Saturday Night Live's best sketches (so far) from season 48

Clockwise from top left: Sarah Sherman; Martin Short and Steve Martin (Photos: Kyle Dubiel/NBC); and Kenan Thompson, Keke Palmer, and Devon Walker (Photo: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC)
Clockwise from top left: Sarah Sherman; Martin Short and Steve Martin (Photos: Kyle Dubiel/NBC); and Kenan Thompson, Keke Palmer, and Devon Walker (Photo: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC)

Saturday Night Live entered its 48th season in a pretty precarious position, with the loss of eight seasoned cast members, the addition of four new faces, and a few much-needed improvements. This latest chapter of the show has welcomed its fair share of new hosts: Miles Teller, Keke Palmer, and Austin Butler represented a new generation of Hollywood stars, while musical artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Jack Harlow performed double duties, and Brendan Gleeson proved an interesting left-field selection. Tempering this newness, SNL also brought the likes of Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle, and the duo of Steve Martin and Martin Short back to Studio 8H. The quality of the sketches proved just as varied as the hosting lineup. Before the show kicks off its 2023 run on January 21 (without Cecily Strong, who made her exit in the final episode of last year), let’s toast the best moments from the season (so far). As always, let us know what we missed in the comments.

This list is in chronological order. An updated version will run after the season 48 finale.

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“BeReal” (Episode 1)

BeReal - SNL

Each premiere episode of SNL gives the writers a bounty of material from the break between seasons. While the Nicole Kidman AMC sketch felt a tad late, the “BeReal” video segment was pretty timely. It played well with those familiar with the social-media sensation, but also landed with those who don’t know the reference. And the sketch’s sardonic questioning of the app’s “authentic” ethos was nicely framed with its anxiety-inducing countdown warning via a bank robbery. What’s more, it was an excellent showcase for host Miles Teller and a large part of the cast.

“We Got Brought” (Episode 3)

We Got Brought - SNL

Another pre-taped segment, “We Got Brought” was the standout from Megan Thee Stallion’s episode. The sketch balanced her musical talents as a rap superstar with her relatability. It’s the season’s best musical number, to boot, one that’s both catchy and cringey with its depiction of a universal feeling: being the plus-one in awkward social situations. There’s also a wonderful chemistry between Bowen Yang, Ego Nwodim, and Megan Thee Stallion as a trio with ... no chemistry.

“AA Meeting” (Episode 4)

AA Meeting - SNL

We loved the notion of pitching a children’s film in the decidedly adult setting of an addiction meeting. Also, the movie idea is terrific; Pixar should totally make this. “AA Meeting” is a sketch devoid of any cynicism that plays well off of Jack Harlow’s boyish charms, and it boasts a Randy Newman-esque theme song led by Cecily Strong. The sketch even has the episode’s greatest Tom Hanks cameo, beating out his David S. Pumpkins revival.

“COVID Commercial” (Episode 5)

COVID Commercial - SNL

Told in the format of a pharmaceutical advertisement (narrated by Cecily Strong), this sketch is a sharp commentary on the public’s attitude toward the ongoing pandemic. It’s also damn funny, a sendup that taps into the idea that COVID could, in fact, be a respite from our dismal daily lives. (It’s also all the more fascinating considering that SNL has served as a testing ground of sorts for dealing with the pandemic over the last few years.)

“Potato Hole” (Episode 6)

Potato Hole - SNL

Dave Chappelle brought some baggage with him as the host of SNL after doubling down on anti-Trans jokes (and he certainly created some more after the installment aired, given his uncomfortable musings on anti-Semitism and cancel culture). That said, the best bit of the night was “Potato Hole,” which played on white discomfort in the face of Black trauma and resilience. Set against the backdrop of an inane afternoon television news program, Chappelle must finally reveal the meaning behind “Potato Hole” after incessant badgering by television personalities. In fact, it felt like a sketch that could have fit well on Chappelle’s Show.

“Hello Kitty” (Episode 7)

Hello Kitty - SNL

Absurdity requires absolute commitment by the players. Case in point? “Hello Kitty.” Set in a Time Square flagship store, new employees are given the origin story of the beloved character—and it doesn’t add up. With Cecily Strong as the straight woman, Palmer and Yang excel as workers who are so rational that they respond irrationally. While the ending is a little perplexing, it’s still a highlight of a very good episode—and it’d be amazing to see Palmer and Yang reprise these roles in the future.

“Kenan & Kelly” (Episode 7)

Kenan & Kelly - SNL

One of the season’s most complex sketches, “Kenan & Kelly” is simultaneously nostalgic and critical of nostalgia. Told as a behind-the-scenes documentary about updating the ’90s sitcom Kenan & Kel, it’s an ace commentary on the trend of rebooting. The contrast between Thompson’s weariness as a show business veteran and Palmer’s exuberance as an up-and-comer is pretty darn delightful, and the segment peaks with the sudden appearance and departure of Kel Mitchell.

A Christmas Carol” (Episode 8)

A Christmas Carol - SNL

This episode was heavy on holiday material, and the standout was clearly “A Christmas Carol.” The Dickens tale is well-worn, but SNL fashioned something special in this pre-taped segment, a melee of escalating and bloody violence. The chemistry between the Martins, the brutality, and the audacity of sending Tiny Tim down a well made this an instant-classic SNL Christmas sketch.

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