Saturday Night Live has celebrated the holidays in sketch form pretty much since its inception. These also tend to be among the best and most memorable sketches the show puts out.
This week, Saturday Night Live will air its final show before it goes on its midseason hiatus (hosted by Casey Affleck with Chance The Rapper as musical guest). Given the show’s history, it’s very likely we’ll get a few new holiday-themed sketches. Will they compare favorably to classics from past shows? It’s possible given the high quality of the season so far. In the meantime, we thought we’d enjoy a little holiday hilarity and look back at Saturday Night Live’s five best holiday-themed sketches.
5. Glengarry Glen Christmas
In this sketch, first airing on Dec 10, 2005, Alec Baldwin plays an elf version of his Glengarry Glen Ross character sent to Santa‘s Workshop to lay down the law to a group of elves played by Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Seth Meyers and Fred Armisen. Alec Baldwin always brings the laughs as a host and this sketch is perfect example of why he’s a distinguished member of the Five-Timers Club. He even flubs a line (saying his actual line from the movie, “Always Be Closing” instead of “Always be cobbling”) and still manages to be funny while breaking character.
4. Consumer Probe Holiday Edition: Irvin Mainway’s Toys
This classic sketch from SNL’s second season, airing on Dec 12, 1976, features Candice Bergen grilling Dan Akyroyd’s character Irvin Mainway about the safety (or rather lack thereof) of his line of children’s toys. His products include toys such as the Pretty Peggy Ear Piercing Set, Mr. Skin Grafter, Doggy Dentist, Johnny Switchblade (“press his head and two knives spring from his arms”) and of course, Bag O’ Glass, which is just a big bag of broken glass shards. But Mainway doesn’t see a problem since kids will probably just pick up glass from off the street, the beach or out of garbage cans anyway. He’s just giving consumers what they want! Besides, according to Mainway, the bag of glass is educational. It teaches kids about prisms and light refraction.
3. A Holiday Wish
This sketch is an excellent study in comedy escalation. On the Dec 6, 1986 episode, host Steve Martin sits beside a festively decorated tree and tells the audience of his Christmas wishes. It begins innocently enough; his one wish is for “all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.” But he’s not done. If he had two wishes, well, the first would still be the thing about the children, but the second wish involves a rather large monthly deposit (30 million dollars, tax-free) into a Swiss bank account in his name. Eventually, the wish list still includes “the crap about the kids” and the 30 million dollars, but also “all encompassing power over every living being,” and “revenge against my enemies. They should die like pigs in hell”. Only Steve Martin could make greed, megalomania, and vengeance this charming and funny.
2. “D**k In A Box”
Obviously, we were going to include this one. How could we not? Andy Samberg‘s pre-and-post SNL comedy troupe, The Lonely Island had already helped bring the show into the era of the “viral video” with 2005’s “Lazy Sunday“. But this is the sketch that truly sealed their legacy as a viral content machine (for a little while anyway). Samberg and host Justin Timberlake perform “D**k in a Box”, a sort of ’90s R&B ballad, and sing about the gifts they plan on giving their significant others. You can probably guess from the subtle context clues in the title as to what those gifts will be. But it’s the earnestness with which Samberg and Timberlake perform and the hilarious, lustful reactions of both Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, playing the duo’s girlfriends, as they receive the gifts that really sell this sketch. Also, if ’90s R&B is your thing, it’s actually a pretty decent song too.
1. NPR’s Delicious Dish: Schweddy Balls
Finally, we have arguably one of the most explicit, yet still somehow charmingly innocent, sketches Saturday Night Live has ever aired (and maybe the only sketch to get its own Ben & Jerry’s flavor). Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon play the hosts of a show on NPR called “Delicious Dish”. They deliver their lines in the hushed, thoughtful tones so common on public radio. It’s this milquetoast demeanor that elevates every detail in this sketch. When Gasteyer’s host says she’s being “greedy” this Christmas by requesting “a wooden bull, some oversized index cards, and a funnel” from Santa this year, Shannon’s character replies “Oooh, that will be great for funneling!” without a hint of irony. But it’s when host Alec Baldwin’s Pete Schweddy shows up with his spherical Christmas treats (from his store Season’s Eatings, which, as Gasteyer notes, “rhymes with season’s greetings”) that the sketch really takes a turn for the salacious and the hilarious.
Honorable Mention: “(Do It On My) Twin Bed”
After Andy Samberg left in 2012 (and The Lonely Island, whose members Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer were SNL staff writers, left shortly after), the show struggled to maintain the same kind of ‘viral’ cachet it had enjoyed during his tenure on the show. But this underrated gem from its Dec 21, 2013 episode is just as funny as almost anything from the Samberg era and thus is certainly worthy of an honorable mention. Also, anyone who’s had to visit family during the holidays with their significant other in tow can definitely relate to the lyrics at least a little.