Saturday Night Live has been a hallmark of American sketch comedy for over 40 years. It’s no exaggeration to say that the show jump-started the careers of the country’s favorite comedians, from Eddie Murphy to Tina Fey, Bill Murray to Jimmy Fallon. SNL has a way of attracting the best minds in comedy and propelling them from the show’s set and into their own storied film, television, or late night talk shows careers.
Remarkably, SNL’s format has remained the same for nearly the entirety of the show’s decades-long run (it’s also one of the longest-running network television program of all time). The show starts cold, with a sketch that always ends in that iconic, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” A celebrity guest hosts and kicks off the show by delivering a comedic monologue at the top of the hour, but the meat of SNL consists of a number of sketches, most of which are live and star the regular cast plus the celebrity host. The show is also punctuated by performances from that week’s musical guest.
That stable structure is the only stable thing about the show, though. The sketches can be hit or miss—you can’t expect a group of comedians to get it right every week. But SNL is not just one of the best comedy sketch shows. It’s a seminal part of American life and culture. As a weekly show, it needs, by definition, to stay very in tune with pop culture and politics in order to stay relevant. As a result, SNL tends to provide a sharper perspective on the country’s most pressing issues—whether that’s Trump or race issues or sexual harassment in the workplace—by satirizing the hell out of it.
In honor of the show, here is a list of the 35 best SNL skits that have ever aired. From fake commercials to digital shorts to impressions, game shows, musical parodies, political satires, and celeb appearances, something in this list is bound to crack you up.
35. World's Most Evil Invention
34. Black Jeopardy (ft. Tom Hanks)
33. Haunted Elevator
32. Actress Round Table (ft. Margot Robbie)
30. Welcome To Hell
29. Gift Wrap
28. Dinner Discussion
27. Natalie's Rap 2
26. Tournament Fighter
24. I'm On A Boat
23. Celebrity Jeopardy
22. Farewell, Mr. Bunting
21. Meet Your Second Wife
20. Katie Couric Interviews Sarah Palin
19. A Thanksgiving Miracle
18. Dick in a Box
17. Live Report
16. Dysfunctional Family Dinner
15. The Chanukah Song
Starring: Louis C.K., Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant
Aired: Nov. 3, 2012
Imagining Abraham Lincoln as Louis C.K.—what could be better than that? This gem from C.K.'s first hosting gig infused his—and his show's—interpersonal awkwardness and sharp, reality-based wit into the 16th president, and the results were all onions. First you've got Lincoln expecting black people to thank him after signing the Emancipation Proclamation: "I just wanna thank President Lincoln here for everything he's done for me," Kenan Thompson says as a newly freed slave. "Especially my new job of shoveling HORSE SHIT. INTO A WAGON."
As if that wasn't great enough, then you've got Lincoln C.K. doing a set at the Comedy Cellar, riffing on having to keep a straight face while negotiating with slaveowners, his impending assassination, and his "literally, historically crazy" wife. C.K. just does an amazing job of maintaining his style and persona while sporting a beard and a tophat. Mashing eras together usually doesn't work, but this is somehow a match made in heaven.