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50 of the best 'SNL' skits

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NBC Studios

50 of the best 'SNL' skits

From the moment it premiered on NBC in 1975, "Saturday Night Live" quickly became one of the most loved comedy shows on television. With hilarious and often bold mockery of anything and everything—not to mention anyone and everyone—the satirical skits that make up the late-night series have become an iconic part of American television. No one is safe from the sometimes savage bite of SNL humor, from famous actors or musicians to politicians and world leaders.

The series has also served as a stepping stone to fame, with some of the most successful comedic actors in the entertainment industry starting out as featured performers. Former SNL cast members include Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, John Belushi, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, to name a few. Some famed skits of the show have also branched off to become feature films in their own right, including movies such as “Coneheads,” “MacGruber,” and “The Ladies’ Man.”

Now entering its 45th year and still going strong, "Saturday Night Live" is one of the longest-running television programs in the United States. Many of the skits and parodies created inside the writer’s room have become deeply ingrained in American pop culture, making it difficult to determine which ones are the most popular and best remembered.

Using data and research from various sources, including sites such as IMDb and NBC, as well as fan pages and celebrity interviews, Stacker has compiled a list of some of the best skits to grace the SNL stage. These include the sketches that have had the largest cultural comedic impact, those that bring humor to more serious social issues, and political satire at its finest. Added to that are skits that generated Emmy awards for the actors, and several funny pieces that have become a historic part of our social fabric. 

Take a look at Stacker’s compilation of the top 50 "Saturday Night Live" skits, presented in no particular order or ranking. Read on to see if your favorite made the cut.

You may also like: Best 'Simpsons' episodes of all time

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NBC Studios

Rosanne Rosannadanna

- Host: Steve Martin
- Season: 3
- Episode: 55

Created by the late Gilda Radner, who was an SNL cast member from 1977 to 1980, Rosanne Rosannadanna was a character featured on the “Weekend Update” segment of the show. Using the catchphrase “It’s always something,” Radner’s character would editorialize on various social issues, which would inevitably segue into inappropriate discussions about her personal hygiene and bodily functions. Radner passed away from cancer in 1989 at 42.

 

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NBC Studios

Two Wild and Crazy Guys

- Host: Steve Martin
- Season: 3
- Episode: 47

Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd portrayed “two wild and crazy” Czechoslovakian brothers looking to date American women, or “foxes” as they called them. In recurring sketches, the duo would visit various hangouts to try to pick up girls, despite not understanding cultural or social norms. They made their debut in season three and popped up several more times over the years.

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NBC Studios

The Olympia Café (Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger!)

- Host: Robert Klein
- Season: 3
- Episode: 56

The Olympia Café skit, commonly known as “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger,” was supposedly based on a real Chicago restaurant that cast members used to visit when they worked at Second City, an improv club where many of the SNL cast got their start. The café only sold three things; cheeseburgers, chips, and Pepsi. John Belushi played the owner and was hilarious in his responses to customers trying to order anything else.

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NBC Studios

The Nerds (Lisa Loopner)

- Host: Robert Klein
- Season: 3
- Episode: 56

In another stellar performance by Gilda Radner, nerdy Lisa Loopner and her boyfriend Todd, played Bill Murray, brought to light those awkward teenage moments that were eminently relatable. Lisa’s mother, Mrs. Loopner, played by Jane Curtin, usually wandered around in a housecoat, making comments about her “wifely duties” to her late husband, while Todd showed his affection for Lisa by giving her “noogies” or knuckle rubs on her head.

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Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood

- Host: Charlene Tilton
- Season: 6
- Episode: 117

Like many SNL alumni who became household names, Eddie Murphy wasn’t well-known when he became a cast member. His recurring skit, “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood,” was an inner-city version of the children's show, “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” and touched on real-life social and economic issues of the time. Murphy left SNL in 1984 and starred in movies such as “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Trading Spaces.”

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NBC Studios

Emily Litella

- Host: Robert Klein
- Season: 1
- Episode: 5

Gilda Radner’s comedic genius shines in her portrayal of the elderly and often-confused Emily Litella, a recurring guest on the show’s “Weekend Update” segment. Litella was hard of hearing and often misconstrued the news reports, going on and on about a nonsensical issue, such as “Eagle Rights” vs. “Equal Rights” until corrected by anchor Chevy Chase. Her response to the correction was always, “Oh. Never mind.”

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NBC Studios

The Coneheads

- Host: Ralph Nader
- Season: 2
- Episode: 35

Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, and Laraine Newman were a family of cone-headed aliens trying to unobtrusively live on earth, somehow fitting in despite their strange ways and large conical heads. This skit debuted during season two and was a recurring sketch for a few years. The concept made its way to the big screen in 1993 with the movie “Coneheads,” which starred original actors Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin.

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NBC Studios

Wayne’s World

- Host: Leslie Nielsen
- Season: 14
- Episode: 259

One of the most popular skits to come from "Saturday Night Live" was “Wayne’s World,” which starred Mike Myers and Dana Carvey as young rock-n-rollers Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar. In the sketch, the pair ran a public-access cable show that they broadcast from Wayne’s parent’s basement. The recurring sketch spawned a host of what became common colloquialisms, such as “schwing” or “we’re not worthy.” Another skit that ended up being made into a movie, “Wayne’s World” premiered in 1992, followed by the sequel “Wayne’s World 2” in 1993. Both movies starred original SNL cast members Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.

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Lazy Sunday

- Host: Jack Black
- Season: 31
- Episode: 594

A digital short starring cast members Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell, “Lazy Sunday” was created by the comedy troupe The Lonely Island and premiered on SNL Dec. 17, 2005. A musical rap piece in which Samberg and Parnell rhyme about how they plan to spend their Sunday eating cupcakes and seeing the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the short became an overnight internet sensation when it appeared on YouTube, garnering over 2 million views within just a few days.

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NBC Studios

Celebrity Jeopardy

- Host: Martin Short
- Season: 22
- Episode: 414

A parody of the popular game show, Celebrity Jeopardy first aired on Dec. 7, 1996, and starred Will Ferrell as host Alex Trebek. The recurring skit featured obnoxious guests like Sean Connery, played by Darrell Hammond, who would taunt Trebek relentlessly until he lost his cool. There were 15 Celebrity Jeopardy sketches between 1996 and 2015, with a variety of famous names appearing in each skit.

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Chippendales Audition

- Host: Patrick Swayze
- Season: 16
- Episode: 290

Heartthrob Patrick Swayze hosted this episode of SNL, joining in with the then-new cast member Chris Farley in an epic rendition of a Chippendales dancer audition. Farley, known for his slapstick humor, met Swayze’s professional-level dance moves and Greek god physique head-on, leaving other cast members unable to maintain their composure. Farley remained with SNL until 1990, then moved onto film. He passed away from an apparent drug overdose at the age of 33.

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Spartan Cheerleaders

- Host: Quentin Tarantino
- Season: 21
- Episode: 391

Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri were wanna-be cheerleaders in this popular skit. First aired during season 21, Ferrell and Oteri played two die-hard cheerleaders determined to show their spirit despite not making the team. Their cheers and dance moves were nothing short of genius as they cheered for everything from football games to chess tournaments. Ferrell was a cast member from 1995 to 2002, and Oteri from 1995 to 2000.

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Nick the Lounge Singer

- Host: Elliott Gould
- Season: 2
- Episode: 43

Bill Murray, who would become an award-winning actor in his own right, debuted his character of “Nick the Lounge Singer” on April 16, 1977. Singing popular songs in a boozy, drawn-out voice, Murray’s sarcastic wit made this skit a fan favorite. Nick popped up several times from 1977 to 1987, performing at bar mitzvahs, the Auto Train, and even in prison.

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The Delicious Dish; Schweddy Balls

- Host: Alec Baldwin
- Season: 24
- Episode: 447

The Delicious Dish was a recurring skit in which two NPR hosts, played by cast members Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer, interviewed various “celebrities” as only befitting public radio. Their “Schweddy Balls” holiday skit was a stand-out, featuring host Alec Baldwin as chef Pete Schweddy, who made holiday rum balls that he marketed as Schweddy Balls. The double entendre wordplay was flawless, and the sketch was so popular that Ben and Jerry’s actually created an ice cream flavor as an ode to the sketch.

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NBC Studios

Debbie Downer

- Host: Lindsay Lohan
- Season: 29
- Episode: 563

Having that friend who always has something negative to say is a relatable problem, and Rachel Dratch’s Debbie Downer was the perfect “Eeyore,” always out to ruin any happy moment. The recurring skit appeared from 2004 to 2006, capped by a brief appearance by Dratch as Downer during the 2015 Saturday Night Live 40th-anniversary special.

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Toonces the Driving Cat

- Host: Steve Martin
- Season: 14
- Episode: 266

This recurring sketch originally starred Steve Martin as the owner of Toonces, the cat who could drive a car (albeit not very well.) Dana Carvey took over for Martin in subsequent episodes, which usually ended with Toonces driving the family over a cliff. In 1992, NBC aired a separate special called “Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive a Car,” which featured an ensemble cast and various Toonces shorts.

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Chevy Chase as President Gerald Ford

- Host: Candice Bergen
- Season: 1
- Episode: 4

One of the original “Not Ready for Prime-Time Players”, Chevy Chase first impersonated President Gerald Ford in season one, depicting him as clumsy and inept, and Chase continued his mockery throughout Ford’s term. Despite being very athletic, Ford seemed to have a propensity toward clumsiness. Some of these moments were captured by the press, such as him slipping on the steps of Air Force One.

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Alec Baldwin as President Trump

- Host: Margot Robbie
- Season: 42
- Episode: 809

Actor Alec Baldwin has been a host on SNL a whopping 17 times, more than any other repeat host. His impersonation of President Donald Trump first aired in Season 42, when he made a guest appearance during a parody of the presidential debate. While Trump has been impersonated by other cast members over the years, including a long-running stint by Darrell Hammond, Baldwin has remained in the role since the presidential election.

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The Church Lady

- Host: Sigourney Weaver
- Season: 12
- Episode: 214

Dana Carvey played Enid Strict, a holier-than-thou Christian who ran a talk show called “Church Chat.” Strict would interview various guests, calling them on the carpet for their less-than-perfect behavior with catchphrases such as “isn’t that conveeenient” or “could it be…Satan?” The skit first aired during season 12, and Carvery continued to perform it throughout his time as a cast member.

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Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer

- Host: Kristen Stewart
- Season: 42
- Episode: 821

Actress Melissa McCarthy first made an appearance as White House press secretary Sean Spicer on February 4, 2017, playing him four additional times prior to Spicer stepping down from his post. Her depiction of Spicer as gum-chewing “Spicy” also won her an Emmy for best guest actress on a comedy series.

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Opera Man

- Host: Jerry Seinfeld
- Season: 17
- Episode: 324

Cast member Adam Sandler set current events to music as Opera Man, a character that first appeared on the show during season 17. Singing a nonsensical combination of English and garbled Italian, Opera Man would sing the news during the Weekend Update sketch. Sandler regularly played Opera Man during his time as a performer on the show and reprised the role when he hosted in May 2019.

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The Chanukah Song

- Host: Rosanne
- Season: 20
- Episode: 373

Besides being an actor and comedian, Adam Sandler is known for his musical talents and songwriting. He wrote “The Chanukah Song” as part of the SNL writing team, and performed it on the Weekend Update segment on December 3, 1994. His ode to being Jewish during Christmas became a much-loved song, and appeared on his 1996 comedy album, “What the Hell Happened to Me.” Sandler also incorporated the song into his regular stand-up routine.

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The Falconer

- Host: Nia Vardalos
- Season: 28
- Episode: 530

Played by cast member Will Forte, The Falconer character was a businessman named Ken Mortimer, who leaves the world behind to live as a hermit with his falcon, Donald. Mortimer found himself in various predicaments and would send Donald to get help, but Donald always seemed to get sidetracked. Debuting in season 28, The Falconer reappeared several times over the next few seasons.

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Father Guido Sarducci

- Host: Richard Dreyfuss
- Season: 3
- Episode: 65

The creation of comedian and former SNL writer Don Novello, the character of Father Guido Sarducci was a chain-smoking priest who worked for the Vatican newspaper and a local gossip column. Novello originally created Father Sarducci in the early ’70s, portraying him on television variety shows such as “Laugh-in” and “The Smothers Brothers.” He first appeared on SNL’s “Weekend Update” in 1978 and continued to make guest appearances into the mid-’80s.

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Mango

- Host: Brendan Fraser
- Season: 23
- Episode: 429

SNL cast member Chris Kattan played exotic dancer Mango, whose sex appeal was so legendary, no male or female could resist him. Using his personal catchphrase “Everybody wants Mango,” Kattan appeared as Mango in 16 episodes between 1997 to 2002.

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The Ladies’ Man

- Host: Matthew Perry
- Season: 23
- Episode: 428

Tim Meadows, who was a cast member from 1991 to 2000, played ladies’ man Leon Phelps, who sipped Courvoisier during a talk show in which he took calls from women seeking advice on love. The recurring sketch appeared on the show several times over the course of Meadows’ career. Like many SNL skits, “The Ladies Man” was made into a film in October 2000. Meadows starred.

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Lunch Lady Land

- Host: Sarah Gilbert
- Season: 19
- Episode: 357

Another comedic ballad written by Adam Sandler, Lunch Lady Land starred Chris Farley as the lunch lady who dances in the background while Sandler sang about the life of a school lunch worker. Farley was surprisingly light on his feet for a larger man, and his antics left Sandler laughing through the song lyrics. The song also appeared on Sandler’s 1993 album, “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You.”

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Sprockets

- Host: Dolly Parton
- Season: 14
- Episode: 263

Created by Mike Myers during his time with Second City theater, Sprockets debuted on "Saturday Night Live" on April 15, 1989, and became a recurring sketch. A parody of German art culture, Myers played a West German talk show host and expressionist named Dieter, who interviewed various people on his show with a profound lack of interest.

 

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Omeletville

- Host: Justin Timberlake
- Season: 29
- Episode: 547

Repeat host Justin Timberlake showed off his musical talent while dressed as a giant egg in this skit about warring street advertisers who try to entice customers into their restaurants. Timberlake has a dance-off against cast member Chris Parnell, who wore a bacon and egg costume. There were several “Omeletville” spinoff skits that all starred Timberlake, such as “Homelessville”, “Liquorville,” and “Veganville.”

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Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

- Host: Michael Phelps
- Season: 34
- Episode: 637

Tina Fey first took on the role of former Alaska Governor and Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008, making a guest appearance on the show during a spoof of a “nonpartisan message” from Palin and Hillary Clinton (played by Amy Poehler). Fey, who left "Saturday Night Live" in 2006 to work on her show, “30 Rock,” returned as Palin several times, each time displaying an uncanny resemblance to the governor in both looks and mannerisms. In 2009, she won a Primetime Emmy for outstanding guest actress in a comedy for her portrayal.

 

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Beyonce “Single Ladies”

- Host: Paul Rudd
- Season: 34
- Episode: 644

Justin Timberlake made a cameo as a backup dancer for Beyoncé during rehearsals of her “Single Ladies” video. Clad in the signature black leotard and heels, along with cast members Andy Samberg and Bobby Moynihan, Timberlake and his crew attempt to perform with Beyoncé, who was that episode’s musical guest, with hysterical, side-splitting results.

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NBC Studios

MacGruber

- Host: Jeremy Piven
- Season: 32
- Episode: 615

A play on the popular television series, “MacGyver”, Will Forte was MacGruber, an inept version of the famous special ops agent who allows a bomb to blow up his colleagues at the end of every sketch. MacGruber was a recurring skit on SNL from 2007 to 2010 and was made into a feature film, also starring Will Forte, in 2010.

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More Cowbell

- Host: Christopher Walken
- Season: 25
- Episode: 481

Set up to look like an episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music,” the More Cowbell skit starred Will Ferrell as a bandmate of the group Blue Oyster Cult, who insisted on playing his background cowbell instrument as loud and as obnoxiously as possible. Guest star and host Christopher Walken plays the producer who steps in and demands “more cowbell” to the rest of the band’s chagrin. The skit was so popular that the phrase “more cowbell” quickly became an iconic part of pop culture.

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The Judy Miller Show

- Host: Charles Grodin
- Season: 3
- Episode: 50

While not as well-known as some other SNL recurring skits, The Judy Miller Show was always a favorite for Gilda Radner fans. Radner played hyperactive schoolgirl Judy Miller, who would play in her room, putting on her own Judy Miller Show, which usually resulted in something getting broken. The sketch appeared in SNL’s early seasons, and cast member Amy Poehler later said in her memoir, “Yes, Please,” that the character was the inspiration for her own recurring skit, Kaitlin.

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Haunted Elevator

- Host: Tom Hanks
- Season: 42
- Episode: 812

Host Tom Hanks played David S. Pumpkins, a decidedly un-scary character on a Tower of Terror-style amusement park ride. Wearing a suit covered in pumpkins, he appears at intervals in the sketch, trying to scare the couple on the ride. When asked what he is supposed to be, he says he “is his own thing” only further confusing the ride-goers. The Pumpkins character popped up in other SNL sketches over time, and in 2017, NBC aired the “David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special.”

 

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Laser Cats

- Host: Lindsay Lohan
- Season: 31
- Episode: 601

Another digital short created by comedy group, The Lonely Island, Laser Cats stars Andy Samberg and Bill Hader as men battling to save a princess in a post-apocalyptic world in which cats can shoot lasers out of their mouths. The cats are used as weapons, and the poorly made stuffed prop cats only add to the low-budget hilarity of the short.

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Drunk Girl

- Host: Hugh Jackman
- Season: 27
- Episode: 513

Played by cast member Jeff Richards, Drunk Girl was a frequent flyer on SNL’s Weekend Update from 2001 to 2003. The epitome of a drunk college girl, she often told people to “shut up” when they weren’t speaking, and slurred “do you wanna know something” over and over. Jeff Richards was the first SNL cast member to work simultaneously for its rival show, "MADtv". He left SNL in 2004 to pursue his stand-up career.

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Stefon

- Host: Ben Affleck
- Season: 34
- Episode: 643

New York correspondent and club kid Stefon debuted on Weekend Update Nov. 1, 2008, with regular appearances until 2013. Played by Bill Hader, Stefon was touted as an expert on all things New York and shared his advice on the best places to see and be seen. The clubs Stefon recommended were always bizarre and strange, and Hader sometimes broke character by laughing during the skit.

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Natalie’s Rap

- Host: Natalie Portman
- Season: 31
- Episode: 598

Natalie Portman shocked and delighted the world with her gritty black and white digital short titled, Natalie’s Rap. Created by Andy Samberg’s troupe The Lonely Island, Portman ridiculed her own squeaky-clean image by rapping that she is a “badass” and assaulting Seth Meyers. Portman returned to host the show in 2018 and did another rap video that was equally popular.

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Killer Bees

- Host: George Carlin
- Season: 1
- Episode: 1

The first recurring sketch for the show, the Killer Bees were played by John Belushi, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, and various other cast members, all wearing bee costumes complete with an antenna. The skit mainly comprised them cracking jokes about bee body parts. The Killer Bees appeared in 11 episodes of season one, and a few other episodes of later seasons.

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Coffee Talk

- Host: Kirstie Alley
- Season: 17
- Episode: 309

Running from 1991 to 1994, Mike Myers played a stereotypical Jewish woman, Linda Richman, who had a strong New York accent and an obsession with Barbra Streisand. Coffee Talk was a loosely run talk show in which Richman occasionally took calls and would offer up topics, such as “Dr. Pepper was neither a doctor nor a pepper. Discuss.” Myers based the character on his own mother-in-law, even giving her the same name.

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Gumby

- Host: Blythe Danner
- Season: 7
- Episode: 134

Eddie Murphy debuted the character of Gumby on March 27, 1982. Much like his Mr. Robison character, Gumby was a much coarser version of the beloved children’s cartoon character. Murphy coined the phrase “I’m Gumby, damn it,” which became an iconic part of ‘80s pop culture.

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Dick in a Box

- Host: Justin Timberlake
- Season: 32
- Episode: 613

SNL has never been known for any sense of decorum, and the digital short, Dick in a Box fully reflects the show’s irreverence. Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg collaborated in this holiday short about the gift they imagine every girl wants. After the short aired, NBC put an uncensored version of it on its website and YouTube, making it an immediate viral hit.

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John Malkovich Reads '‘Twas the Night Before Christmas'

- Host: John Malkovich
- Season: 34
- Episode: 646

John Malkovich hosted "Saturday Night Live" multiple times, but none were as memorable as his Christmas monologue where he read aloud the classic tale, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to a group of children, interjecting sobering anecdotes about the suicide rates at Christmas and the scientific probabilities of Santa’s sleigh bursting into flame.

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Land Shark

- Host: Candice Bergen
- Season: 1
- Episode: 4

Inspired by the mass hysteria and abundance of shark sightings the movie “Jaws” generated, Chevy Chase debuted his Landshark character during season one, playing a large shark that knocks on people’s doors and then devours them when they answer. The Landshark would pretend to be delivering candygrams or flowers, or say he was a repairman until the unwitting victim would respond. Landshark appeared on various episodes of the first three seasons, with cameos in later seasons and in the 40th-anniversary special.

 

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Matt Foley

- Host: Christina Applegate
- Season: 18
- Episode: 345

Played by Chris Farley, Matt Foley was a motivational speaker with terrible social skills and serious bad luck. In his debut Van by the River sketch, Foley tries to get two young teens, played by David Spade and Christina Applegate, to get back on track by warning them they will end up living in a van by the river, like him. The character was originally created by former SNL writer Bob Odenkirk, best known for his role as Saul Goodman in the hit series, “Better Call Saul.” Matt Foley was a recurring character from 1993 to 1997.

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The Culps

- Host: Chris Rock
- Season: 22
- Episode: 411

The Culp Family Music Performers were husband-and-wife duo Marty and Bobbi Culp, played by Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer. High school music teachers who tried to connect with students by playing their own awkward versions of popular music, the Culps performed at various school functions, putting their own strange spin on hits of the day like “Baby Got Back.” The recurring skit appeared from 1996 to 2002, making a comeback in 2012 when Will Ferrell hosted.

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Hans and Franz

- Host: Steve Martin
- Season: 13
- Episode: 234

With a promise to “pump you up,” cast members Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon debuted the Hans and Franz characters in 1987. The two play Austrian body-builders padded with fake muscles and weight belts, and they admonished others who weren’t as “muscled” as they were. Nealon got the idea from watching an interview with actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hans and Franz were recurring characters for several seasons.

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Buckwheat

- Host: Susan Saint James
- Season: 7
- Episode: 121

Performing as only he can, Eddie Murphy’s rendition of the Little Rascals character Buckwheat, or “Buh-weet,” comprised Murphy speaking with a severe speech impediment that comically transformed everything the character said. His first appearance was the spoof of a commercial for Buckwheat’s record album, “Buh-weet Sings,” in which songs like “Three Times a Lady” became “Fee Tines a Mady”. Murphy portrayed Buckwheat in several episodes between 1981 to 1984.

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Steve Martin King Tut

- Host: Steve Martin
- Season: 3
- Episode: 64

Many people mistakenly think Steve Martin was a cast member of SNL, primarily because he hosted the show so many times. During one of his season three hosting sessions, Martin performed the song “King Tut,” which was inspired by the hugely popular “Treasures of Tutankhamun” traveling exhibit that toured several U.S. cities in the late ’70s. The song was released as a single and sold more than one million copies, as well as reaching number 17 on the Billboard charts. Martin also included the song in his album, “A Wild and Crazy Guy.”

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