The 47th season of Saturday Night Live proved one of the most important in recent memory. Not only did it feature the largest cast in the show’s history, it also introduced a number of promising new talents who we can expect to rise to prominence over the coming years. This past week’s finale also featured farewell performances from several of the show’s biggest names: Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant and Kyle Mooney.
As a whole, it was not one of the stronger seasons. After a lukewarm start, we got a few good episodes in the middle of its run, but the back half of the season vacillated between instantly forgettable and outright terrible.
That said, there were still a number of excellent sketches to be found throughout. Here are the 10 best from season 47.
The common thread between the best episodes of the season was the host: save for one, they all gave duties to alumni, the first of whom was Jason Sudeikis. There were a couple of sketches from his episode that might have made the list, but this one from early in the episode got the biggest and most sustained laughter of the night. The science room sketches are reliant on a very simple formula – the friendly host of a children’s educational program loses his cool over the idiocy of his junior volunteers (Mikey Day and Cecily Strong) – but the fury with which Sudeikis reacts in this one (inverting the warmth of his Ted Lasso character) makes it the best of the bunch.
Aaron Rodgers Trump cold open
On the whole, this cold open from the season’s fifth episode is nothing special: another of their go-to Judge Jeanine set-ups, it’s the standard lazy run-through of weekly headlines and toothless satire aimed at conservative hysteria and hypocrisy. But it takes off halfway through with the first appearance of new featured player James Austin Johnson’s Donald Trump. Those who were familiar with Johnson’s uncanny Trump impersonation from his viral comedy videos over the last few years knew what an incredible get he was for the show, and that it was only a matter of time before the show busted it out. You can feel the electricity of the audience losing their minds over it. More than just the accuracy of Trump’s voice and mannerisms, Johnson’s interpretation works because he understands how utterly inane the former president’s rants are, turning him into a pop-culture-obsessed lunatic with an almost beatnik-like penchant for jazzy free association. It’s a huge improvement from Alec Baldwin’s terrible characterization.
Goober the clown on abortion
That same episode included this fiery performance from Cecily Strong on Weekend Update. Coming on the heels of Texas’s restrictive abortion laws Strong discusses her own abortion at 23, only she does it under the guise of the wacky Goober the clown, since “it’s a rough subject so we’re gonna do fun clown stuff to make it more palatable! ” The rawness of the performance comes not from personal trauma – Strong makes it very clear that her abortion was absolutely the right decision, while emphasizing how common abortion is – but from the frustration of having to continue to fight for safe access: “We will not go back to the alley. I mean, the last thing anyone wants is a bunch of dead clowns in a dark alley. “
As with Sudeikis’s episode, there were several sketches from Will Forte’s turn hosting that were in contention for a spot on this list, but ultimately the deranged Kid Klash makes the cut, both for how menacingly funny he is throughout, as well as for the impressive production value on display. As host of a messy, Nickelodeon-style obstacle course gameshow, Forte’s Mark Zazz puts a young contestant through sheer hell in an attempt to find a single white flag in a giant bowl of whipped cream. She gives up, but he won’t have it: “I didn’t start this gameshow to encourage children to quit like whiney little babies!” Kudos also due to Aidy Bryant for putting herself through the slapstick wringer.
America’s greatest living actor, Willem Dafoe, hosted the strongest top-to-bottom episode of the season, even if only one of the sketches within made full use of him. Said sketch is a pre-filmed commercial for Nugenix. Dafoe, as himself, teams up with some retired ball players to sling the testosterone booster to a hapless 40-year-old who “can’t get hard any more”. Dafoe uses his singularly weird energy to great comic effect here, especially during the climax where he’s screaming in torment while being given a mechanical erection by Nugenix.
Peyton Manning on NFL playoffs
Far and away the most reliable professional athlete ever to host SNL, Peyton Manning popped in for a quick Weekend Update segment during the NFL playoffs. Rather than give his thoughts on the games, he recounts his addiction to Netflix’s romance series Emily in Paris. His total commitment to the bit is a thing of beauty, especially when he dramatically proclaims the show brings “a fresh take on feminism – FINALLY!” That line received probably the hardest audience laughter of the entire season, and for good reason.
Please Don’t Destroy – Martin’s friend
Like new featured players James Austin Johnson and Sarah Sherman, freshman show writers Ben Marshall, John Higgins and Martin Herlihy were previously known to comedy fans for the short sketches they put out online under the name Please Don’t Destroy. Their fast-paced, surreal videos made for a welcome addition to SNL, taking up a vacancy that once was host to favorites such as Saturday TV Funhouse and The Lonely Island. Always a highlight of the episodes they appear in, the funniest of the bunch sees Ben and especially John jealously squaring off with Martin’s inappropriately young, impossibly cool friend Connor. Hijinks, as always, ensue.
After a dramatic year that included a stint in rehab, comedy superstar and former SNL writer John Mulaney made a triumphant return to the show for his fifth time hosting. As always, this marks an occasion to celebrate, even if fellow five-timers Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Candace Bergen, Paul Rudd, Conan O’Brien and Elliot Gould think the club is getting a little too big and “not special”. The volume of jokes – everyone gets at least one moment to shine – is matched only by the sheer star power on display. It’s also amazing to see Conan back on NBC and getting to say “Live, from New York!” (even if it’s already the middle of the episode).
Terry Fink’s 2022 Oscar predictions
Over the years, Alex Moffat has become the most reliably funny guest across Weekend Update. Of the various characters he plays, his best by far is Terry Fink, a friendly and excitable film critic who is in a permanent state of psychosis thanks to his constant ingestion of psychedelic drugs (“The LSD helps me LS-See all these terrific films ! ”). This segment from March is the best thing he’s done during his time not just on Update but on the show as a whole. Especially good is his sustained mental breakdown, which he sells via a series of hilarious facial expressions.
Field correspondent Sarah Sherman gives an SNL studio tour
The standout sketch from the season’s mostly terrible late run of episodes highlights new featured player Sherman leading a backstage tour of the studio, most of which is confined to Colin Jost’s dressing room, in which she has constructed a shrine devoted to herself and locked an intern up in a cage in order to embarrass him. Sherman’s energy and penchant for surreal horror comedy is certainly not for everyone, and in its slightly watered-down version on SNL has proven very hit-or-miss so far. That said, her one-sided rivalry with Jost has grown increasingly delightful over the season, and her performance here – especially a moment where she works through a flubbed bit of blocking – has been her best performance so far. It seems like the show is priming her for the Update desk (especially if the rumors of Michael Che’s departure pan out), which will certainly give the proceedings a weird new feel.