to Jesus "Silent H" Christ himself. Other hosts like Joseph Gordan-Levitt, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Renner, and Justin Bieber were just awful through and through. Tough year for white guys.

I'm very glad we finally got an actual black man to play Barack Obama, with Jay Pharaoh taking over from Fred Armisen. Armisen had a tendency to play every race imaginable, which may be the toughest thing to replace about him. And naturally, the best new character by far is Cecily Strong's "Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party" which is simultaneously relatable, hilarious, and quotable. Each appearance hasn't really aded anything new, but no Weekend Update character ever really does anyway.

Musical Guests:

Paul McCartney is real difficult to upstage, but I'd consider Frank Ocean's soulful quiet "Pyramids" with a casual John Mayer in the background to be the highlight of the year. Yet I also really dug the energy of consummate performers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. It's tough to be  areally stand-out musical guest, especially when you're trying really hard like Kanye. I'll also give some props to Timberlake, but really, this year ever got better than Frank in its first episode.

What were your favourite moments from this past season?

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