Saturday Night Live did not end season 43 on the highest note this past weekend—despite the return of Studio 8H legend Tina Fey, it ended up being one of the weaker episodes of the season. But maybe that was fitting, considering this was a very mixed bag of a season for the long-running comedy show, one in which the Trump sketches struggled mightily to find new ground to cover outside of laundry lists of "stuff that happened that week" and celebrity cameos (which was acknowledged in the guest-heavy season finale monologue).
There were no stand-out episodes in the first half of the season, despite excellent first-time hosting debuts by the likes of Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish and Chance The Rapper. Jessica Chastain was the best host of the winter, before the show went off-air for the Winter Olympics. Some returning guests who had been the highlights of previous seasons—like Larry David, Amy Schumer, Kevin Hart and Fey—had their weakest episodes ever, but thankfully the show hit a sweet spot toward the end of the season with a run of hosts including Sterling K. Brown, Bill Hader, John Mulaney and Donald Glover.
As with previous recent seasons, we've compiled our favorite pre-taped segments, live sketches, monologues and fake commercials. This is all highly subjective, but think of it as a cheat sheet for the best of season 43. First up, check out the best pre-taped segments and commercials below.
The Best Pre-Taped Segments (aka The Digital Shorts Awards)
If you were to ask me to choose only one sketch from this list to put in a time capsule of this season, then Papyrus would be the keeper. In this Julio Torres-written sketch, host Ryan Gosling confronted the travesty of the Papyrus font being used in Avatar. Even the inventor of the font thought it was hilarious.
SNL has stumbled in some of their attempts at figuring out what makes Kellyanne Conway tick. But they finally found the right pop culture reference with Kellywise from the Kumail Nanjiani-hosted episode.
Kyle Mooney & Beck Bennett have combined forces for an ongoing series of highly surreal and ultra-specific parodies of '90s sitcoms since they joined the show. Not all the sketches stand out, but Beers might be their best ever, with Larry David stepping into the role of CJ, who may have a drinking problem.
Chris Redd was one of two new castmembers to leave a huge impression on the show this season (Heidi Gardener is the other one, and the less said about the third new castmember, who almost certainly won't be back next season, the better). Redd teamed up with Chance The Rapper and Kenan Thompson to form the group De-Von-Tré, who performed this sweet R&B ode Come Back, Barack.
The current core group of women at SNL (Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Leslie Jones) have produced at least one incredibly timely (and incredibly catchy) music video every season—this year's jam Welcome To Hell, featuring host Saoirse Ronan, addressed the ongoing Hollywood sexual harassment allegations.
Redd's best sketch of the season came in the Jessica Chastain-hosted episode. It's a Fresh Prince opening credits parody that spirals out of control until Redd's Fresh Prince has to adopt a new identity as Jasper Mitchell.
While it wasn't as shocking as the original 12 years ago, there was at least one moment that made Natalie Portman's Natalie's Rap 2 great: her fully-costumed defense of the Star Wars prequels.
Sterling K. Brown isn't exactly known for comedy, but he was one of the surprise best hosts this season. He plays a know-it-all in Sasquatch whose expertise doesn't really help Mikey Day much.
If you were as obsessed with Wild Wild Country as we were, then this pitch-perfect parody from John Mulaney's episode—featuring Nasim Pedrad as Sheela—was a big hit.
Donald Glover's episode may have been my favorite of the season, and there were two musical pre-recorded sketches that towered above everything: first up, Friendos, a Migos parody in which their triple flow was given a therapeutic angle.
Then there was A Kanye Place, a Kanye West/A Quiet Place mashup that even made Kanye smile.
Though the last two episodes of the season were not among the best, the Mother's Day-themed Amy Schumer sketch The Day You Were Born perfectly captured the horror of motherhood.
Honorable Mentions: Stanley Tucci finally got the rap ode he deserved in Tucci Gang from the Sam Rockwell episode; Kumail Nanjiani connected with Melania Trump in Customer Service; Larry David refused to participate in the hot new dance The Baby Step; Chance had another great musical sketch with Rap History; and there were two really fun auditions sketches in which the cast got to break out some impressions (Jurassic Park from the Bill Hader episode & Lion King from the Tiffany Haddish one).
Best Cut-For-Time Sketch Of The Season
Kyle Mooney & Beck Bennett were the kings of cut-for-time sketches this season, and this was their crown jewel. The existential stress of trying to meet-up with friends for a special New Year's Eve celebration takes center stage in New Year’s Kiss.
The Best Fake Commercials
Levi's Wokes: sizeless, style-neutral, gender non-conforming denim for a generation that defies labels.
From Kevin Hart's episode comes Holiday Jewelry, which really nails the Pandora charm aesthetic.
Host Sam Rockwell and Kyle Mooney play life-sized dolls in My Drunk Boyfriend, who are guaranteed to make you feel like your man is right there drunk-crying beside you.
Next: For Men gave us an antiperspirant for men about to be taken down for sexual harassment.
In Roach Product, Charles Barkley knows that the only thing that can stop a bad roach is a good roach with a gun.
Nike Women's Ad offered some leggings for sitting on the couch.
And in the best ad of the season, Dreamers got to jump through bureaucratic hoops and duck ICE officers in The Game of Life: DACA Edition.
Honorable Mentions: Potty humor is taken to the next level at the office in Undercover Office Potty; Graduation Commercial celebrates the most highly-anticipated event in town; and a former actress gives a testimonial for Chantix.