Saturday Night Live: 2016’s best skits

Elise Czajkowski

Guardian

22nd December 2016

In any election year, politics and current events dominate Saturday Night Live, and that was certainly the case in 2016. And in a year with fairly significant changes in the cast and writing staff, the quality of the guest host affected the show massively — if only they could all be Tom Hanks. Kate McKinnon was the clear breakout star of the year, bringing both technical skill and nuanced characterization to both her Hillary Clinton and Kellyanne Conway impressions, while Kenan Thompson remained the show’s most stalwart.

Here are a look at some of the year’s best sketches: It’s been less than two months since this sketch aired, but naming it as the show’s finest of the year already feels obvious — in the week after it ran, it was the subject of a slew of lauditory pieces about its shrewd take on race and class relations in America. With Tom Hanks starring as a white contestant on Black Jeopardy, the sketch (written by Michael Che and Bryan Tucker) explored the similarities between a white, Trump voter and mainstream black culture, without ever forgetting the profound differences that separate them. In the past, Black Jeopardy sketches were a way of highlighting the cluelessness of liberal whites elites here, the show empathized with white Americans who are also overlooked by those same liberal elites.

But all of that political depth only worked because the jokes — “He says his dog doesn’t bite. ” “What is, mmm, I don’t know, he got teeth, don’t he?” — were perfectly timed, expertly delivered and built to a beautiful “Final Jeopardy” reveal. While Kellyanne Conway may not have won many friends in the mainstream media during this campaign season, Kate McKinnon’s take on her has been consistently sympathetic, portraying her as a woman who has aligned herself with Donald Trump and now, having made her bed, knows she must lie in it.

In this sketch from early October, Conway finally receives a day off from work, which she gleefully uses to eat breakfast with her family, catch up on her yoga and cuddle with her husband. Or she would, if she wasn’t called away constantly to respond to — and defend — an escalating series of insane from the candidate. “Of course black people don’t have one less toe than white people,” she replies stoically as she rolls through her home television studio on roller skates.

It would be tempting to demonize Conway for her association with Trump and her general disinterest in facts the decision to show her as a fundamentally decent person in a hopeless situation is far more interesting and will give the show more to work with in the next few years. In the weekend before the electoral college voted for Donald Trump, SNL took advantage of one of its last reasonable reasons to resurrect McKinnon’s exceptional Hillary Clinton impression, as Clinton secretly knocks on the door of an elector to deliver a Love plea for voting against Trump. The sketch doesn’t go easy on Clinton’s persona — she uses several cue cards to rehash her resume and eventually admits that she’s “literally never seen a movie” — but is ultimately sympathetic to the former secretary of state and her case to unfaithful electors: “Bish .

.. he cray.

” Her plea for the elector to vote for literally anyone other than Trump (“The Rock. A rock”) — are done with wit and heart, while her final warning — “But keep in mind, if Donald Trump becomes president, he will kill us all” — pulls no punches. Dave Chappelle was an ideal host for SNL’s first episode, a natural at biting satire on America’s race issues from his perch as a wise elder statesman.

His monologue — largely made up of his own with some topical additions — addressed his lack of surprise at Trump’s victory this sketch continued the idea, as he watches with a wry smile as his white friends slowly realize what is happening over election night. With a guest cameo from Chris Rock, the show highlighted the delusions of white liberals going into election night — “Early returns are always gonna be Republican because Republicans go to sleep early. That’s just a fact.

” — and the bittersweet pleasure that some took in seeing their illusion shattered. The only completely apolitical sketch on this list was one of the rare times when SNL went for weird nonsense and totally nailed it. McKinnon and Beck Bennett joined elevator operator Kenan Thompson for a “100 Floors of Fright” what they got was beyond their wildest dreams.

The slow build of this scene, Tom Hanks’ performance, those two dancing skeletons, and the perfect straight reactions of McKinnon and Bennett turned a “wtf is this?” sketch into an instant classic. Having suffered some serious backlash after allowing Trump to host the show back in November 2015, SNL was clearly making an effort to take on the candidate’s inflammatory rhetoric as the campaign wore on. This was their first and still sharpest attack a mock campaign ad featuring Trump supporters giving their reasons for backing the candidate.

The joke kicks in at 35 seconds, revisiting the series of seemingly reasonable white people to reveal their true intentions. All the jokes in the sketch are visual, but suffice to say it serves as an unflinching take on many of the backers of the . SNL does Christmas songs very well and this year, the show took advantage of musical guest Chance the Rapper for this ode to outgoing president Barack Obama.

I’m no music critic, but even I can tell that this song has some solid rhymes and a classic beat, as well as some dire warnings: “ Christmas, ’s still here. Hey kid, enjoy the presents while you can, ’cause next year you might get a bomb from Iran. ” With a guest turn from original member Darryl McDaniels and some impressive dance moves from Casey Affleck’s Jesus, it was the perfect blend of politics and great .

SNL remains one of the few mainstream comedy shows in America, theoretically appealing to people across the country and the political spectrum in ways that shows like Key Peele or Full Frontal with Samantha Bee don’t even attempt. Based in New York City and generally written by young comedians, it often tilts to the left of the political spectrum, but at its finest, it recognizes the insular world in which it sits. Here, in the fog, the show mocks the young Brooklynites who are too progressive too live among so many people who don’t agree with them, offering them a literal bubble for “likeminded freethinkers and no one else” as they move into the difficult days of 2017.

In the past couple years, SNL has wisely used its newly diversified cast and writing staff to address race and gender more often, and this was a shining example of the show using the power of its cast — with help from host Ariana Grande — to address just how difficult it is to nail feminism in this internet age. “This is not a feminist song, so technically it can’t be wrong,” the catchy jingle proudly proclaims as the line of women dance up the Coney Island boardwalk in a perfect imitation of a lazy, pop song that twists and turns as it goes..

 

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