The Best And Worst Sketches Of SNL's 46th Season

While an episode of a sitcom or drama is typically written by a small crew of a few people, with one person leading the way, NBC's "Saturday Night Live" is a sketch show, so each little bit of the whole is composed independently of every other piece, by different teams and individuals. The result is that the quality (or appeal) of "SNL" can vary greatly from one episode to the next, or even within an episode itself. It's also a variety show, so there are political sketches, silly sketches, socially provocative sketches, weird sketches, and more. But when each season is all said and done, every "SNL" season has its standout moments — the brilliant gems and dazzling displays of short comedy, as well as the absolute duds, and the ones that just didn't resonate with the audience. Here, then, are the most memorable sketches of the 2020-2021 "SNL" season — all the best ones, and all the worst ones, too.

Best: Birthday Gifts

"SNL" doesn't always satirize politicians and speak truth to power by mocking it — sometimes it pokes fun at things from everyday life. Plenty of viewers could relate to "Birthday Gifts," a sketch that aired during host Regina King's episode in February 2021, for questioning and teasing the "mom wine culture" that's exploded in popularity in recent years. That's the idea that drinking wine is someone's entire identity, and how problematic and concerning that can be, and not simply a way to choose barely or mildly amusing signs purchased at a T.J. Maxx or Hobby Lobby expressing one's love of bottled grape booze. In this sketch, Aidy Bryant plays a well-to-do suburbanite being feted by her friends, who gift her one sign after another, each successively getting more brutal and/or blunt about the woman's love of drinking. The escalation is steep, going from "Wine gets better with age, I get better with wine" to "Hey barkeep, I wanna die tonight." "Birthday Gifts" works so well because it's a dark sketch that makes light of people who make light of things as well as targeting a particularly annoying part of the modern world.

Worst: Opening Credits Songs

They've been a part of comedy — and "Saturday Night Live" in particular — for a long time, but why, exactly, are impersonations funny? Sure, dressing up an actor like the president and having him say ridiculous things works as satire. But taking an actor and having them imitate the voice of another actor, while an impressive trick and a demonstration of rare ability, isn't exactly funny. Where's the joke in a person sounding like another person? Audiences likely laugh not because it's hilarious, but because a chuckle is a sign of surprise or delight. Without any comedic intent or point behind impressions, they're useless.

"Opening Credits Songs," from the January 2021 episode hosted by John Krasinski, takes a lot of time to explain its premise — and that introduction seems promising, as Chloe Fineman imitates Nicole Kidman's bizarre performance of the theme to "The Undoing." Then the sketch quickly descends into a succession of "SNL" cast members playing TV actors singing the theme songs of their shows, all with lyrics invented for the occasion. "The Queen's Gambit" being about "chess and drugs" (as explained by Melissa Villasenor as Anya Taylor-Joy) is no great observation, for example, and then Kyle Mooney brings in his unbearable Baby Yoda-as-a-rapper character from "Weekend Update" to push a theme for "The Mandalorian."

Best: L'Eggs

"Saturday Night Live" usually reserves its oddest and most experimental sketches for the last 10 minutes of the show, when all but the most hardcore fans have drifted off to sleep. The so-called "10 to 1" sketch from Carey Mulligan's episode in April 2021 is a quintessentially weird one, and it generates laughs from a series of bizarre and unlikely juxtapositions. The scene begins in a school cafeteria, where a few geeky kids have gathered for their after school hip-hop club, where they can practice their rapping and beatbox skills. Their awkwardness is nothing compared to that of two women played by host Mulligan and cast member Aidy Bryant, two straight-out-of-the-'80s ladies dressed in constricting and very dated office-wear who for some reason have hit up this junior high to sell that very style of clothes to modern-day kids. Specifically and desperately, they try to convince children to purchase pantyhose, the hosiery accessory that has long since fallen out of favor, and the kind that used to be sold in drugstores in little plastic eggs. That's why they were called L'Eggs, and that's the brand these two hopeless and hapless salesladies are trying to move. "L'Eggs" the sketch, what with its hard-selling salespeople demonstrating the benefits of a different generation's awful clothing choices, is strange, weird, and maybe even a little sad.

Worst: Coronavirus Holiday

To mock something is to diminish its power and vanquish the fear of it. That's all well and good for satirical comedy sketches about cruel politicians, but how does a show like "Saturday Night Live" stick it to a non-sentient, amorphous concept like the coronavirus, a deadly disease that shut down the world for more than a year, while also avoiding making fun of those whose lives were negatively impacted (or ended) by it? That was too tall of an order for "Coronavirus Holiday," a sketch from Timothee Chalamet's "SNL" episode that aired in December 2020 when most of the world was on edge from months in lockdown and preparing to spend the holidays painfully apart from (or without) loved ones. The sketch pictures a typical family celebrating Christmas, except they're personified coronavirus molecules (made evident to the audience by hats that look like germs) talking about what a great year they've had, traveling non-stop and meeting people. The whole thing just feels cruel or tasteless — that coronavirus "won" the year and that the disease has been given a voice to brag about it.

Best: Drivers License

"Drivers License," a heartbreaking ballad of heartbreak from "High School Music: The Musical: The Series" star Olivia Rodrigo was a massive hit in early 2021, so universally known that it got Rodrigo a spot on "SNL" as a musical guest — and it also fueled and inspired an entire "SNL" sketch, further reflecting the way its particular brand of histrionics and vulnerability resonated with an audience beyond Rodrigo's teen fanbase.

The sketch departs from where the viewer thinks it's going, too. What could be a passable, predictable sketch about a bunch of grown men in a bar inexplicably loving a song about teenage heartbreak from a teenage girl's point of view takes a turn, with the men revealing scores of information about themselves. The conceit of the sketch instead is that men actually are sensitive and not at all macho, and if a song hits just right, it can be a magical thing. The sketch is a celebration of music as well as a deviation from the norm.

Worst: The Grinch

Viewers can take only so much of the grotesque, and only so much of Dr. Seuss's Christmas-hating and then Christmas-loving Grinch character. The December 2020 "Saturday Night Live" sketch "The Grinch" certainly focuses on the "loving" side of the sniveling and squirrelly creature, falling into the same canon of "unnecessary expansion of character" movies as the 2000 live-action "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and the 2018 full-length animated feature "The Grinch." Audiences don't need to know more about what this awful, nasty, hard-to-look-at character does with himself when he isn't stealing Christmas, and they certainly don't need to be privy to his sexual proclivities. In this faux-edgy sketch, two Who parents (cast member Mikey Day and host Kristen Wiig) drop multiple hints to their Who kids that they opened up their marriage to a third for one night only, and it was with the Grinch, played with oozing creepiness and sleaziness by Pete Davidson in impressively elaborate costume and green makeup. The sketch consists of one almost-joke — the parents slept with the Grinch — and doesn't go much beyond that.

Best: USO Performance

There's a much-heralded, unofficial bit of comedy shorthand that advises against putting a "hat on a hat" — in other words, don't load up a piece with multiple wacky concepts. "USO Performance" proves the reverse, throwing a bunch of ideas out almost all at once and just letting everything play out. As a U.S. Army soldier played by new cast member Andrew Dismukes actually says out loud in the sketch, "There's a lot going on here." It begins in a World War II-era military encampment with a bunch of American troops homesick and missing the holidays with their families. The USO is there to entertain, and quickly, cast member Bowen Yang and host Kristen Wiig dispatch with all of the easily recognizable "White Christmas" signifiers and instead perform an anachronistic, extremely 2020 combative dance pop song called "Love Fight." On top of that, Yang takes the female point of view, and Wiig the male, as accusations of cheating fly around. The other woman makes an appearance (a cameo from musical guest Dua Lipa) with plenty of cuts to the audience of troops, who, instead of being mystified and confused, explain the song to each other and roll with it, and even get into it.

Worst: Wedding Friends

Unfortunately, not every single "Saturday Night Live" sketch can be great, not even when it's "Wedding Friends," and it stars Kate McKinnon, one of the show's all-time greats, and guest host Dan Levy, a proven comic genius and multi-Emmy winner for co-creating and starring on "Schitt's Creek."

At the wedding of a friend (Ego Nwodim), the duo play guests who dare to make a fuss during the ceremonial part where the officiant asks for any objections to the marriage. They don't come right out and say "I object!" right away, but rather take a long, passive-aggressive, and annoyingly subtle road to maybe suggesting that the bride can do better. Neither bride nor groom (Mikey Day) can even tell what's happening, other than that these "Wedding Friends" (as the sketch is named) are annoying chores of people who talk in "mean little riddles." That's accurate, and many viewers probably know people like this, but pointing out these annoying people winds up just another example of these annoying people without really taking them down a peg.

Best: Twins

Life during the coronavirus pandemic led to a lot of relatable comedy — namely sketch and commercial premises about the annoyances, vagaries, and quirks of videoconferencing and Zoom. At first, a viewer may think that "Twins," a bit on the John Krasinski-hosted episode of "Saturday Night Live" from January 2021, is going to be another mildly amusing entry in that oh-so 2020/2021 canon, but instead, it thankfully escalates, gets weird, and takes some hilarious and unpredictable turns. The sketch begins as a fake CNBC financial news show called "The Dividend," with Krasinkisi playing an economist named Craig Steer joining in via video chat. In addition to "Restless Sinner" and "Centipediatric," two disturbing pieces of art painted by Craig's kids, those very children soon join him, and they are even creepier than their art would have suggested. Straight out of a vintage horror movie, his kids are twins bearing old-timey blue smocks, weird haircuts, and disturbing smiles. And that's when this cable news parody sketch descends into twin-based horror movie tropes.

Worst: Gen Z Hospital

The May 8, 2021 episode of "Saturday Night Live" was the most controversial in years, because the host selected was Elon Musk, the billionaire industrialist and inventor who had made some enemies for trying to prevent his employees from unionizing and spreading wrong info about COVID-19, among other scandals. Multiple "SNL" cast members expressed their distaste for appearing in a sketch with Musk beforehand, to the point that show producer Lorne Michaels didn't make them appear on screen in them if they didn't want to. Apparently enough people were willing to appear in "Gen Z Hospital" with Musk, a sketch that generated controversy not because of the host, but because of its content.

The sketch is a soap opera parody in which all of the characters dress, and more importantly, speak, like stereotypical (or rather broad caricatures of) 2020s teens and twenty-somethings. "Gen Z Hospital" (in which Musk plays a doctor) consists of little more than slang terms — "sus," "the tea," and "bestie," for example — haphazardly strung together and repeated.

The comedy of the sketch, that a certain group of people has slang terms that may sound silly to older generations, failed to land, likely because it's a completely mundane and obvious notion — today's teens have slang terms, just like every generation of teens does. However, "SNL" faced some backlash online for presenting as "Gen Z" terminology what is really African-American Vernacular English.

Best: Mirror Workout

During widespread coronavirus lockdowns, when countless people couldn't gain access to a gym for their usual workout, a lot of people seemingly bought an expensive Tonal or Mirror — a gadget that looks like a gigantic iPad that hangs on a wall and offers guided workouts with virtual trainers. Objectively, it's some weird, futuristic stuff out of "Black Mirror" — the object is literally a black mirror — and "Saturday Night Live" writers recognized these devices for their high potential for comic material. In the February 2021 sketch "Mirror Workout," Mikey Day and Chris Redd play a couple of friends giving such a device a try, guided along by their energetic virtual trainers played by host Nick Jonas and cast member Heidi Gardner. And then things get progressively and hilariously weirder. The mirror is apparently even creepier than it seems, because it has ensnared a scared and confused woman named Shannon Delgado (Kate McKinnon), who is trapped inside what she calls a "cold black void" and does not know how to escape this thing that was just supposed to help her exercise. Unfortunately for her, the demonic presence known as Azuzal (Pete Davidson) is lurking to make sure she doesn't go anywhere.

Worst: Rap Roundtable

"Rap Roundtable," from the Timothee Chalamet-hosted episode of "Saturday Night Live," begins with a compelling premise: moderator Nunya Business (Ego Nwodim) hosts four icons of hip-hop to discuss the underlying issues in the musical form and its community of artists. Roots drummer Questlove cameos as himself, Punkie Johnson plays Queen Latifah, and Chalamet and Pete Davidson portray young Soundcloud rappers $mokecheddathaa**getta and Guaplord, respectively. 

The sketch then follows the tried-and-true-formula of two serious characters (Questlove and Queen Latifah) each saying something serious before the punchline comes from the wacky Soundcloud rappers. However, every gag is some variation of the hip-hop slang term "yeet." They just say (or scream) "yeet" so much, with Guaplord preferring to scream it and $mokechedda taking a more rambling and garbled approach. The point of "Rap Roundtable" is a frustrated, hand-wringing session about how rappers like these have found popularity having known nothing about the history or importance of hip-hop; for example, $mokechedda calls Questlove a legend because he was on "Yo Gabba Gabba!" once, and the duo's stated influences are Fall Out Boy, TikTok, and the rapping CGI hamsters from an old Kia commercial. "Rap Roundtable" all builds to what's supposed to be a shocking fact, but the reveal that $mokechedda's last song got "three billion streams, bro" is met with an audience reaction of complete silence.

Best: Tiny Horse

"Saturday Night Live" doesn't always traffic in the satirical, observational, scatological, or mean — there are laughs to be found in the poignant and absurd, too, and in "Tiny Horse," those come simultaneously. In this pre-taped short film from December 2020, a middle-aged married couple (Beck Bennett, Heidi Gardner) from what's seemingly America's heartland in the distant past, come to the decision that they're going to have to sell their farm. This is much to the chagrin of their young son (host Timothee Chalamet), who desperately doesn't want his Pa to sell the animals, especially not his favorite of the bunch: his tiny horse, who lives in a tiny treasure chest, and is rendered in stop-motion animation. 

At this point, this stark and dramatic film takes off on its adorable and silly twist and becomes a music video, as the farm boy sings about how much he loves his tiny horse and then reluctantly sets him free. It takes the tiny horse a long time to "git" (on account of his minuscule stature) but git he does, graduating from Animal University, getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and marrying Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. All that is quickly undone, however, by a final twist about how if you love something, you've got to set it free. "Tiny Horse" leaves viewers with the indelible and amazing image of the tiny horse riding a full-size horse.

Worst: NBA Bubble

Usually the most forgettable "Saturday Night Live" sketches are the ultra-timely ones, written as a humorous response to some current event or newsworthy item. Beyond their immediacy, they're no longer relevant. "NBA Bubble," which aired on the "SNL" season premiere in October 2020, is that kind of sketch, but it's not quite as forgettable as other not-so-timeless sketches because it's a little tacky and offensive and trades in some broad and ugly stereotypes. 

At the time the sketch aired, the NBA was finishing out its season in lockdown on a campus in Orlando, Florida, nicknamed "the bubble." After a few weeks, the NBA allowed in certain associates of players — wives, long-time girlfriends, and children. The sketch "NBA Bubble" supposes, then, that the league uses a draft, which it usually uses to disperse new players to teams, to allow NBA standouts to bring in their secret girlfriends and whatnot. The depictions of women as broad gold-diggers, along with the partners of NBA players as lying, cheating, ne'er-do-wells, are all here in full effect for a sketch that comes across as more crass and unseemly than its supposed targets.