We know. It’s incredibly difficult to satisfactorily craft a definitive list of the absolute best sketches the storied cultural goliath has given the world since 1975. We did our best, and, of course, there was the inevitable “wisdom of the staircase” where we realized: Oh crap, what about that one? Consider this a make-good, a mulligan, or just us trying to stay in the Church Lady’s good graces a little while longer.
And here’s just a pre-emptive word to those of you commenting with defiant “you forgot about…” we can guarantee you we didn’t. There’s just not enough room on the Internet to write about every sketch.
1. Lunch Lady
Not giving Adam Sandler’s goofy songs a shout-out would be pretty unforgivable. Sandler wrote lots of songs for SNL, but Lunch Lady deserves its own special nod for turning what could have been another silly acoustic ditty for Weekend Update into what’s seemingly the finale in a musical about the archetypal woman who cooks and ladles food out in school cafeterias. When you watch Sarah Silverman walk onstage as a sultry box of Chinese leftovers and realize that’s the least crazy thing going on — that’s a clear sign this truly is something special.
2. Clinton at McDonald’s
The great, and sadly late, Phil Hartman was always in a category of his own, and his spot-on Bill Clinton always reminded us of it. This sketch, wherein the former president pops into McDonald’s after a three-block jog to “see the American people and maybe get a Diet Coke or something” on the surface might just be a clothesline of fat jokes. But it actually satirizes the idiotic things politicians do to be seen as a “regular guy.” It also may have been the first sketch to (unknowingly) reference Clinton’s infidelity. Bill says to a Secret Service agent: “Jim, let me tell you something: There’s gonna be a whole buncha things we don’t tell Mrs. Clinton. Fast food is the least of our worries.”
3. Bill Swerski’s Superfans
If this sketch about all things awesome about Chicago sports needs an explanation, why are you even reading this list? I’ll just add this fun fact: There was a screenplay written for a movie about the Superfans, and it had a live reading in Chicago a few years ago during the Just For Laughs festival. It skewered the big money being poured into sports and how it ultimately diminishes a sports fan’s enjoyment of the games they love so much. Ditka himself was on hand for a Q&A — (now wispy) mustache and all.
4. Deep Thoughts
Another ‘90s SNL heyday landmark were the short, absurdist musings from the deranged Jack Handey, which touched on far-ranging topics like mortality, swashbuckling, and Popeye. Another fun fact: Did you know Jack Handey is a real person — a humorist, at that — and not just a made-up persona SNL cooked up to fill 20 seconds here or there to allow for actors to get into costume?