Saturday Night Live

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"Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

Saturday Night Live is a ground-breaking NBC sketch comedy/VarietyShow, broadcast live from New York City in what had been, up until its premiere in 1975, TVs "graveyard shift" slot.

Often shortened to SNL for ease of reference, the show was specifically designed by its creator, Lorne Michaels (who was once a writer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In), to showcase young and edgy talent as a direct reaction to the older comedians who dominated prime-time but were fundamentally clueless about the tastes, styles and preoccupations of young Americans circa 1975. Rotating celebrity guests added to the "fingers on the pulse of pop culture" vibe the show reveled in. Steve Martin has hosted and been in more episodes than some cast members have (and is likely the host that most viewers believe was actually a cast member). Other frequent and popular hosts are John Goodman, Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken, and now, apparently, Justin Timberlake. Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel and Dave Grohl (who has performed with not just his main bands Nirvana and Foo Fighters, but also with Tom Petty, Them Crooked Vultures and Queens of the Stone Age) are the show's most frequent musical guests.

Reveled during its early years in a feeling of being just shy of completely out of control, and pushed the boundaries of television far beyond what anyone had ever seen before. The cast is continually shifting, with veterans departing for solo careers and young performers being recruited regularly.

The number of stars that emerged from this show is mind-boggling by itself. Just among the first year cast, SNL launched the careers of Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Jane Curtin, as well as frequent guest performer (though never host) Andy Kaufman. Other famous cast members include Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Robert Downey, Jr.., Will Ferrell, Al Franken (making it the only late-night entertainment show to produce a United States Senator), Gilbert Gottfried, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Billy Crystal, Phil Hartman, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Dennis Miller and many more. Among the most recent cast members, Tina Fey has a very dedicated fandom in no small part because of her success with being head writer and cast member on SNL, the film Mean Girls, and the sitcom Thirty Rock.

Every episode features the guest host deliver an opening monologue and participate in most of the evening's sketches. Actors, musicians, and comedians are the most common selections. They have always had a standing band for various musical numbers, but often with a guest musician to perform a piece or two in the middle of the program. If the host is a well-known musician, they will often fill both roles, and sometimes guest musicians participate in skits too, though not as often as the host.

Widely viewed as always having been better when one was younger, whenever that happened to be (normally the first five years [from 1975-1980] are cited as the best years of the show's life, but there have been viewers who claim that the 80s and/or the 90s were when the show grew its beard). In fact, the show seems to operate in cycles — it starts out outrageous and fresh and stays that way for a few years, then when its outrageousness becomes the norm the show gets panned for "not being funny". The claims are solidified when a favorite cast member leaves, and the show goes through a down period as it tries to find new cast members and get rid of the ones who have run their course. Then when the right cast members are found, the show becomes funny again (usually through the eyes of new fans, though there have been cases of old fans who have abandoned the show in the past and now have rediscovered it).

In 2004, the show featured Kenan Thompson as a new cast member, making him the first cast member born after the show first started in 1975 and the first cast member to do work on children's TV before making the move to TV for general audiences. Other notable SNL cast members include:

  • Harry Shearer: the only cast member to be such for two non-consecutive seasons (1979-80 [1] and 1984-85 [2]), making him the Grover Cleveland of SNL. Also the only cast member to be a regular cast member on another long-running American comedy show that heavily influenced modern pop culture, is considered a goldmine of modern satire and memorable catchphrases, memes, and comic moments in the pre-Internet era, and whose humor and quality has been called into question in recent years — The Simpsons[3]
  • Terry Sweeney: As of 2012, Sweeney is the only male homosexual cast member ever hired, as well as the first openly gay cast member to be hired (his lover is Lanier Laney, who, coincidentally, is Terry Sweeney's comedy writing partner. The two are often credited together as seen in Tripping the Rift and The WB!'s short-lived sketch show, Hype) and one of two cast members who used to be writers for Jean Doumanian's abysmal sixth season (the other was Bill Murray's brother, Brian Doyle-Murray).
  • Anthony Michael Hall -- no relation to Brad or Rich Hall, and those two guys aren't related to each other, either (the youngest male SNL cast member. Hall was only 17 when he joined the 1985-1986 cast)
  • Abby Elliott, the first (and so far only) cast member who is the child of another cast member (her father is Chris Elliott, who was on Saturday Night Live during its 20th season [1994-1995]). Chris' own father was Bob Elliott of Bob and Ray (who appeared on a Christmas episode of SNL in 1978), making it three generations of Elliotts who have appeared on the show in some capacity. Elliott is also the youngest female cast member in the show's history (21 and five months when she first appeared as a cast member in 2009), beating out Julia Louis-Dreyfus (21 and eight months when she first came on the show in 1982).
  • Seth Meyers, the only cast member to have a family member who was on a rival show (Josh Meyers, his younger brother, was on Mad TV for Seasons 8-9; lampshaded on a season 28 episode of SNL when Seth Meyers tells his dad to stop watching his brother on Mad TV and pay attention to him). Meyers is now the longest-running male cast member on the show following Darrell Hammond's departure in 2009 (Meyers has been on the show since 2001, but he didn't become popular until he replaced Tina Fey as Weekend Update anchor).
  • Jeff Richards, the first cast member who was also a MADtv cast member (Richards was on MADtv from 2000-01, then left for SNL and stayed on there from 2001 to the middle of the 2003-04 season).
    • As of 2010, another former MADtv cast member has been hired on SNLTaran Killam, one in a long string of feature players who were on MADtv for one to two seasons and rarely got any screentime (outside of a music video or movie trailer parody).
      • Killam is also the second SNL cast member who got his start on a Nickelodeon sketch show (for Killam, that would be All That's spin-off, The Amanda Show).
  • Eddie Murphy, the first black SNL cast member to be famous, the youngest black male cast member to be hired (Murphy was only 19 when he joined the 1980-1981 cast) and the only host to host an episode while still a cast member [4] — specifically the December 11, 1982 show that was supposed to be helmed by Nick Nolte, but Nolte was too hungover from partying to make it to rehearsals, so Murphy took over...much to the shock and anger of the cast, who felt that Eddie Murphy (and his comedy partner in crime, Joe Piscopo) was overtaking the show.
  • Michael McKean, the oldest person to be hired as a cast member (he was 46 when he first joined the cast).
  • Darrell Hammond, the cast member with the most celebrity impersonations (107, with Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump, most of George W. Bush's Cabinet [particularly Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney], Hardball host Chris Matthews, and Sean Connery as his most frequent and most popular), the last cast member hired in the 1990s to leave the show (Hammond left at the end of Season 34), the oldest cast member to leave the show (Hammond was 55 when he left the show), and the longest-running white male cast member at 14 seasons (1995-2009).
  • Billy Crystal, one of two cast members who hosted prior to being cast on the show (the other was McKean, who also holds the distinction of being the only cast member to host and be a musical guest before becoming a cast member).
  • Rob Riggle, the only member of the U.S. Marine Corps to be a cast member. Also the third former cast member to become a correspondent on The Daily Show, joining A. Whitney Brown [5] and Nancy Walls [6].
  • Tim Meadows, the longest-serving black male cast member (1990-2000). He wasn't that popular in his early years on the show, but became popular in the mid-to-late 1990s when Lorne fired most of the season 20 cast and revamped the show for season 21.
  • Tony Rosato, Pamela Stephenson, Morwenna Banks, Horatio Sanz, and Nasim Pedrad are the only cast members to be born outside of North America (Rosato was born in Italy before his parents emigrated to Canada, Stephenson was born in New Zealand and is now an Australian citizen, Banks was originally from England, Sanz was born in Chile, and Nasim Pedrad was originally from Iran).
    • Tony Rosato and Robin Duke are also the first former cast members of SCTV to be on Saturday Night Live (though the SCTV cast member who crossed over to SNL most people remember is Martin Short).
  • Danitra Vance (a little-known cast member from the same cast as Terry Sweeney [1985-1986]) is not only the first black female cast member who was hired as a repertory player (Yvonne Hudson is technically the first black female cast member ever to be hired on SNL, but Hudson was only hired as a feature player -- during Jean Doumanian's notoriously bad sixth season -- and not much is known about her either, besides the fact that she was on SNL), but also the only SNL cast member who had a learning disability (she was dyslexic), the only black female SNL cast member who is deceased (Vance died of breast cancer in 1994), and the first female cast member who was a lesbian (though her sexual preference wasn't made known until after she died).
    • As of April 2012, SNL, for the first time in 27 years, has hired a cast member who, like Terry Sweeney, is openly gay, and like Danitra Vance, is a lesbian. Her name is Kate McKinnon. Like Erica Ash on Mad TV's 14th and final season, McKinnon got her sketch comedy start on Logo's The Big Gay Sketch Show
  • Joan Cusack and Kristen Wiig are the only female cast members to be nominated for Academy Awards; Cusack, twice (for Best Supporting Actress in Working Girl and In & Out), and Wiig, once (for Best Original Screenplay, as the co-writer of Bridesmaids).
  • Jason Sudeikis and Paul Brittain: Both are nephews to two sitcom actors who have hosted the show more than once. Jason Sudeikis's uncle is George Wendt (Norm from Cheers), who first hosted during the 1985-1986 season[7] and made frequent appearances in the 1990s as one of Bob Swerski's "Super Fans"; Paul Brittain is the nephew of Bob Newhart, who first hosted during the 1979-1980 season[8] and hosted again during the notoriously awful 20th season.
  • Al Franken: The first -- and so far only -- SNL cast member who is now a U.S. Senator.
  • Christopher Guest (from the 1984-1985 season -- season 10): Is the only SNL cast member who is a member of British nobility (his real title is, "Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest," or "Lord Haden-Guest" for short).
  • Brad Hall and Julia-Louis Dreyfus: The only SNL cast members to be married to each other.
  • Rich Hall (no relation to Brad or Anthony Michael): The only cast member from Fridays[9] to be a cast member on SNL.
  • John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Danitra Vance, Michael O'Donoghue, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, Charles Rocket and Tony Rosato: These eight are the only SNL cast members who, as of 2017, are dead. John Belushi and Chris Farley died from drug overdoses (with the drug that killed both men being a cocaine/heroin mix known as a speedball), Gilda Radner and Danitra Vance died of cancer (Gilda had ovarian cancer; Danitra had breast cancer), Michael O'Donoghue[10] died of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by years of migraine headaches, Phil Hartman was murdered by his wife, Brynn[11], Charles Rocket committed suicide by slashing his throat with a box cutter, and Tony Rosato died of a heart attack.
    • Conversely, there are a handful of SNL cast members who almost died, but didn't:
    • Joe Piscopo and Julia Sweeney survived cancer (Julia Sweeney's brush with uterine cancer is covered on her tragicomic stage special "God Said, 'Ha!'").
    • Molly Shannon (when she was a baby) was the sole survivor of a car crash that took the lives of her mom, her cousin, and her sister.
    • Vanessa Bayer (one of the current-era feature players) is a leukemia survivor (also happened when she was a kid).
    • Garrett Morris (from the original 1970s cast) survived getting shot during a robbery in the early 1990s.

SNL has essentially become a New York City treasure, but even more importantly, Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!

SNL has always been an NBC show, but confusingly and rather bizarrely in its first year (as NBC's Saturday Night and Saturday Night) it competed with a completely different show on ABC, also named Saturday Night Live and hosted by Howard Cosell.

In 2011 there were several Spin-Off series, most notably SNL Japan (June 2011) and SNL Korea (December 2011).


Saturday Night Live is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in Saturday Night Live include:
  • All-Natural Gem Polish: Christopher Reeve's solid carbon to diamond trick.
  • All Just a Dream: To make people forget about the disjointed lousiness of Season 11 (1985-86) and to start fresh with a new and better cast, SNL used this Trope by having Madonna (who hosted the Season 11 premiere) announce during the cold opening of Season 12 premiere that Season 11 was all "a dream...a horrible, horrible dream."
    • The end of the Season 20 (1994-95 season) episode hosted by Bob Newhart was revealed to be this, mimicking the All Just a Dream ending to Newhart.
  • The Announcer: Don Pardo, still holding the job well into his 90s.
  • The Artifact: "Live from New York, It's Saturday Night!" comes from the fact that the show was actually called NBC's Saturday Night and not Saturday Night Live during its first season, because of that aforementioned short lived Howard Cosell show on ABC.
  • Awesome McCoolname: feature player Taran Killam (pronounced Tear n' Kill em'). His first name is also a Bilingual Bonus, as it's Sanskrit for "heaven".
    • Charles Rocket also counts. He may have been on a lousy cast, but he did have a cool name (other names he went by outside of SNL include: Charlie Hamburger, Charlie Rocket, Charlie Kennedy, and his real name, Charles Claverie).
  • Broadcast Live: From New York (only on the Eastern and Central timezones, tape delayed for all others).
  • Butt Monkey: Alex Trebek (as portrayed by Will Ferrell), thanks to Sean Connery, who repeatedly questions his sexuality, claims to have slept with Trebek's mother, and is generally a massive (but hilarious) Jerkass to him.
  • Catch Phrase: The most enduring one is, of course, "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!", but it was the biggest single meme generator in the pre-Internet days of entertainment. Even today, it still generates a lot of popular catchphrases ("Dick in a Box", anyone?).
  • Cold Open: Almost invariably political since the 2008 election season, but it wasn't always so.
  • The Comically Serious: Lorne Michaels' on-air personality is not only famous for how dry he acts, but also for the fact he has almost never lost his composure (he only did once, on the first time Hugh Laurie hosted on season 32, and that was because of a botched cue that happened off-screen).
  • Corpsing: It's live comedy, after all. It was prevalent when Jimmy Fallon became a Weekend Update anchor (which most fans declared was distracting).
    • It also happens every time Bill Hader appears as Stefon on Weekend Update (That Other Wiki and most late-night talk show interviews even claim that Bill Hader has never got through a Stefon segment -- both in dress rehearsal and on the live show -- without cracking up [12]), though, unlike Jimmy Fallon's cracking up [13], there's a reason why it happens to Bill Hader. According to That Other Wiki and an interview on The Late Show with David Letterman, John Mulaney (one of the show writers) changes some of the lines without Bill Hader's knowledge and Hader is reading and reacting to them for the first time. Other contributing factors include the cue card man laughing (along with other crew members) and how absurdist the whole thing is.
  • Deadly Delivery: In season 1, a recurring character is a "land shark" (Chevy Chase in a cheap shark costume) that tries to get people to open their door. He always gets in when offering a candygram.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most Weekend Update anchors, the snarkiest of which being Chevy Chase, Dennis Miller, Tina Fey, Norm McDonald, and Seth Meyers (both with and without Amy Poehler).
  • Didn't We Use This Joke Already?: "Winter's Bone! This joke has been done three times."
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A handful of cast members appeared on the show before they became full-fledged cast members (featured and repertory). Among them:
    • Denny Dillon: Performed a stand-up routine on the Rob Reiner episode (season 1). Despite unsuccessfully auditioning for the show in 1975, Dillon was chosen for the 1980-81 cast.
    • Ann Risley: Had a small speaking role in a pre-taped sketch called Mobile Shrink during season 2's Dick Cavett episode. Like Denny Dillon, Ann would be chosen for the 1980-81 cast.
    • Yvonne Hudson: Before she became a credited featured player during the 1980-81 season, Yvonne often appeared in season 4 and 5 sketches that needed a black actress [14]. Her most prominent role was during season 5, as a co-host (with Garrett Morris) of the talk show "Bad Clams".
    • Terry Sweeney: Originally hired as a writer for the 1980-81 season, five years before he was hired as a castmember by Lorne Michaels. He makes one on-screen appearance that season, in the cold opening of the Sally Kellerman/Jimmy Cliff episode where Ronald Reagan (played by Charles Rocket) celebrates his 70th birthday.
    • Rob Riggle: Appeared on the Donald Trump/Toots and the Maytals episode (from season 29) in a pre-taped commercial parody called Fear Factor Junior. Riggle played the father of a child who had to eat the maggots off a plate of eggs Benedict or risk watching his parents divorce.
    • Tina Fey: Back when she was the first female head writer of SNL [15], Fey appeared in some sketches as an uncredited extra and even had a celebrity impersonation (Kathleen Willey) before she became a cast member/Weekend Update anchor in Season 26.
    • Jason Sudeikis: Had a lot of bit roles in Seasons 29-30 until he was hired as a cast member near the end of Season 30.
    • Billy Crystal: As mentioned in the intro to this Trope page, Billy Crystal is one of two cast members who hosted the show before being hired (the other being Michael McKean). Crystal was originally supposed to be a guest performer on the 1975 premiere, but was passed up in favor of Andy Kaufman.
    • Phil Hartman: On the Season 11 episode hosted by Pee-Wee Herman, Hartman made an uncredited appearance as a Pilgrim (and also wrote the "Pee-Wee Herman Thanksgiving Special" sketch, on which Hartman played the aforementioned Pilgrim). A year later, Hartman would be part of the cast that would make SNL fans forget about Season 11's informed lousiness and launch a second Golden Age for the show.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: When Saturday Night Live premiered (as NBC's Saturday Night), it was much more of a Variety Show. The first few episodes had multiple musical guests and other performers, with the Not Ready For Prime Time Players only one part of the larger whole. The second episode (October 18, 1975) had no sketch comedy at all other than Weekend Update; the whole rest of the show was given to host/musical guest Paul Simon and other musical acts. Before Season 1 was finished, the sketch comedy part of the show had come to dominate.
    • For some time after that, even as the sketch comedy became the emphasis of the show, the musical guests got more airtime than a viewer of later seasons would expect. In Season 2 the musical acts routinely got to do four songs. George Harrison performed two songs (with host Paul Simon) and the show aired two of his music videos.
  • Guest Host: Some of which are fan favorites and come back to host, like Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken, Tom Hanks, John Goodman (though he hasn't hosted since 2001), Buck Henry (from the 1975-80 era), and Drew Barrymore (who first hosted when she was only seven years old). Some new fan favorite frequent hosts as of the 2008-2009 season include Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Scarlett Johanssen, and Justin Timberlake.
    • All hosts of five or more episodes are part of a special Five-Timers Club, as demonstrated in a mid-1990s sketch (which included then-writer and pre-Late Night Conan O'Brien as a servant). The club also includes musical guests with similar records, with Paul Simon as having the most appearances of any musical guest.
    • Most frequent hosts Martin and Baldwin have a fictional rivalry over the record for hosting, to the point that it is normal for one to guest-star in a sketch when the other hosts. In one of Martin's episodes during the 2000s, for example, Baldwin appears in the cold open preparing to host the show until Martin knocks him out and throws him out of a window (Martin also sucker-punches Lorne Michaels when he suggests calling Tom Hanks to replace the missing Baldwin).
  • Live but Delayed: Three episodes were put on seven-second delay, all of which were hosted by controversial comedians — Richard Pryor (Season 1), Sam Kinison (Season 12), and Andrew "Dice" Clay (Season 15).
    • The show also airs on a delay in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones.
  • Long Runners: Has 36 completed seasons, is almost done its 37th season, and will most likely come back for a 38th. It has survived cast and crew turnover, seven U.S. Presidents (starting with Gerald Ford), harsh critics, low ratings, threats of cancellation, fickle fans, radical (and not-so-radical) social and cultural shifts, and all of the Dueling Shows that have aired as alternatives.
  • The Movie: Many characters have been spun off into feature films. Although some spinoff movies (such as The Blues Brothers and Wayne's World) have become classics in their own right, most range from So Okay It's Average (the MacGruber movie and Stuart Saves His Family) to completely awful (It's Pat, A Night at the Roxbury, The Ladies Man, and Blues Brothers 2000).
  • New Season, New Name: When this show first started, it was called "NBC's Saturday Night" because there was already a show on ABC called "Saturday Night Live" (this one had Howard Cosell as a permanent host). The NBC version wouldn't be officially called Saturday Night Live until season three (in season two, the "NBC" part of the title was dropped and the show was called Saturday Night).
    • The 1980-81 season was renamed "Saturday Night Live '80" in order to differentiate it from the five Lorne-produced seasons before it. The "80" was dropped in January 1981 (and the rest of the Jean Doumanian season was dropped a month later).
  • News Parody: Weekend Update, which has been a part of the show since the beginning, is arguably the Trope Maker for this genre.
  • Once an Episode:
    • The Weekend Update newscast, which has gone through a couple of name changes (in the Dick Ebersol episodes, it was called "SNL Newsbreak" and "Saturday Night News") and is considered the longest-running recurring sketch in the show's history (it's been on since Chevy Chase was first chosen as the news anchor).
    • Someone yelling "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!" at the end of the cold opening, though all of Season 7 and the episode from Season 11 hosted by George Wendt and Francis Ford Coppola didn't have this and there have been variations of the phrase, such as:
      • Chris Farley (as his Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker character) yelling the opening line in Spanish ("Vivo de Nuevo York, es Sabado Noche!")
      • George W. Bush (played by Will Ferrell) saying the opening line in Arabic (in reruns, it was replaced with an English translation).
      • Sacha Baron Cohen (as Borat) saying "Live from New York, home of the Jew, it's Saturday night!"
  • Persona Non Grata: There are a handful of hosts who have caused so much trouble backstage (or on the show) that they can never host SNL again. Who are they, you ask? Well...
    • Louise Lasser: Hosted the penultimate episode of Season 1 (1975-76). Michaels has gone on record in saying that Lasser was incoherent during her performance and wouldn't appear in any sketches unless she was by herself or with Chevy Chase.
    • Chevy Chase: Speaking of which, he's banned from hosting (after doing so nine times, the record for a former cast member) due to his Jerkass attitude toward the writers and cast members. He has made cameos in a few episodes, but hasn't hosted since Season 22 (1996-97).
    • Steven Seagal: Hosted the April 20, 1991 episode, and was banned soon afterward because he had difficulty working with the cast and crew. This was referenced in a later episode (September 26, 1992) featuring Nicholas Cage, where Lorne Michaels responds to Cage's insistence that his monologue made him look like "the biggest jerk on the show" with the response "No, no. That would be Steven Seagal."
    • Martin Lawrence: Hosted the episode that came right after the infamous Alec Baldwin-hosted show with the "Canteen Boy Goes Camping" sketch (where Canteen Boy (Adam Sandler) is molested by his scoutmaster) in 1994 (Season 19), and got himself banned when he launched into a monologue about the decline in women's hygiene. All reruns have cut off Martin's monologue and replaced it with cards that explain why this can never air on TV again.
    • Adrien Brody: Hosted in Season 28 (2002-03) and got himself banned after introducing musical guest Sean Paul in a rude boy Jamaican get-up and ad-libbing. There was nothing obscene about it; it's just that Lorne Michaels didn't approve of the piece and warned Brody not to do it. Considering how shaky in quality SNL was in its 28th season, this was considered a highlight.
    • Musical guest Sinead O'Connor was banned after ripping up a picture of the Pope and calling him 'the read enemy' after her second song (the segment was banned as well).
    • The most famous was probably Elvis Costello, who in a 1977 appearance defied Lorne Michaels' order that he was not to play "Radio Radio" on air. The ban was in effect until 1999, when Elvis was allowed to disrupt a Beastie Boys performance to play the song again.
  • The Pratfall: a slapstick staple used by many of the more physical comedians on the show.
    • Chevy Chase regularly used them when playing President Gerald R. Ford.
  • Running Gag: Generally specific to individual performers; some guest hosts have appeared so often that they've developed their own.
  • Sketch Comedy: Not the first of its kind, but definitely one of the most popular.
  • The Teaser: The cold opening. Usually, it's a political sketch (like a fictitious message from the President of the United States [or any government official] or a clip from a Congressional meeting or press conference as seen on such cable news channels as C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News), but there have been cold openings where it shows the cast backstage before the show (often with Lorne Michaels appearing as himself), cold openings featuring recurring characters, recurring sketches as cold openings, or one-off sketches about a current event.
  • Trans-Atlantic Equivalent: A short-lived Channel 4 show called Saturday Live, which moved to Fridays and became Friday Night Live. It started the careers of Jo Brand, Jack Docherty, Stephen Fry, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, amongst others. A couple of relaunches have been attempted.
  • Turn Your Head and Cough: One skit involved a doctor performing this test on a male patient, asking him to cough over and over again. Another doctor soon enters the picture and both continue to perform this one part of the exam over and over. Then, a third doctor enters not recognizing the other two doctors already in the room, revealing the first two doctors to be impostors who just like to sneak into examination rooms and feel people's balls.
  • You Might Remember Me From: Almost all hosts who are actors will take a moment to name-drop their latest film or television show, just to give context to the folks at home struggling to recall whether they should recognize the person. A few hosts have cleverly subverted this, like James Franco completely making up the name of a movie just to see if people would applaud, or Scarlett Johannson plugging Due Date not because she was in it, but just because she was excited about it.

Individual sketches on the show are examples/subversions of common Tropes such as:[edit | hide | hide all]

"Barack Obama says he wants universal health care. Is that so? Health care for the entire universe? Including Osama bin Laden?"

  • Bankruptcy Barrel: The Weekend Update segment on the James Franco/Kings of Leon episode from season 34 had Lehman Bros. CEO Richard Fuld (played by Jason Sudeikis) wearing one of these. He even lampshaded that he was wearing a barrel and couldn't sit down because "chairs won't take me."
  • Casanova Wannabe: Chris Parnell's "Merv the Perv" (and his brother, Irv, played by episode host Johnny Knoxville), Christopher Walken's "The Continental" (mixed in with Handsome Lech), The Roxbury Guys (Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan), and The Wild and Crazy Guys (Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin).
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Molly Shannon as Mary Katherine Gallagher.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A lot of sketches have the celebrity host, musical guest, or special guest star meeting a cast member's take on that celebrity (i.e., Jimmy Fallon playing Mick Jagger's reflection on the Hugh Jackman episode from Season 27, or the real Governor David Paterson confronting Fred Armisen's take on him to speak out against the cheap shots about his blindness).
    • Taken pretty far in a Season 21 episode's Joe Pesci Show sketch where Jim Carrey plays Jimmy Stewart. The other guest on the show-within-the-show is...Jim Carrey (Mark McKinney), who does an impression of Jimmy Stewart, who is insulted and does a very unflattering impression of Jim Carrey.
      • And then the end-the-skit-on-a-high-note episode, in which Pesci!Jim Breuer and Deniro!Colin Quinn were treated to two very special guests--the real Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro. Pesci very calmly and eloquently deconstructs the skit's premise, with Deniro adding his two cents when appropriate.

Robert De Niro: ...who are you supposed to be?
Deniro!Colin Quinn: Er, uh--Colin Quinn, Remote Control.

    • A fantastic variant of this came in a Season 18 episode, featuring Mike Myers doing a Mick Jagger impression alongside the real Jagger, who was doing his impression of Keith Richards.
    • On one Weekend Update segment around Christmas, Dennis Miller was reciting The Night Before Christmas alongside Dana Carvey doing a Dennis Miller impersonation, trading lines, with Carvey riffing on Miller's long-winded and vocabulary-intensive speaking style. Miller had trouble keeping it together.
    • The best example here is, of course, the famous sketch where John Belushi did his Joe Cocker impersonation while singing along with...Joe Cocker (who looked less than amused).
    • Some American political figures who are parodied on SNL have earned "good humor" points by appearing in their own parodies. Examples include Janet Reno appearing in Will Farrel's Janet Reno's Dance Party and Sarah Palin being mistaken by Alec Baldwin for Tina Fey impersonating Palin.
    • Recently, there was Vanessa Bayer playing Miley Cyrus with the real Miley Cyrus playing Justin Bieber.
    • When Jesse Eisenberg hosted, he, Mark Zuckerberg and Andy Samberg doing a Mark Zuckerberg impression were all on stage together during the opening monologue.
  • Chekhov's Gag: On the Jon Hamm episode from Season 35, there was a fake commercial for a product called The Closet Organizer (a man in a blue, Spandex suit who catches and organizes anything you throw at it). One sketch and a musical performance later, there was a sketch where there are two guys in a bar (episode host Jon Hamm and cast member Will Forte). Guy #1 (Hamm) tries to figure out where he has seen Guy #2 (Forte) before...until it hits him — Guy #2 is the actor who plays The Closet Organizer.
    • Another example (though this was kinda coincidental): On the Season 34 premiere hosted by Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, the last sketch was a fake commercial advertising Phelps' infamous 12,000-calorie diet that he eats during training and only works for him, which included a lot of foods such as chocolate-chip pancakes, a bathtub filled with Alfredo noodles, whole cuts of meat, wedding cakes, etc. Fast forward to the February episode hosted by Bradley Cooper (which aired around the time a picture of Phelps smoking a bong was discovered), and guess what Seth Meyers on Weekend Update mentions?
    • From the premiere (October 11, 1975), Weekend Update features a report of "Murder at the Blaine Hotel", with a correspondent describing "#38 in a series of grisly and bizarre murders...in the Blaine Hotel". There's no joke until after Update breaks for a fake commercial and then comes back with announcer Don Pardo saying "Guests of NBC's Saturday Night stay at the fabulous Blaine Hotel...."
  • Comically Small Bribe: In one early episode, Lorne Michaels came on to offer The Beatles a check for $3,000 to reunite on the show. Lennon and McCartney, who both happened to be in New York that night and saw the bit on TV, nearly went down to the studio for a surprise visit.
    • Later sketches featured both McCartney and Harrison, when appearing as solo acts, trying to claim part of the money.
  • Cuckoolander Commentator: Harry Carey & Greg Stink.
  • Cue Card Pause: Prevalent in the "Jimmy Fallon cracking up" era. Not so much now, unless you count the many times that a newbie host has trouble with his or her lines.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: The "Tiger Woods Press Conference" sketch on the Blake Lively/Rihanna episode where every time Woods (Kenan Thompson) apologized for his affairs, something he said or something that happened (like his cell phone ringing or saying that he can "get rid of this old thing and get a new model" (referring to his damaged car, not his wife) would get him beaten by his wife, Elin (Blake Lively) and he would explain away the injuries as an accident (Woods even uses the old excuse that he "fell down the stairs").
  • Dada Ad: Some of their fake commercials are parodies of this.
  • Dead Baby Comedy: A lot of the jokes from Weekend Update (particularly the Dennis Miller, Norm McDonald, Colin Quinn, and Seth Meyers {with and without Amy Poehler} eras) can have really brutal or disgusting punchlines, but they still get laughs. A lot of the sketches can come across this way, too. Case in point — the "Canteen Boy Gets Molested" sketch from Season 19.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Mr. Hands in the Mr. Bill Show. Also, everyone on "Happy Smile Patrol" and Mr. Robinson (Eddie Murphy) on "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood".
  • Did Not Do the Research / Hollywood Hacking: A recent sketch had Bill Hader's Julian Assange mocking the assaults on various websites by Anonymous by naming other targets, and what they would do to those websites. Anonymous is A) not associated with WikiLeaks other than supporting Assange's message, and B) Anonymous uses DDOS attacks, which do not give access to target web sites.
  • Double Entendre / Does This Remind You of Anything? / One Dialogue, Two Conversations: A lot humor is based on this, particularly the "Delicious Dish" radio show sketches with Alec Baldwin as Pete Schwetty hawking "Schwetty Balls" and "Schwetty Weiners (which was redone on the Betty White episode as "Dusty's Muffins") and the Terrorist Alert cold openings on two of the three times Robert DeNiro hosted (the third time DeNiro hosted had a TMZ parody sketch as the cold opening).
  • Drop the Cow: Zigzagged. Some seasons (and episodes within seasons) will have overly long sketches; others will have sketches that know when to stop.
  • Dude, Not Ironic: Jason Alexander hosted the Show Within a Show "Tales of Irony," during which he complained that none were ironic.
  • The Eeyore: Rachel Dratch's "Debbie Downer".
  • Emergency Presidential Address: Saturday Night Live routinely parodies Real Life Emergency Presidential Addresses of this type. Often the skit will be at the beginning of the episode, and end with the leader in question declaring "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!"
  • Enfant Terrible: Kristen Wiig's Gilly, a sociopathic schoolgirl.
  • Epic Fail: On the Charles Barkley/Alicia Keys episode, there was a parody of the Golf Channel's The Haney Project where Hank Haney (Jason Sudeikis) tries to help Barkley with his golf swing (which is said to be like he "had a heart attack mid-swing and then miraculously recovered"). When it's made clear that Barkley's golf swing hasn't improved, Haney then reveals that Barkley's bad golf swinging stems from his inability to perform even the most mundane of tasks, like sweeping a floor, brushing his teeth, flipping burgers, putting a magnet on a refrigerator, and even opening and closing a door.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jason Sudeikis as The Devil on "Weekend Update." Even though he's the embodiment of all that's wicked and corrupt in the world, The Devil does not support priests who molest children or the decision to have the Westboro Baptist Church protest at military funerals and use their religion to discriminate against homosexuals. And now, thanks to Penn State's molestation scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, The Devil has quit his job as the Lord of the Underworld and went back to his old job as Time-Warner Cable's customer service rep.
    • On the Season 27 episode hosted by Jack Black, there was a sketch where a knight set out to rescue his lady love from a monster who had demanded that a virgin be sacrificed to him once a year. However, it turns out he's fed up with the virgin's lack of skills. When the knight asks if that's why he released a previous victim, the monster angrily declares that it's because she was 13 years old and, even though he's a monster, he's not into banging a girl who's not legal.
  • Everyone Is Bi / Parental Incest / Brother-Sister Incest: The Vogelcheck family (a mother, father, and two brothers) who kiss each other (and their distant relatives) all the time and are way too close, even by family standards. See this sketch for an example.
  • Everything Explodes Ending: MacGruber.
  • Evil Twin: Jay Leno (before he went on to host The Tonight Show in the 1990s) hosted a Season 11 (1985-86) episode where, in one sketch, he played his own evil twin.
  • Fake in the Hole: A Deep Thoughts segment covered this, suggesting that if you're even in a war zone, you should shout "GRENADE!" and throw a miniature pumpkin at the enemy. When they see the pumpkin, it'll make them stop and ponder how senseless war is, and while they're pondering, you can throw a real grenade.
  • Fictional Political Party: A sketch during the campaign season for the 1996 US Presidential Election was modeled as a Larry King Live broadcast giving third-party candidates the opportunity to voice themselves in the media. Along with Ross Perot and the Libertarian nominee, opinions were also heard from the Totalitarian Dictatorship Party and the Female Circumcision Party.
    • On the Molly Shannon/Linkin Park episode from Season 32, there was a political debate sketch filled with representatives from fringe political parties — some real (like the Whig Party and, unfortunately, ones like the Nazi Party and NAMBLA), some fake (like the Wig {as in "fake hair"} Party and the Dance Party).
  • Forgetful Jones: Mr. Short-Term Memory, one of Tom Hanks's characters, forgets things he just heard or did a few seconds ago, like ordering a bottle of wine, then asking why there's a bottle of wine on the table once it gets there.
  • For the Lulz: Sean Connery repeatedly goes on Celebrity Jeopardy! to annoy Trebek just because it's so much fun.
  • The Fun in Funeral: Some sketches depicted bizarre, shocking behavior and wacky characters attending funerals and/or will readings. All a part of the show's Refuge in Audacity.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages
  • Gagging on Your Words: An episode during the George H. W. Bush presidency showed him having a great deal of trouble saying he was planning to raise taxes.
  • Gainaxing: Extremely busty Rachel Dratch as a children's show castmember who had a "growth spurt" (on the Season 28 episode hosted by Ray Liotta).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The whole point of the "Jingleheimer Junction" sketch from Season 24, in which the four members of the "Junction Gang" each have a letter on their sweater correlating to their name: only the letters end up being F-U-C-K.
    • To count the many times SNL's humor has successfully (and unsuccessfully) gotten past the radar would need a wiki all its own.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck: A handful of SNL sketches use Unusual Euphemisms or toned-down substitutes for obscene words as parodies of the Cluster F-Bomb trope, as seen in such sketches as "Biker Chick Chat" from season 35 (despite Jenny Slate accidentally saying the actual "F" word in one line), season five's "The Flogging Musicians" sketch on the 100th episode (which didn't have a host, but had a lot of celebrity cameos), and this recent sketch from the Gwyneth Paltrow/Cee Lo Green episode (in which Cee Lo Green's single "Fuck You!" has to be changed to something less obscene so it can air on live TV).
  • Hands Go Down: From an early 1990s sketch, a classroom full of not-so-bright students.

Teacher: How many people here have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark?
(virtually all students raise their hands)
Teacher: Now in the movie, whom was Indiana Jones fighting?
(one hand goes up)
Teacher: Besides the snakes.
(hand goes back down)

  • Handsome Lech: Christopher Walken's "The Continental".
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Averted with Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, and Amy Poehler who all appeared pregnant in SNL sketches before going on maternity leave (some of which had their pregnancies written in the sketches, such as the case with Amy Poehler in the "I'm No Angel" Perfume Commercial parody on the Josh Brolin/Adele episode of Season 34 and a sketch where Ana Gasteyer played Elizabeth Hurley, who was also pregnant at the time). Tina Fey, however, didn't appear in any sketches for the first couple episodes of Season 31 because of maternity leave.
  • Honest John's Dealership / We Sell Everything: Ned and Fed Jones, a pair of drugged-out street hustlers (1985-86 cast members Damon Wayans {who later played Homie the Clown, Blaine the Gay Movie Critic, and homeless wino Anton Jackson on In Living Color} and Anthony Michael Hall {who was in those 1980s teen movies like Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club} who sold everything stolen, including pocketbooks (with ID), bikes, 1980s-style home computers, radios, and cable TV hook-ups.
  • Hot for Student: The Season 35 classroom sketch with Tina Fey and Justin Bieber.
    • A Season 32 sketch where episode host Annette Bening plays a teacher who's in love with an apathetic student (Andy Samberg) who doesn't realize that he's in a relationship with his teacher.
    • On the Josh Brolin/Gotye episode from season 37, a drunk teacher (Brolin) during Booker T. Washington High's prom confessed that he's in a relationship with a student (played by Nasim Pedrad).
  • Hulk Speak: The team-ups of Tarzan (Kevin Nealon), Tonto (Jon Lovitz), and Frankenstein's monster (Phil Hartman) had great fun with this. One sketch revealed the monster had a completely articulate Evil Twin played by Mel Gibson.
  • I Banged Your Mom: In the Celebrity Jeopardy! skits, this is Sean Connery's favorite type of insult to use against Trebek.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Loads of them, most of which become strange new Double Entendres and Unusual Euphemisms.
  • Kangaroo Court: One Mr. Bill sketch has him being put on trial in a court where the mean Mr. Sluggo is the judge, jury, and district attorney. In the end, Mr. Bill is forced to plead insanity, only for him to end up receiving shock treatment via the electric chair.
  • Kill the Poor: Referenced in the "Wake Up & Smile" sketch. It was about the cheerful hosts of a morning news show who start having breakdowns on-air when the teleprompter breaks. Trying to improvise, Will Ferrell's character says that someone should get a bunch of guns to "sweep out those ghettos". Cut to commercial.
  • Kitschy Local Commercial: A staple in recent years, often relegated towards the end of the episode.
  • Large Ham Title: Conan O'Brien stars in the sketch "Moleculo, the Molecular Man" as a Clark Kent/Superman expy. The others figure out pretty quickly that Brett Baker is really Moleculo, since whenever Moleculo's name comes up he's compelled to say "The Molecular Man!" afterwards. He moves to Mexico where the same thing happens because he still has to yell "El hombre de los moleculos!"
  • Left Fielder: "OVER THE WEEKEND, YOU STUPID BITCH!" Complete with Chris Farley daring his co-stars to start Corpsing.
  • Loads And Loads of Recurring Characters: Some well-remembered. Others, either long-forgotten or not that well-known.
  • Lounge Lizard: Bill Murray's Nick the Lounge Singer, who may have been the Trope Codifier for the stereotypical lounge singer.
  • Mercy Kill: In a sketch making fun of Gov. Rick Perry's blanking during a debate, Mitt Romney comes over and tries to shoot Perry through the head in a Homage / Parody of Of Mice and Men. The bullet bounces off.
  • Mid-Atlantic Accent: Jon Lovitz' character "Master Thespian" spoke in a particularly hammy version of this.
  • Mondegreen: Invoked and Played for Laughs in a parody of VH-1's "Don't Forget The Lyrics," in which a contestant (played by season 36 episode host Jesse Eisenberg) mangles popular song lyrics (see this transcript).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Played straight (and lampshaded a few times) with Victoria Jackson's appearances on the mid-1980s Weekend Update with Dennis Miller, where she did headstands, bent over backwards, or danced on the Weekend Update desk in high heels, pantyhose, and a skirt. Parodied with Kristen Wiig's Shana character who, despite being a drop-dead gorgeous redhead with a cooing baby-voice, has a lot of...unfortunate internal bodily issues.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Bill Hader's Stefon, a Camp Gay culture correspondent who recommends vacations and nights out at the strangest underground clubs filled with freaks and weirdos. The descriptions have to be heard to be believed.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A lot of the celebrity impersonations range from dead-on to way off, depending on how good the cast member's impersonation skills are and what the cast member does to make that celebrity take funny (whether it's basing it in reality, making him/her into a caricature, or both).
  • No Fame, No Wealth, No Service: A mid-1980s sketch where a restaurant maitre-d' welcomes celebrities in to eat, but shuns away Victoria Jackson because she's an SNL cast member (the show, at the time, was in Season 12 and trying to recover and gain back fans who were put off by Season 11).
  • No Indoor Voice: In one Weekend Update segment, Chevy Chase claims that the next items broadcast will include assistance for the hearing-impaired. Not closed-captioning, mind you, but Garrett Morris yelling the headlines at the top of his lungs.
    • Also, Will Ferrell character Jacob Silj, who claims to be suffering from Voice Immodulation, and thus can only speak in a grating monotone. This has caused him problems in the past: Try singing "a little bit softer now" in the song "Shout", or calming an infant to sleep, or going to a church confessional, with that voice.
  • Noodle Incident: Trebek's remarks in the openings to the Celebrity Jeopardy sketches allude to many of these.

"Before we begin the Double Jeopardy round, I'd like to ask our contestants, once again, please refrain from using ethnic slurs."

    • Also, the "Bidet" sketch on the first time Zach Galifianakis hosted. We never find out what the couple (played by Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig) did to the bidet, why the money they gave the bellboy (Andy Samberg) was wet, or why they kept asking questions about repairing the bidet or how many pounds does it take to break it.
    • Viewers may never know what happened during Seth Meyers' vacation with Stefon (which was set up at the end of the Weekend Update on the Lady Gaga season finale, then mentioned three episodes into season 37 on the episode hosted by Ben Stiller with musical guest Foster the People), though given how Seth doesn't directly answer Stefon's question about how his back is and past incidents of Stefon hitting on Seth Meyers, we can draw some conclusions.
  • Notable Numeral: The Ambiguously Gay Duo and the Two A-Holes (the two preppies played by Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig who piss off innocent people with their aloof attitude and shallow questions).
  • Obfuscating Disability: The "Lost Ending" to It's a Wonderful Life on the Christmas episode hosted by William Shatner (the episode that has the infamous sketch where Shatner tells Star Trek geeks to "Get a life!") showed Mr. Potter was faking.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Sean Connery in the Celebrity Jeopardy! sketches at first appears to be just as mind-numbingly idiotic as all the other contestants, but over time it becomes clear that he's actually quite smart - he just pretends to be stupid in order to annoy Trebek.
  • Oh Crap: While Alex Trebek feels this way every time Sean Connery buzzes in, he gets a big one when the producers decide to play along with Sean's shtick for one Final Jeopardy round...

Alex Trebek: The category is... Oh come on, why would they do this? The category is "Famous Mothers".
Sean Connery: Hahahaha! My day has come! Ahahahahahaha!

  • Overly Long Gag: "It's Pat", the whole point of which was The Un-Reveal as to which gender Pat was. Turned Up to Eleven when the sketch got a film adaptation that did pretty much the same thing. (Can we just say Pat's a very confused bisexual?)
    • The Overly Long Gag is often one of the things people complain about when they talk about how far SNL has fallen from it glory days, at least in the 1990s. It was even lampshaded a few times back then (not so much now, but it does exist in some of the recent sketches).
  • Panty Shot: A guarantee with Mary Catherine Gallagher whenever she went on her insane monologues and threw herself at walls or bathroom stalls. God bless you, Molly Shannon.
    • Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman had a couple of panty shots early on, most notably in a bit where they play two children in nightshirts being babysat by their (unbeknownst to them) pervert uncle who gets them to raise their nightshirts pretending to hide just so he can photograph them showing their panties.
  • Parody Assistance: The Schoolhouse Rock parody "Conspiracy Theory Rock" had Jack Sheldon reprise his role as the main singer.
    • Richard Dean Anderson once appeared on the MacGyver parody MacGruber.
    • Daniel Radcliffe appeared as Harry Potter in a Hogwarts sketch that showed Harry Potter as a washed-up wizard who still lives at Hogwarts while all the other characters have moved on with their lives.
    • Will Ferrel's final episode had Alex Trebek and Janet Reno breaking into the final sketches of his impressions of them.
  • Peking Duck Christmas: The TV Funhouse sketch/song "Christmastime for the Jews".
  • Perfume Commercial: Spoofs include Hey You ("The perfume for one night stands") and Compulsion by Calvin Kleen (a cleaning product presented in the style of the commercials for Calvin Klein's Obsession perfume).
  • Poor Man's Porn: The Shake Weight Commercial DVD and the Les Yay-filled Body Fuzion Digital Short.
  • The Power of Acting: Master Thespian aspires to this, but his mentor (episode host John Lithgow) surely has it.
  • Precision F-Strike: Charles Rocket's "I wanna know who the fuck did it," during the Charlene Tilton/Todd Rundgren and Prince episode from Season 6 and Jenny Slate's "You know what? You stood up for yourself and I fuckin' love you for that!" on the Season 35 premiere hosted by Megan Fox. Note that both of these instances are accidental, caused a lot of controversy for the show, and led to the cast members who uttered the lines to be fired and forgotten.
    • On the flipside, Paul Shaffer said "the fucking musicians" instead of "the flogging musicians" on a sketch that aired during the 100th episode in Season 5 and he wasn't fired for that (he left the show and ended up on Late Night with David Letterman as the show's bandleader). Also, Norm MacDonald grumbled "What the fuck was that?" after botching a Weekend Update joke and was fired for an entirely different reason (an NBC executive didn't think his dry humor was a good fit for the show). MacDonald came back to host in Season 25, citing that the only reason he was brought back was because the show has once again plunged into seasonal rot, and cameoed on the last episode of Season 34 as Burt Reynolds in a Celebrity Jeopardy! sketch.
  • Pretty in Mink: The 1980s commercial parody "Fur: You Deserve It!"
  • Race Fetish: In a sketch about a how-to-find-love seminar, Tracy Morgan's character is only into Chinese shemales.
  • Refuge in Audacity: A lot of the sketch humor either takes something shocking and disgusting and makes it normal (i.e. the "Lord and Lady Douchebag" sketch from Season 5, the "Racial Slur Job Interview" sketch with Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor from Season 1, the "Bird-Feeder Family" sketch on the Season 25 episode hosted by Julianna Marguiles). Or, it shows a dark side to something innocent and sweet. The warped children's show sketches are the best examples: "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood", "The Happy Smile Patrol", or "The Tizzle Wizzle Show". There's also Digital Short where Betty White performs a death metal version of The Golden Girls theme after the entire cast and the guest stars sing it the traditional way). The TV Funhouse cartoons also count.
    • The "Jingleheimer Junction" sketch from Season 24. Tim Meadows plays the host of a kids' show, dressed as a train engineer. The host brings out four in-character friends (Cameron Diaz, Will Ferrell, Ana Gasteyer and Horatio Sanz) wearing blue shirts with individual letters "U", "C", "K" and "F". The host spends the rest of the sketch frantically trying to stop the four characters from lining up so they would spell out the F word, and create a visual Precision F-Strike.
    • Some of the sketches on the season 36 episode hosted by Jesse Eisenberg (with musical guest Nicki Minaj) were pretty out there, such as a fake commercial for estrogen medication for male-to-female transsexuals (one of which catches the eye of a TSA agent [played by Kenan Thompson]), a parody of Mr. Wizard's World where two sexually repressed teens (Jesse Eisenberg and Nasim Pedrad) warp a static electricity demonstration into their first mutual masturbation session (ending with the two of them getting each other off on a Van de Graaff generator), an SNL Digital Short about stalking and AbhorrentAdmirers (featuring John Waters and musical guest Nicki Minaj), and a Blaxploitation Horror parody ("Bride of Blackenstein") that carries the aesop, "A man will put up with a bitchy woman, so long as she's hot."
  • Refuge in Vulgarity: The show doesn't revel in it as much as Refuge in Audacity (though some of SNL's rival shows did), but there have been moments where SNL really gets disgusting (whether this is good or bad is up to the viewer's tastes in humor).
  • Ridiculously-Human Robots: The Merryville Brothers (a trio of amusement park robots played by Taran Killam, Bill Hader, and an episode host [so far, they've had Jim Carrey and Justin Timberlake as the third robot]). Also counts as Uncanny Valley.
  • Ridiculympics: The All-Drug Olympics.
  • Risky Business Dance: Parodied at least twice (once with Ronald Reagan's son, Ron, Jr. in the mid-1980s, and again in the early 1990s with Nicole Kidman [back when she was Tom Cruise's wife]).
  • Running Gag: Many, some more pervasive than others. By the way, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.
  • The Runt At the End: The reoccurring Lawrence Welk Show sketch involves the guest star singing with four sisters: Three normal ones and a girl with a huge forehead, tiny plastic limbs, a tendency to stuff birds in her mouth, and no sense of meter. Naturally, she always sings after her sisters.
  • See You in Hell: On the Season 21 finale (hosted by Jim Carrey), there was a sketch where an office worker (Carrey) kept dismissing people by saying "I'll see you in Hell." Predictably, he dies and meets all the people in Hell he insulted with that phrase.
  • Self-Deprecation: A lot of the sketches in the early to mid-1990s were about how SNL was in a comedic rut, doing shock humor for cheap laughs, and the fact that viewers who haven't seen the show in ages are surprised to learn that it's still on the air and not as they remember it.
    • On the second episode of Season 6, Gilbert Gottfried played a psychiatrist named Dr. Murray Abromowitz who, like many critics at the time, blasted SNL's season premiere featuring a new cast, new writers, and new producer for being low on laughs and bumbling their way through Dead Baby Comedy for chuckles.
    • After the Ashlee Simpson lip-sync debacle in the Season 30 episode hosted by Jude Law, the episode after that (hosted by Kate Winslet, who refused to appear in a lot of sketches because of what happened in the previous episode) had a cold opening where Osama bin Laden (Seth Meyers) trashes SNL for being a live TV show that booked a lip-synching pop star.
      • Jude Law himself, during his monologue for the second episode he hosted (during the 2009-10 season), poked a little fun while delivering a sentence that was concluded by a lip-synched statement...though that part was clearly over the heads of the live crowd, since if they'd paid more attention (or at least remembered the episode), it would've gotten at least a chuckle.
  • Severely Specialized Store: There were several sketches about a store that sells only Scotch tape.
    • Another sketch featured Patrick Stewart as the proprietor of an erotic bakery that only sold cakes depicting women going to the bathroom.
  • Sexy Priest: On the 300th episode in the 1990-91 season (Alec Baldwin/Whitney Houston), there was a sketch where a female confessor (Julia Sweeney) is shocked (and flustered) to find that the priest (Baldwin) she's speaking to during Confession is young and handsome...and likes licking the cream from Oreos.
  • Shallow Parody: Zigzagged. Some sketches (particularly the Harry Potter parodies) are fleshed-out and on-point; others are just there to serve as the backdrop for an SNL recurring character to interact with other fictional characters, to be a Deconstructive Parody, or to speak out on a certain topic (cf. The Little Mermaid parody on the Tina Fey episode from season 36 where Osama bin Laden's shrouded body sinks to the underwater kingdom in which Ariel [Tina Fey] and her fish friends [Paul Brittain, Vanessa Bayer, Abby Elliot, Fred Armisen, and Kenan Thompson] reside).
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Roger and Virginia Clarvin, in Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch's recurring "The Lov-ahs" sketches, although Roger's inevitable howls of pain imply that it may be all an act.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Cirroc, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.
  • Six Is Nine: In a sketch parodying The Omen, one character accuses Damien of being spawned from Satan, and says they should check for the Number of the Beast on his forehead. Another character checks by standing behind the child, and declares that everything is okay with him, because the number on his forehead is 999.
  • Slap Slap Kiss: The Needlers, the Couple That Should Be Divorced (Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers before they were Weekend Update anchors).
  • Spiritual Successor: In Thirty Rock, complete with Tina Fey as Demoted Creator and Lorne Michaels as executive producer.
  • Spit Take: Frequently invoked, but perhaps most notably in a sketch from the Season 29 episode hosted by Jack Black, in which Seth Meyers takes about 50 spit takes to the face within five minutes.
  • Stop or I Shoot Myself: An old skit spoofing Lethal Weapon had Mel Gibson stick a gun in his own mouth whenever one of his requests was denied. It even worked over the radio.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The punchline to all of the MacGruber sketches.
  • Subverted Kids Show: Many, from "The Mr. Bill Show" to many of the "TV Funhouse" shorts...and the live-action ones are worse (the one-shot sketch "The Happy Smile Patrol", recurring sketch "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood", and the Digital Short "The Tizzle Wizzle Show").
  • Take That: Sometimes SNL will dish out a Take That against something (cf. the "Really?! With Seth and Amy" segments, the "Bronx Beat" sketch with Katy Perry as a busty teenage librarian {given that the episode premiered the same week as news of a Sesame Street sketch featuring Katy Perry being banned because of Perry's allegedly risque dress}); other times, someone will issue a Take That against the show itself (cf. New York governor David Paterson's description of SNL during his surprise appearance on Weekend Update to confront Fred Armisen's insulting impersonation of him when compared the show to being governor: "It has a lot of characters, it's only funny for ten minutes, and then you just want it to be over") or a cast member (cf. David Spade's description of Eddie Murphy: "Look, kids, it's a falling star. Make a wish!").
    • Turned on them when Rudy Giuliani hosted the show after 9/11. Lorne Michaels asked him if it was okay to be funny. Rudy's response: "Why start now?"
    • HuffPo Live gets one in the Fatal Attraction parody

Kellyanne Conway: We'll see about that. If I can't be on TV, I"ll go somewhere else. I'll call HuffPo Live,
Jake Tapper: No, you won't! No one watches that!

  • They Killed Kenny: Bobby Moynihan's Ass Dan character on the Kickspit Underground Rock Festival sketches. When the sketches first started in 2009, it was established that Ass Dan was dead at the age of 28 (Ass Dan was born in 1981). In 2010, another sketch (this time, an Insane Clown Posse music video parody) had Ass Dan alive and well -- until Jason Sudeikis's character, DJ Supersoak (who also was said to be dead at the end of the sketch at age 36 [DJ Supersoak was born in 1974], then brought back later without an explanation]) stated that "Ass Dan did just die when we were playin' that video there," moving Ass Dan's age of death to 29 (it was also confirmed on the "Crunkmas Carnival" sketch that Ass Dan was dead and he was finally going to get the wake he deserves -- until Ass Dan popped out of the casket and shouted, "Yeah! You know I'm still alive, bitch!" and before saying, "I'm gonna live forever!", was cut off by a memorial still that read, "Ass Dan: 1981-2010." Recently, there was a Kickspit Underground Easter Festival sketch that, once again, has Ass Dan alive again and cut off with a memorial still that now reads, "Ass Dan: 1981-2011," making Ass Dan 30 years old.
    • Fridge Brilliance and Fridge Horror: The recent Kickspit Underground sketch reveals that Ass Dan is susceptible to heart attacks, meaning that Ass Dan is, in fact, alive, and all the years he supposedly died was when he suffered a heart attack.
  • "This Just In: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."
  • Those Two Guys: Jon Lovitz and Tom Hanks as The Girl Watchers, Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell as the two club-hoppers who dance to Haddaway's "What is Love?", Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin as the "Wild and Crazy Guys" (aka The Czech Brothers or The Fenstruk Brothers), Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World, The Blues Brothers — SNL has a lot of recurring characters that can be described (or dismissed) as "Those Two Guys".
    • A lot of cast member pairings count as Those Two Guys (or Those Two Girls or That Guy and That Girl). Some examples:
      • Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi,
      • Gilda Radner and either Laraine Newman (outside Weekend Update) or Jane Curtin (on Weekend Update),
      • Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo (a.k.a the Spotlight-Stealing Squad who saved SNL from getting cancelled in the early 1980s),
      • Mary Gross and Christine Ebersole,
      • Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall (who later became husband and wife in reality),
      • Billy Crystal and Martin Short,
      • Billy Crystal and Rich Hall,
      • Randy Quaid and Terry Sweeney (often with Sweeney in drag; the two did play Ronald and Nancy Reagan a lot in sketches),
      • Robert Downey, Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall,
      • Dennis Miller and Victoria Jackson (particularly on Weekend Update),
      • Nora Dunn and Jan Hooks,
      • Jan Hooks and Phil Hartman,
      • Dana Carvey and Mike Meyers,
      • Chris Farley and Adam Sandler,
      • Chris Farley and David Spade,
      • Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri,
      • Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer,
      • Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri (in the "Leg Up!" sketches),
      • Chris Parnell and Darrell Hammond,
      • Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz (both of whom became notorious for cracking up and mugging during sketches),
      • Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch (especially in the Boston Teens sketches),
      • Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon,
      • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler,
      • Fred Armisen and Will Forte (particularly in Seasons 28 and 29),
      • Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers,
      • Jason Sudeikis and Kenan Thompson,
      • Bill Hader and Andy Samberg,
      • Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig,
      • Kristen Wiig and Michaela Watkins (particularly in the Today Show sketches; when Watkins was let go, they tried with Jenny Slate. It didn't last),
      • Kristen Wiig and Nasim Pedrad
  • Token Minority: SNL has a lot of them. Most were black (like Garrett Morris, Eddie Murphy, Ellen Cleghorne, Danitra Vance {the first black female repertory player; not to be confused with Season 6's Yvonne Hudson, who was only hired as a featured player/recurring extra}, Chris Rock, Tim Meadows {the longest-serving black male cast member as of 2012}, Jerry Minor, Dean Edwards, Finesse Mitchell, Kenan Thompson {first cast member to be born after SNL premiered and the first cast member from children's comedy shows to be on SNL}, and Jay Pharoah), but there have been other cast members with different ethnic backgrounds:
    • Horatio Sanz was the first Hispanic cast member (he was originally born in Chile).
    • Fred Armisen is not only the second Hispanic cast member (after Horatio Sanz) and the second Asian-American cast member (Rob Schneider, from the early-to-mid 1990s cast, is half-Filipino), but also the first cast member to be both Asian and Hispanic (Armisen's mother is Venezuelan {he mentions this in the 600th episode hosted by Antonio Banderas} and his father is Japanese and German).
    • Maya Rudolph was the first biracial (read: half-black, half-white) cast member. Her father is white and her mother was a black 1970s singer named Minnie Riperton (who died when Maya was a child). Riperton is best known for the song "Loving You."
    • Gilbert Gottfried, Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, Seth Meyers, Jenny Slate, and Vanessa Bayer are Jewish. Of course, this is an American comedy, where the rule isn't so much You Have to Have Jews as Jews Will Be In The Cast Or The Writing Staff Almost No Matter What You Do, so YMMV as to whether that's really a minority worth mentioning.
    • Tony Rosato, Pamela Stephenson, Morwenna Banks, Horatio Sanz, and Nasim Pedrad were all born outside of North America (Rosato was born in Italy, Stephenson was born in New Zealand, Banks is from England, Sanz is from Chile, and Pedrad is from Iran).
  • Too Much Information: The entire point of "The Lov-ahs".
  • Top Ten List: Wayne's World skits frequently featured these, as did some parodies of The Late Show With David Letterman. The Dark Side with Nat X (Chris Rock) had a Top Five List; Nat X's explanation for this was that it was all "The Man" would allow him.
  • Transparent Closet: Chris Kattan's "Mango"; Fred Armisen's take on Liberace on the "Vincent Price Holiday Special" sketches (made all the more funny when you realize the real Liberace was like that).
  • Trash the Set: Some SNL sketches do end with a character laying waste to the cheap, flimsy sets and props on the show, most notably the sketches featuring Molly Shannon's neurotic Catholic schoolgirl Mary Katherine Gallagher or Chris Farley's loud, obnoxious motivational speaker, Matt Foley.
  • Trekkie: William Shatner's famous "Get a Life!" skit.
  • Trust Me, I'm an X: Parodies of The View with Tracy Morgan as Starr Jones would always see Ms. Jones begin every single sentence in a discussion noting "I am a lawyer" followed by an observation about the news story or subject being discussed that is completely obvious.
  • The Un-Reveal: The "It's Pat" sketches.
  • The Unintelligible: Shy Ronnie (Andy Samberg), a mumbling, redheaded nerd paired up with Rihanna (first seen in Season 35's Blake Lively/Rihanna episode; recently appeared in Season 36's Jon Hamm/Rihanna episode in a Bonnie and Clyde parody).
    • Suel Forrester
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: An infamous sketch where a murder victim is apparently so gruesome that all the cops/coroners/reporters/etc who see pictures vomit everywhere. It was later parodied on 30 Rock.
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Parodied on the banned TV Funhouse cartoon "Mediaopoly"; late in the song, after exposing many dark secrets about General Electric, a "technical difficulties" title card appears, implying GE censored the sketch. However, it's actually part of the sketch, since the chorus keeps singing afterwards. The singers even lampshade the fact that We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties is used as a cheap way to censor out anything that the sponsors or network may find controversial.
  • When I Was Your Age: Dana Carvey's "Grumpy Old Man" segments on Weekend Update.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Parodied in this Peter Pan skit.
  • Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Mr. Sluggo.
  • Wild Card Excuse: The Coneheads handwave their weirdness by claiming to be from France.
  • Word Association Test: The seventh episode of Season 1, hosted by Richard Pryor, had a sketch in which a prospective black employee (Pryor) is interviewed by a white boss (Chevy Chase). Everything goes normally until partway through the test, when Chase breaks out the black racial epithets. Pryor counters with white racial epithets until Chase uses the N-word and Pryor calls him a "'dead honky". (In the end, Pryor's character gets the job.) It should be noted that this sketch was cited (by Tina Fey, on a Season 31 episode that aired on the same day Richard Pryor died) as the sketch that solidified SNLs reputation as the "edgy, outrageous late-night sketch show".
  • The Worst Seat in the House: There was a sketch on an episode hosted by Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees where Jeter in drag and the women of SNL played the wives and girlfriends of the players...and sat in the nosebleed seats.
    • Another sketch from the early 1990s had four friends attending a Van Morrison concert, with one of the characters being stuck behind the one person in the crowd who would rather stand out of her seat and dance, thus blocking the character's view of the stage. After several failed attempts at trying to look around the woman and asking her politely to sit, the character admits defeat and decides to be content with having to miss seeing most of the concert. The segment ends with another song beginning and everyone in the audience getting up from their seat to enjoy the music.

Notes

  1. season 5
  2. season 10
  3. (Phil Hartman, while a memorable and endearing cast member of both SNL and The Simpsons, doesn't count since he wasn't credited as a regular on The Simpsons.)
  4. also the only Jean Doumanian cast member to ever host an episode, the only black Dick Ebersol cast member to host, and one of four Dick Ebersol cast members to host an episode, joining Billy Crystal, Martin Short, and Julia-Louis Dreyfus
  5. A feature player who first appeared on the 1985-1986 season
  6. Nancy Walls was on the show during the 21st season -- 1995-1996, and was let go in favor of Ana Gasteyer
  7. On a bizarre episode that had Francis Ford Coppola trying to fix the show and a musical performance by Phillip Glass
  8. The fifth season and the last season featuring the remnants of the original cast -- and Harry Shearer before he became a cast member on The Simpsons
  9. ABC's answer to Saturday Night Live that lasted from 1980 to 1982, though Rich Hall wasn't credited as a cast member on Fridays. He, like Michael O'Donoghue on SNL, was a writer who often appeared on-camera performing bits that he wrote himself
  10. Not officially a cast member, but was an integral part in setting up SNL's warped humor and sometimes appeared in sketches -- even having a recurring sketch called "Mr. Mike's Least-Loved Bedtime Stories
  11. Brynn actually appeared in the opening credits of some of the early 1990s episodes. She's the woman sitting next to Hartman at a diner table with her back to the camera with the swinging earring
  12. Though that may be an exaggeration, as there are actually four segments in which Bill Hader has played Stefon and not cracked up once -- the first sketch that introduced Stefon as Ben Affleck's estranged brother, a Weekend Update segment that had Stefon, Boby Moynihan as Snooki from Jersey Shore, and Fred Armisen as David Patersen singing "O, Christmas Tree," another Weekend Update segment with Seth Meyers announcing to the audience that he's going on summer vacation with Stefon, and in the monologue of the Maya Rudolph episode, where Stefon appears as a background singer for Maya Rudolph. Still, the four times Hader hasn't cracked up compared to the ten times that he did -- as of May 2012 -- isn't really considered a good track record
  13. which is usually blamed on Fallon's lack of professionalism by his detractors. On the 2011 Christmas episode, Fallon himself even admitted that his cracking up ruined a lot of good sketches
  14. Lorne Michaels didn't have a black female cast member in his cast until 1985, when he hired Danitra Vance
  15. (which, back then, was considered groundbreaking as SNL has always had men as head writers; there were women writers -- including Jean Doumanian during her disastrous tenure as executive producer, but no woman before Tina Fey was a head writer)
  16. (The language the song is in isn't Korean, it's Cambodian, and the title translates to "I'm 16".)