It was a gala anniversary year, which included a jumbo-sized (nearly four hours long!) 40th anniversary primetime special with almost every alum returning. With all the talk of legacy, it was a lot of pressure for the current cast to live up to, but this year was a marked improvement over the last three seasons, with signs of breakout talent (Kate McKinnon). People complained as usual—sometimes justifiably so, sometimes not—but this was overall the most enjoyable season that we've recapped the show here at Gothamist.
Like last year, we've compiled a list of 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 40.
The 15 Best Pre-Taped Segments
Honorable Mentions: Women saying what they want to say in Dakota Johnson's episode, the very dark Mr. Westberg sketch, reality show deconstruction with Chris Hemmsworth, "The Fault In Our Stars" via Ebola trailer, the ambitious parody of every modern dystopian teen sci-fi trailer, and Cookie from "Empire" on Sesame Street.
This deadpan Roommates sketch from Chris Pratt's episode was one of my favorite Kyle Mooney & Beck Bennett sketches ever.
Whites still have it pretty good (at least for a little longer).
The Dudleys proved that every TV show would benefit from Crazy Eyes.
Grow-A-Guy was one of the more touching digital shorts.
Hobbit Office was perfect, especially Taran Killam's Gollum.
Pastor Pat, organist Linda Tayhoe, the guy with sweaty palms, and all your other favorites are at St. Joseph's Christmas Mass Spectacular.
Christmas Serial shone an important light on Kris Kringle.
Bushwick, Brooklyn 2015 is everything that SNL does right these days.
Wishin Boot is probably as good of a modern country parody as you're going to get.
Mike O'Brien stars in The Jay Z Story.
Prom Queen was one of the weirder spins on a classic story.
SNL takes on Scientology...err, Neurotology.
Black Widow finally gets her own movie.
Blazer was Taran Killam's best solo spotlight in quite awhile.
Bambi is the Disney movie we want to see.
The 15 Best Live Sketches
Honorable Mentions: Chris Pratt & Aidy Bryant's booty rapping, Hillary Clinton's announcement party, the best CNN parody of the season, and Jim Carrey's "Chandelier" dancing (which would be top 15, except it's not available online anymore).
Bill Hader brought Puppet Class back with him—this time with puppet flashbacks.
Jim Carrey got to shine in the supremely weird Secret Billionaire monologue.
Beck Bennett & Kyle Mooney channel their awkward humor into this fantastic dating sketch.
Woody Harrelson was responsible for the catchiest song IN THE USUAL WAY of the season.
This sketch from Martin Freeman's episode proved the love between a WNBA star and a White Castle owner can't be denied.
And yet, Pine River Lodge was like "What's Up With That" but...with Martin Freeman's saxophonist hair, and the world's weirdest pronunciation of "red boots."
The Singing Sisters were the most surreal thing about Amy Adams' Christmas episode.
Kevin Hart proved he has a hell of a James Brown impression.
JK Simmons was good, but Kate McKinnon stole this hilarious Casablanca sketch.
There was no more charming moment this season than Chris Hemsworth trying to get through to Chicken Captain.
The Rock killed it with his Wrestlemania taunts.
Michael Keaton was the center of the best 10-to-1 sketch of the season.
Reginald VelJohnson would NOT draw the prophet Muhammad.
And this is just the way Louis C.K. talks, really.
The 5 Best Monologues
Chris Rock tackled the Boston Marathon, the Freedom Tower and Christmas.
Kevin Hart talked about the raccoon problem in his neighborhood and why he wouldn't rescue his fiancée from a mountain lion attack.
Michael Keaton's monologue was a chance for Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan to beg him to play Batman with them.
Reese Witherspoon's monologue was a giant Mother's Day tribute to all the cast members.
And Louis C.K. had the best monologue by far, a boundary-pushing stand-up set that covered his own mild racism ("benign, not aggressive"), comparing his children to Israel and Palestine, and the tenaciousness of child molesters.
The 5 Best Fake Commercials:
Jim Carrey inhabits the spirit of Matthew McConaughey for some new Lincoln ads.
BIll Hader stars in this HelpFund ad, although Jay Pharoah gets the best reaction shots.
I've yet to see any evidence that Kate McKinnon isn't Justin Bieber...
Vanessa Bayer takes the spotlight for this Totino's Super Bowl ad.