The PoP! Stars narrow it down to the cream of the crop in categories ranging from (but not limited to) Comics, Movies, Toys and Geek Culture in general. This is the PoP! Top 6-Pack.
6. Lord and Lady Douchebag (first aired on May 24, 1980)
This memorable sketch was performed on the last live show of the first era of SNL, which was the last time the remaining members of the original “Not Ready For Primetime Players” appeared together on the show (Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi had all left the show by then). The sketch is set in England, circa 1730, at a party that is attended by a number of English nobles who have invented something that bears their name. The title characters, played by Buck Henry and Gilda Radner, enter the party and talk with Lord Salisbury (Harry Shearer) and the Earl of Sandwich (Bill Murray) about the invention they are working on. The sketch is completely juvenile and silly, but the cast looks like they are really enjoying themselves. The subject matter seems pretty tame by today’s standards, but in 1980, it was considered daring to talk about feminine hygiene products on a network show. SNL has always been about pushing the envelope of taste and decorum, and the cast does it with such relish here that the viewer can’t help but share their enthusiasm. Sadly, there is no full video of the sketch online, but you can read the transcript at http://snltranscripts.jt.org/79/79tdouchebag.phtml.
5. Wake Up and Smile (first aired on December 9, 1995)
Daytime talk shows are probably second to game shows for SNL‘s most frequent target to lampoon, and they didn’t get any weirder or more absurd than this gem from Will Ferrell’s first season as a cast member. Co-written by Ferrell and Adam McKay (the duo responsible for Anchorman and Talladega Nights), the sketch revolves around the cast of a morning news show left to their own devices after their teleprompter breaks down. What starts as a mild annoyance for them quickly escalates into Lord of the Flies, with Ferrell proclaiming himself the ruler and battling the weatherman (David Alan Grier) for dominance of the “tribe.” This was one of the earliest showcases of Ferrell’s subversive, over-the-top comedic point of view. On the surface, he seemed clean cut and innocent, but behind that facade was one of the most chaotic and fearless performers in SNL history. This sketch was one of the prime examples of this.
4. Don’t Look Back In Anger (first aired on March 11, 1978)
This short film by Tom Schiller has to be the most ironic moment in the entire 35-year history of Saturday Night Live. It follows an elderly John Belushi as he visits the graves of his departed former castmates. He shares with the viewer how each cast member passed away and expresses his own surprise that he outlived them all. Of course, as all fans of the show know, Belushi died of a drug overdose just four years after this episode aired, becoming the first SNL performer to pass away. Today, “Don’t Look Back In Anger” is remembered more for its bittersweet poignancy than its humor; it’s a fitting remembrance of one of the show’s most talented and tragically short-lived alumni.
3. White Like Me (first aired on December 15, 1984)
Twenty-five years ago, long before he subjected audiences to the evils of Norbit, Eddie Murphy was the hottest actor in Hollywood. In 1984, Murphy came back to host the show that gave him his big break and performed in a short film that poked fun at racial differences in America. In a parody of John Howard Griffin’s nonfiction book Black Like Me, Eddie hires a makeup artist to make him resemble a stereotypical white man and goes undercover to find out what White America is really like. In a hilarious departure from the actual book, Eddie finds out that life in America is pretty awesome for a white guy. This segment wasn’t the first time SNL tackled race relations (see #1 on this list), but it was definitely one of the funniest. Murphy’s portrayal of a white guy was a definite influence on comedians like Dave Chappelle, who played a similar character on his popular series Chappelle’s Show. The film definitely stands out as one of the high points in Eddie Murphy’s erratic career.
2. Blue Oyster Cult: Behind the Music (first aired on April 8, 2000)
Yes, it’s the “More Cowbell” sketch, a.k.a. “The One That Everybody Knows.” SNL has long been a source for nationally recognized catch phrases, but this was one of the first times a catch phrase was born from a sketch that didn’t feature a recurring character. This skit has it all: a funny pop-culture parody, Will Ferrell’s manic energy (and tubby midriff), Christopher Walken being all Walken-y, and Jimmy Fallon cracking up on camera for the umpteenth time. But the real star of the skit is everyone’s favorite farm-based percussion instrument and fever medication, The Cowbell. I defy anyone to listen to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” on the radio and not immediately think of this sketch.
1. Word Association (first aired on December 13, 1975)
Most television shows like to play it safe during their first year, but during its inaugural season, SNL put on one of the ballsiest and most shockingly hilarious sketches ever written. It was a simple premise, in which an HR rep interviews a black man using a word association questionnaire that quickly devolves into both of them screaming racial slurs at each other. What made this skit truly amazing was the brilliant delivery of the lines by Chevy Chase and guest host Richard Pryor as they slowly transition from cool professionalism to blind rage. I know that the word “brilliant” is rarely attributed to Chevy, but his performance here is really remarkable, as was Pryor’s. “Word Association” is a great indication of just how daring SNL was. This sketch would never make it on the air nowadays, but thank God NBC gave it the green-light back in 1975.
Check out the 35th Season Premiere of Saturday Night Live on NBC September 26 at 11:30 PM EST / 10:30 Central.