Saturday Night Live's best sketches 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)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

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. The latest chapter of the show welcomed its fair share of new hosts: Miles Teller, Keke Palmer, Jenna Ortega, 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. Throughout season 48, the quality of the sketches proved just as varied as the hosting lineup.

It’s sort of fitting that one of the first casualties of the writers’ strike would be a program like SNL, which depends on a group of writers to constantly churn out fresh material. Likewise, the writing staff there is an interesting case to examine in terms of the WGA’s demands in a new age of media consumption from streaming and social media virality. Now that season 48 of SNL has prematurely ended, The A.V. Club has selected the 20 best sketches of the season—each one a prime example of the value writers can bring to a project. If your favorite is not on the list, as always, let us know what we missed in the comments.

Read more

This list is in chronological order.

“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.

“Horror Movie Trailer” (Episode 4)

Horror Movie Trailer - SNL

Capitalizing on the close proximity of Halloween and Election Day, “Horror Movie Trailer” ages well. The sketch perfectly merges the tropes of horror cinema with the frightening landscape of contemporary politics. It is funnier and scarier now by prophesizing a rematch between Biden and Trump in 2024 as that scenario feels even more inevitable. Perhaps the real horror of politics in the United States is that nothing ever changes.

“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.

“House Of The Dragon” (Episode 6)

House of the Dragon - SNL

SNL often mocks popular programs and could not resist parodying HBO’s Game Of Thrones prequel House Of The Dragon. What starts with amusing jokes about unpronounceable names and incest twists into a crossover event no one could see coming. The unexpected appearance of classic characters from The Chapelle Show juxtaposes the seriousness of HBO’s prestige fantasy franchise with Chappelle’s brand of irreverent sketch comedy. The result is perfection, from pacing to production design to performance.

“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.

“Father Of The Bride” (Episode 8)

Father of the Bride - SNL

A barbed commentary on Hollywood’s slavish devotion to sequels, exhausting IP, and expanding cinematic universes, “Father Of The Bride” uses nostalgia cynically. After a quasi-pandemic Netflix sequel renewed interest in the film series, this sketch exaggerates the passage of time around a possible eighth marriage for the titular bride and everything that comes with advancing age from vaginal rejuvenation to colonoscopies. The best single joke about the divide between past and present comes when the voice-over debates whether or not Martin Short’s accent as Franck is offensive or not.

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.

“The Black Lotus” (Episode 10)

The Black Lotus - SNL

During its airing, conjecture about The White Lotus was inescapable. While the show already satirizes wealthy—mostly white—hotel guests, SNL ups the ante by reimagining the premise as “The Black Lotus.” Placing the action in a Black-run luxury hotel in Miami, the sketch intensifies the upstairs/downstairs dynamic of the guests and staff. In addition to spot-on impersonations of various White Lotus guests, Ego Nwodim, Kenan Thompson, Devon Walker, and Punkie Johnson shine as the hotel staff unamused by the shenanigans of their wealthy clientele. “The Black Lotus” imagines if Natasha Rothwell’s Belinda could tell Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya what she really thinks.

“Jake From State Farm” (Episode 11)

Jake from State Farm - SNL

Commercial parodies remain some of SNL’s greatest sketches and “Jake From State Farm” is an excellent example. A subversive take on the concept of home insurance, the sketch devolves into a threat to the home. From the slow burn of its narrative to the charm of host Michael B. Jordan as Jake, it combines tension and hilarity. Undulating between The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and a subversive examination of replacement theory, “Jake From State Farm” is a sketch that becomes more interesting the more you watch it.

“Lisa From Temecula” (Episode 12)

Lisa from Temecula - SNL

At first look “Lisa From Temecula” seems like a throwaway sketch. It appears last and even recycles the same restaurant set from a previous sketch that night. However, something magical happened, something you can only get from live television. While SNL has had limited recurring characters in recent years, Ego Nwodim’s Lisa cannot be contained. The sketch even inspired a Vanity Fair piece about its development. From a bankable catchphrase like “Cook my meat!” to nearly every performer breaking, with the notable exception of Molly Kearney, “Lisa From Temecula” even made prop comedy funny. A testament to Nwodim’s skill as a performer, the character was brought back from an overly repetitive sketch in the Ana de Armas episode. Despite diminished returns, hopefully, this will not be the last appearance of Lisa.

“HBO Mario Kart Trailer” (Episode 12)

HBO Mario Kart Trailer - SNL

A send-up for Hollywood’s penchant to make unnecessarily dark adaptations and the success of Pedro Pascal’s The Last Of Us, “HBO Mario Kart Trailer,” is one of the best pre-taped segments of the season. A mashup of Children Of Men and the iconic video game, the sketch excels through an encyclopedic knowledge of the Mario mythology, from bartering with mushroom coins to the sentient fungi Goombas. The attention to detail in the writing and the production design are exquisite. The contrast of Mario’s classic lines against the dystopian backdrop produces hilarious results. While the trailer’s pull quotes suggest the adaptation is a failure, this sketch, as a proof of concept, suggests that HBO or one of the streamers needs to develop this series as soon as possible (after the writers’ strike, of course).

“Please Don’t Destroy - Self-Defense” (Episode 14)

Please Don’t Destroy - Self-Defense - SNL

Operating in the nexus between self-defense and self-worth, “Please Don’t Destroy - Self-Defense,” is an incisive examination of the cult of self-improvement. Touching on issues of masculinity and workplace bullying, the sketch finds its humor where manifestation collides with brutal reality. Seeking to end the emasculation they feel at work, the Please Don’t Destroy trio seeks the teachings of Kurt Lighting (Travis Kelce) but only finds more abuse and mockery. The fast-paced editing, stunt work, and increasing absurdity that pinnacles with a Russian Roulette-loving grandma, capture the unique perspective of the “Please Don’t Destroy” sketches.

“Weekend Update: Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally on Gay Instagram Thirst Traps” (Episode 15)

Weekend Update: Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally on Gay Instagram Thirst Traps - SNL

Politicians are often hypocrites and often idiots. These two pillars of our political representation fuse perfectly in Molly Kearney’s appearance on Weekend Update as Lt. Governor Randy McNally of Tennessee. At the forefront of anti-LGBTQ legislation, McNally rose to national fame after liking numerous queer thirst traps on Instagram. Few political blunders are as clear-cut or stupid. In addition to roasting McNally’s clear hypocrisy, the appearance highlights his technological ineptitude. There is plenty of material here, but it is Kearney’s decision to play McNally as a baby-faced, randy rascal that makes the impression so memorable. The fact that Kearney is SNL’s first non-binary cast member gets the last laugh on McNally and all the bigoted politicians in power today.

“Please Don’t Destroy - Road Trip” (Episode 15)

Please Don’t Destroy - Road Trip - SNL

A burnt-out Jenna Ortega joins the Please Don’t Destroy trio for a cross-country road trip. What could go wrong? It all starts out as a musical romp with snacks and primo playlists before devolving into passive-aggressive comments and glances after missed exits and empty Slurpees. A modern update on No Exit, the sketch perfectly captures the optimism and reality of road trips amongst friends.

“Bridesmaid Cult Documentary” (Episode 16)

Bridesmaid Cult Documentary - SNL

Lampooning Netflix’s penchant for cult documentaries, “Bridesmaid Cult Documentary” earns its laughs with meticulous detail and playing it straight throughout. An ethnographic study of the bizarre cultural ritual of bridesmaid duties, this sketch could easily expand for SNL offshoot Documentary Now! Exploring the cult of the marital industrial complex, parasocial relationships, and sociopathy, “Bridesmaid Cult Documentary” is a worthy addition to the genre of mockumentary.

“Album Recording Session” (Episode 17)

Album Recording Session - SNL

Another deceptively simple setup makes for one of the season’s best sketches in “Album Recording Session.” A new rapper is looking for validation in the form of an audio producer tag, but his voice performers Ana de Armas and Ego Nwodim have their own ideas. The duo starts to question his intelligence and cleanliness and when prompted to make it sexy they focus on the realities of pregnancy before darkly suggesting that the rapper may be drugging women. It’s impossible to decide who has the best line between Nwodim saying “I’m uncomfortable here” or de Armas stuttering “2001 Co-co-corolla.”

More from The A.V. Club

Sign up for The A.V. Club's Newsletter. For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.