Top Ten ‘SNL’ Sketches of 2010

Back in May we had every intention of compiling a “best of” list for SNL‘s 35th season.  However, for one reason, or another, that never happened.  So, instead of just abandoning this intention altogether we decided to put together a list for the 2010 calendar year, and then come spring we’ll post revised rankings that only pertain to the 2010-2011 campaign.  Sound good?  Great.  And hopefully this will hold you over until Jim Carrey graces Studio 8H on Saturday night.

1. Jeff Bridges/Cookie Monster Monologue: Obviously we’re completely biased towards this piece, but nothing from the previous 12 months provided us with nearly as much glee.  It gave us much the same feeling we imagine Cookie Monster experiences when he devours a particularly delicious cookie.

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2. Smash Mouth Tremors: Exactly the kind of sketch that was missing for most of 2010.  Inspired, different, bizarre and hilarious.  Most sketches were lucky to meet two of those of criteria.  The perfect choice of a once ubiquitous, not quite yet obscure song.  Also, we’ve gone on record as suckers for any Third Eye Blind reference.

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3. Burn Notice Game Show: Brilliant in much the same way as “Smash Mouth Tremors.”  A sketch that could have easily fallen flat, and is probably not for everyone, but “What is Burn Notice?” is actually a pretty valid question.  Who are all these people watching Burn Notice (my dad loves it, but that’s just one person).  Normally SNL‘s stock in trade is exploiting some pop culture phenomena we’re intimately familiar with.  The beauty of this piece is that if they actually did a sketch parodying Burn Notice it likely would have been a flop.  Most viewers just wouldn’t have gotten it.

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4. Stefon: The best thing to happen to “Weekend Update” since David Paterson, it’s no secret that we just can’t get enough of this guy (he’s a guy, right?).  And while we’d typically demur a bit that the spots are designed somewhat in the hopes that the performer will break, Bill Hader is almost uniformly precise and reliable in everything else that we don’t mind him cracking up here.  And the sheer joy in his face as he holds back tears while trying to describe New York’s hottest new club is a joy that we share.  Stefon in 2011!

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5. Back to the Future Screen Tests: A terrific example of the right way to integrate celebrity impressions (as opposed to the wrong way).  A sequel of sorts to one of our all-time favorite sketches, it’s a successful blend of uncanny imitation (Hader’s Alan Alda, especially), and a piece of movie nostalgia that we’ve only come to appreciate more in recent years.

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6. Crisis of Conformity: This punk rock band reuniting at a wedding sketch has no right being this high on this list, or being on this list at all.  To be fair, it’s not even especially funny (save for Kenan Thompson’s futile attempts to serve champagne and Jason Sudeikis’ passionate head bopping), but it has as much energy and excitement as anything the show did last year, so for entertainment value alone it earns a spot.  And it was unexpected, which has become something of a rarity.  Also, we fucking love when Dave Grohl plays the drums, plain and simple.

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7. Shake Weight DVD: It’s real easy to make fun of the Shake Weight commercials (in case you don’t get it, the models look like they’re simulating sex acts.  I know, right?!), much the same way it’s rather simple to make fun of furiously shaking the Nintendo Wii remote.  But a DVD of the Shake Weight advertisements, now that’s a clever idea, and it’s done with the attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from Saturday Night Live after all these years. Once again, the sketches are best when they’re real, and we have no doubt that there are guys out there who have picked out their favorite Shake Weight model and given her a nickname (and done other things with those girls in mind).

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8. Hamm & Buble: If there was a host MVP to be given out in 2010, it’d probably have to go to Jon Hamm.  Not exactly because he hosted the strongest episode, but he was the only guest to host twice within the year.  And even if the sketches were lacking, he demonstrated that he’s as talented and adventurous as any host in recent memory.  The show clearly feels at ease when he’s around, and he certainly feels comfortable performing live (as he also did for 30 Rock).  This sketch, with musical guest Buble, was the standout from either hosting gig demonstrating that, once again, Hamm is not afraid to poke fun at his persona.

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9. Timecrowave: Just about the weirdest sketch that made it to air last year (remembering that Potato Chip aired at the end of 2009, and Will Forte’s exit before this season took away some of the show’s more off-beat sensibilities).  It felt like something we might have seen in the early 90s, and at first we thought it was going to die in the water (an infomercial parody just seemed like territory they had mined one time too many), but it quickly won us over, in no small part to Alec Baldwin’s enthusiasm and charm.  Much of the heightening was expected but still effective, and it knew how far to take the premise without going too far. Exactly the kind of sketch you’d presume to find at 12:40am on the season finale, but with more laughs and creativity than we would have guessed.

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10. Digital Short – Rescue Dogs 911 App: We felt it was prudent to include at least one Digital Short on this list, as they’re often the best, or at least the most consistent, aspect of the show.  But something that we’ve noted many times before is that the Digital Shorts have lost the element of surprise.  You’ll notice that we’ve selected one of the few non-music based shorts for our list, and that’s because it stood out, offered us something new.  Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island team have perfected the art of the hip-hip comedy music video, but in that perfection they’ve raised the bar incredibly high.  Unfortunately, then, most of the shorts just approximate that bar, but few exceed it.  And even when there is some kind of twist, it often feels deliberately strange and doesn’t serve the story.  What we liked about this short, and why it was our selection, is that, any day now, we could actually find a 911 app on our phone, and one can imagine a scenario like this won’t be too far behind.

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Honorable Mention:

Gov. David Paterson on “Weekend Update” (one of our all-time favorites, but disqualified because he debuted in 2008), “Sex” Ed Vincent (another sketch that we adore, but Paul Brittain brought Vincent to SNL as an already fully formed character), “I Got This,” “Reel Quotes Game Show,” “Visiting the Queen,” and “The Essentials: Wizard of Oz.”

What did we miss?  (You’ll notice that we didn’t include “What Up With That?” or “The Miley Cyrus Show” or any other recurring sketch (outside of the “Weekend Update” guests); that was no accident.  So don’t suggest those)

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Filed under Good Humor, Lists, Saturday Night Live

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