Saturday Night Live's 42nd season has come to a close, and so much of the added cultural relevancy and bonanza ratings this season (they had their highest ratings in two decades) were because of the show's rewritten-up-to-the-last-minute live sketches parodying the Trump administration. And while those sketches were certainly buzzworthy reflections of our current political moment, the show teetered on the edge of overdoing it with the Trump material—they could only fit so many of these skits into any given episode without having people feel overwhelmed.
Thankfully, in addition to those hot button pieces, we also got an eclectic mix of other sketches, from the self-reflective (Why Is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot?, A Sketch For The Women) to the extremely silly (SWAT Recon, Pizza Town, Attorney Ad), from surreal one-offs (Sectionals, David S. Pumpkins, World's Most Evil Invention) to recurring characters/sketches (Black Jeopardy, High School Theater Show, Debette Goldry).
Below, check out our top 20 favorite live segments and the five best monologues. And if we left something off, let us know in the comments. (ICYMI: Here are our 20 favorite pre-taped segments, Digital Shorts and fake commercials.)
The 20 Best Live Sketches Of The Season
Emily Blunt was a participant in the world's most awkward Short Film Q&A session.
Black Jeopardywith Tom Hanks as a Trump-loving contestant was the best incarnation of that sketch yet.
Also from Hanks's episode, David S. Pumpkins was a bonafide viral sensation (and immediate Halloween costume classic).
Beck Bennett tried to answer an age-old question in a very meta sketch: Why Is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot?
Host Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock pulled together an instant classic in response to the Election Night meltdown.
No sketch better captured the inanity of cable news programs than Anderson Cooper 360 from Kristen Wiig's episode.
High School Theater Show has been one of my favorite recurring sketches in recent seasons, and this one with Emma Stone was important now more than ever.
Pizza Town, with Aziz Ansari, was the spiritual follow-up to last season's "Space Pants" classic.
Bobby Moynihan is a beautiful idiot in Attorney Ad, also from Ansari's episode.
There's no denying that Melissa McCarthy generated the biggest laughs this season as White House spokesperson Sean Spicer. She appeared four times—the surprise time when no one realized it was her at first, the followup where she showed off her new shoes, the Easter Bunny announcement, and the big NYC podium journey, culminating in a forbidden kiss with Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump.
Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett wrote A Sketch For The Women—albeit very silent women—in Scarlett Johansson's episode.
God bless the SNL makeup and prop team that turned Kate McKinnon into Shud The Mermaid once again.
Translator also from Johansson's episode, dared to ask the question: what if your dog could talk...and it turns out they voted for Trump?
Louis C.K.'s eyelashes were the main attraction in The Lawyer
Sectionals, as one of my absolute favorites of the season, was a tender love letter to sectional couches.
That C.K. episode was so good, here's a third sketch from it: Tenement Museum was all about C.K.'s very authentic accent.
Another favorite this season was the very silly SWAT Recon, from Chris Pine's episode.
Spocko, also from Pine's episode, would have been a throwaway sketch if it weren't for Moynihan totally embracing the character.
And one of the darkest sketches of the season came in Dwayne Johnson's season finale, World's Most Evil Invention.
Honorable Mentions: Kate McKinnon's UFO-attracting Colleen Rafferty returned in Casey Affleck's episode; she also made out with Dave Chappelle in the recurring "Last Call" segment; SNL got meta by having a post-sketch press conference; Beck Bennett was amazing as Putin all year long, and even got his own cold open; Emily Blunt was part of a hamster re-staging of "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf?"; Kellyanne Conway turned out to be the new Carmen Sandiego; Melissa McCarthy was a perfectly grouchy mascot for a new production logo; and Jimmy Fallon played both old and young John Travolta in an impressive round of "Family Feud."
The 5 Best Monologues
I don't know if it was something in the water at Studio 8H, but the monologues were noticeably less memorable this year than in previous seasons. There were still a couple knockouts though, especially these top two from comedians who were hosting for the first time. That includes Dave Chappelle, who gave an 11 minute post-election summary: "America's done it, we've actually elected an internet troll as President."
Aziz Ansari had the equally tough task of hosting the post-inauguration episode, and he delivered a funny and meaningful monologue, also reflecting on Trump and the Women's March.
I'd argue that Louis C.K. has become one of the best monologuists in SNL history, always taking the opportunity to push some of his new material on a national audience, and he was just as great this year when he poked fun at his own white guy privilege.
After those three, nothing else is necessarily great, but Chris Pine was charming AND informative with his monologue song/diorama on the various famous Chris's.
And finally...um...I guess...Dwayne Johnson and Tom Hanks's announcement about running in 2020 was fun?
Special Prize For The Monologue That Has Aged Poorly Quickest: Lin Manuel-Miranda jinxed a nation.
Special Prize For Throwing A Giant Dance Party To A David Bowie Song For An Incredibly Tenuous Reason: Jimmy Fallon isn't my favorite comedian at the moment, as you might imagine, but I always appreciate a random chance to celebrate Bowie, even if the occasion for it (SNL going live coast-to-coast) is kinda whatever.