Live sketches, and the undeniable chemistry of the cast when they are performing together, are what truly differentiates Saturday Night Live from its comedy competitors and imitators. We counted down our favorite live sketches, monologues and Weekend Update performers from season 45 last week. But it's also hard to deny that some of the funniest work coming out of Studio 8H in the last decade has been in the realm of pre-taped sketches (or as they were known in The Lonely Island days, digital shorts).
That became especially true once the pandemic hit and the show went entirely remote for three At Home episodes—the limitations of being separated across the country was an awkward fit for the first episode, but the last two contained some of the best SNL material of the entire season, and gave every cast member a chance to shine.
Below, check out our list of the best 12 pre-taped segments of the season from before the pandemic; the 11 best At Home segments; and the five best cut-for-time sketches.
The 12 Best Pre-Taped Sketches Of The Season
12. Tasty Toaster Tarts (Host Chance The Rapper) Chance's friends come over for some awesome snacks, and then they notice that his parents are missing, and there's a weird smell, and the fridge is closed with duct tape...
11. Undercover Boss (Host Adam Driver) Kylo Ren went back undercover as intern "Randy" in this sequel to the Undercover Boss sketch from Driver's first SNL episode in 2016. It seems somehow fitting that his last appearance as Ren would feature him repeatedly saying "okay boomer" in between murdering fellow interns.
10. That's The Game (Host Harry Styles) Chris Redd stars as a gang member who tries to takeover Kenan Thompson's crew and fails spectacularly because he doesn't know how to run a drug empire, or what the difference is between cocaine and "heron," or where you buy those little plastic baggies you put the drugs in. But at least he learns that you can't screw in a bullet.
9. Corporate Nightmare Song (Host Kristen Stewart): Kristen Stewart, Pete Davidson, Kyle Mooney, and Mikey Day star as some "punk" employees rebelling against their corporate jobs... until they start getting praised for their work and move up the ladder. Despite the peppy emo/punk music, it may have been one of the more sneaky depressing sketches of the season.
8. On The Couch (Host Daniel Craig) This song starts out like it's a one-note joke, but it only gets funnier and sharper as it goes along. It doesn't hurt that the hook of the song, sung by The Weeknd, was pretty catchy too.
7. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Host Scarlett Johansson) Cecily Strong took centerstage for this parody of the classic Christmas tune, in which a young girl is witness to her parents' kinky sex life.
6. Joan Song (Host Harry Styles) Joan (Aidy Bryant) sings about her new boyfriend Doug (Harry Styles), who happens to be her chihuahua. It's cute at first, but once Styles enters the picture as Doug, it becomes laugh out loud funny. "I love you just the way you am" indeed, Doug.
5. Salad (Host Daniel Craig) Aidy Bryant sings an ode to her tasty “overnight salad,” a nauseating delicacy which is really more of a cry for help.
4. Home for the Holidays (Host Eddie Murphy) A family, including parents played by Murphy and Maya Rudolph, reflects on spending the holidays together. In recent years, SNL has gotten really good at pre-taped segments like this (see: "Best Christmas Ever" from Matt Damon's episode last year) that mix sentimental holiday cheer with the soul-crushing reality of spending that much time in close quarters with family.
3. Slow (Host Adam Driver) My favorite Adam Driver performance of his episode came in this pre-taped music video, an R&B song about lovers taking things a little too slow in which Driver's voice was hilariously lowered the entire time.
2. Party Song (Host Will Ferrell) This was a great example of how a great host like Will Ferrell can elevate a sketch—here, we get his haunted take on a teacher having a mid-life crisis in the middle of an otherwise upbeat house party. What is sadder than watching The Shawshank Redemption at a party?
1. Grouch (Host David Harbour) In five years, I'm not going to want to rewatch Joker, a depressing, nihilistic film. But in five years, I will want to rewatch this absolutely perfect, hilarious Sesame Street parody.
The 11 Best SNL At Home Sketches
11. Zoom Call (At Home 4/11/20) This was one of the only ensemble pieces in the first At Home episode, in which the show was still figuring out what SNL would even look like during the pandemic. But it worked here because Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant let loose in the best way imaginable with some hilarious physical comedy as two receptionists struggling with Zoom.
10. Quarantine QT (At Home 4/11/20) The other standout of that first At Home episode was Ego Nwodim's parody of Instagram influencer videos.
9. Whiskers R We (At Home 4/25/20) Kate McKinnon had a one-woman sketch in each of the At Home episodes that relied on her innate charm and lots of props. The first one had her in character as RBG, the last one had her putting on an ode to the wonders of Robert Eggers' roommate horror movie, The Lighthouse. My favorite came in the second one, in which she mostly just goofed around her cat.
8. Aidy Bryant's Childhood Journal (At Home 4/25/20) All of Aidy Bryant's At Home pieces were among the surreal highlights of the episodes, but a lot of people may have missed out on this one, which was the very last sketch of the second At Home episode. It truly captured the fevered insanity of isolation through Bryant's actual childhood journals, deftly balancing autobiographical material and comedy gold.
7. Dreams (At Home 5/9/20) The final sketch of the final At Home episode wasn't the funniest sketch of the season, but it was a fittingly emotional, melancholic way to say goodbye to this season—and one that truly captured the uneasy moment we're living in. The entire cast collectively dreams of returning to their normal lives in NYC, which includes everything from skating around Rockefeller Plaza to sitting with Spike Lee at a Knicks game to hanging out with rats in Central Park to eating a slice at Ben's Pizza.
6. Eleanor's House (At Home 5/9/20) This was another unforgettable Bryant sketch, featuring some of the most disconcerting, creepy animation styles I've ever seen on the show.
5. Stuck In The House (At Home 4/25/20) I wasn't the biggest fan of Pete Davidson's rap parodies during the At Home episodes, and I initially let out a groan when I started watching this one. But halfway through, Adam Sandler shows up with underwear over his face and Rob Schneider at his door, and I just about lost it. For Sandler's contributions alone, this was absolutely one of the best of these episodes.
4. Grocery Store Ad (At Home 4/25/20) The two most killer pairings on SNL right now are Kyle Mooney/Beck Bennett and Aidy Bryant/Kate McKinnon. Besides Zoom Call, this was their only real team-up during the At Home episodes, but it was a great one, especially seeing them trying and failing to high five; the constant Dasani insults; and the immortal line, "You asked for toilet paper. Do you want a DVD of Van Helsing?"
3. Beer Money (At Home 5/9/20) This sketch feels like it was the apex of Kyle Mooney's surreal comedic style, something he's been building up to in recent weeks. It combines his obsession with '90s sitcoms, his experimentation with playing multiple characters (who are all kinda the same), and his love of awkward, stilted comedy. It's one of the most unhinged things he's ever done on the show, and I hope he continues doing it next season.
2. Let Kids Drink (At Home 5/9/20) After a few weeks of tinkering, the writers, actors and crew figured out some great ways to take advantage of the limitations of social distancing (more shared screens, stranger graphics, liberal use of stock footage). The highlight of the final At Home episode was this extremely catchy and extremely reasonable song. Josh Gad and Al Roker randomly show up, a bunch of tykes pose with empty bottles, and Beck Bennett steals the sketch with his drinking shed.
1. What Up With That: At Home (At Home 4/25/20) The first At Home episode didn't really work as either an episode of SNL or as an assemblage of sketches about the pandemic. Even with Brad Pitt playing Dr. Anthony Fauci in the cold open, I was prepared for the second one to be just as awkward. But then for the first time since 2012, SNL brought back Diondre Cole and his insane crew, and everything felt funny again. This is one of the most beloved Kenan Thompson sketches, the absolute platonic ideal of a Thompson performance, and the layering of bizarre and hilarious graphics (the dancing dog!) only added to the sketch's typical insanity. Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen both revived their characters (though I don't think Bill Hader was actually there as perpetually-snubbed Lindsey Buckingham, which honestly just makes the joke work even more), Charles Barkley and DJ Khaled were on the line, and Cecily Strong basically stole the show as Quarantina. It added up to one of the most delightful things I've seen on SNL in a long time.
Honorable Mentions: Chloe Fineman and Melissa Villaseñor showed off their most hilarious impressions in Another MasterClass Quarantine Edition. Beck Bennett sang the masculine rock song "Rare Steak" in The Reveal. Heidi Gardener got to unleash one of her weirdest, most unforgettable characters in FaceTime With Rudd. SoulCycle at Home was the best use of the recurring sketch yet. Aidy Bryant really embraced her green screen in Visualizations with Aidy Bryant. And Mikey Day happily ceded the spotlight to his son in Dad Prank Video.
The Best Cut-For-Time Sketches That Should Have Made It To Air
Cast List (Host Will Ferrell) Will Ferrell plays a theater director who just wants to spread "gorgeous sweet chaos" amongst high schoolers—it's a character that feels the most like a classic Ferrell SNL creation from the late '90s/early '00s, à la the Jeffrey's
Aidy Bizzo & Lizzo (Host Eddie Murphy) With Eddie Murphy hosting the show for the first time since he left in the '80s, it's understandable that his episode was already filled to the brim with great sketches featuring many of his most beloved characters. But it's too bad this sketch, about Aidy Bryant channeling Lizzo and becoming "100% that bitch," didn't make it.
Coal Miners Face-Off (Host RuPaul) RuPaul and Bowen Yang had a very dramatic and very funny face-off in a coal mine that seemed like a lost episode of Dynasty.
Message To The Girls (At Home 5/9/20) The final At Home episode had so many cut-for-time sketches (they call them "digital exclusives"), they could have almost been their own episode. This was my favorite, in which Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant play a pair of teen boys who had a lot of plans for prom go up in smoke because of the pandemic. It's crazy that this didn't make it to air.
Your House Promo (At Home 5/9/20) Beck Bennett gave a tour of his home to Architectural Digest in one funny cut-for-time sketch, then one-upped it with this very funny ode to all the "enticing features" your house offers while you have nowhere else to go during the pandemic.