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The Best SNL Sketches of the Last 10 Years

It's been a wild decade of cat ladies, ad parodies, and full-scale musical numbers

Best SNL Sketches Last Decade
Photo via Saturday Night Live / NBC
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    Because Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels has actively avoided the kinds of major cast shake-ups that the show weathered in the ’80s and ’90s, it’s become harder to define recent eras of the show.

    The Aykroyd/Belushi/Radner/Murray era is easy; 1975 until 1980. The Carvey/Hartman/Myers era is easy; 1986 until 1995. But Kenan Thompson has been on SNL for 19 seasons. Kate McKinnon was on for a solid decade. More than ever, large chunks of the ensemble don’t disappear; instead, casts bleed into one another. When McKinnon started on the show, Kristen Wiig was still there. At the same time, some of her other early cast members will still be around next fall when the show returns for Season 48.

    Well, maybe. The departure of McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, and Kyle Mooney does feel like the end of some kind of era — a feeling that will be even more pronounced if anyone else leaves before the start of Season 48 in Fall 2022. (Cecily Strong appeared poised to leave a year ago, so it’s a little surprising that she hasn’t yet made a decision about what will be her 11th season.)

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    Now that several mainstays have left, we can go back and call Season 39 (2013-2014) through the just-completed Season 47 (2021-2022) the Kate/Aidy/Cecily era of the show. McKinnon, Bryant, and Strong were hardly the only major talent of this period, but their work apart and together helped to define the sensibility of SNL for the past 10 years —while plenty of their co-stars from early on are long gone, Season 39 was also the approximate dawn of Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, and the on-camera presence of Colin Jost; Pete Davidson and Michael Che both followed in Season 40.

    So let’s toast this newly defined Kate/Aidy/Cecily era with an overview of its best sketches. Cast members who started earlier (Bobby Moynihan), left earlier (Vanessa Bayer), or are presumed to stick around next year (Heidi Gardner; Ego Nwodim) will appear, but the sketch choices will be rooted in the core of McKinnon, Bryant, Strong, Bennett, and Mooney.


    “(Do It On My) Twin Bed” and “Back Home Baller”

    When the show lost Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island pals back in 2012, SNL music became more of a free-for-all with Chris Redd, Pete Davidson, and Mooney/Bennett all trying their hands at the form, mostly to good effect. But it’s hard to top this pair of bangers from the show’s female cast members, where they apply pop-diva swagger to twenty-and-thirtysomething rituals of returning home for the holidays. Like the best Lonely Island numbers, they marry funny visuals to genuinely catchy tunes; “Twin Bed” in particular will stick in your head for weeks on end.

    “Diner Lobster”

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    Granted, John Mulaney was probably always fated to do multiple SNL hosting gigs, what with his beloved stand-up act, facility with live performance, and ties to the show where he worked for years as a writer. But it really feels like “Diner Lobster” is the sketch that created his lightning-fast rise to five-timer status — an immediately beloved epic that pairs the inexplicable act of ordering lobster off a diner menu with a song score modified from Les Miserables.

    At the very least, it inspired Mulaney to mount a Broadway-centric musical sketch for every episode he’s hosted since. By mixing and matching songs from other musicals, and choosing broader topics than “ordering lobster from a diner menu,” Mulaney has helped to craft some enjoyable musical revues. The thing is, none of them match the single-minded zeal of this New Yorker’s delight. The original “Diner Lobster” is a full-on tour de force — and includes just one example of how perennial Weekend Update guest Pete Davidson was actually pretty funny in sketches, too.

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