It was the best of seasons; it was the worst of seasons.
But we’re not here to trash Season 47 of Saturday Night Live; not now. Not like this.
No no, we’re here to celebrate.
Everyone has their own favorite moments from the show or favorite cast members. Here were the live and pre-taped sketches that stood out most to me after another season of recapping SNL. I’ve laid them out not ranked from 1-16, but rather, within the typical running order of an episode, starting with the cold open through the host’s monologue and then into the short films, Weekend Update and the end of the night oddball sketch. As much as we’d love to include one or more of the outstanding musical guest performances, the sad truth is the show typically removes the live music from its YouTube channel within a few months. Cherish them while you can!
So here are my Sweet 16 selections from the season. How many of these made your list?
Best Debut by a Rookie Cast Member: James Austin Johnson Opens The Season Cold As President Biden
Imagine you just got hired to join the cast of SNL, and then they ask you to open the season cold, not only making your debut on live TV, but also having to do it while simultaneously introducing the nation and the world to your impersonation of the sitting president??? After seeing Jim Carrey and Alex Moffat deliver their hot takes on Joe Biden last season, James Austin Johnson handled the task as if he’d already been on the show for years. Kudos!
Best Monologue by a Comedian: Jerrod Carmichael
In his hosting debut, the former star of NBC sitcom, The Carmichael Show made quite the fashion statement in a white suit, no shirt. Coming out one night after he came out in his HBO stand-up special, and six nights after The Oscars slap, Jerrod Carmichael had us in the palm of his hands from his opening salvo: “I’m not going to talk about it.” But he did. He made light of both topics in a single monologue! With deft touch and timing, Carmichael joked that Lorne Michaels made him address the Will Smith-Chris Rock flap. Why? “He said the nation needs to heal.” And who better than Carmichael to heal us.
Best Monologue by a Non-Comedian: Kim Kardashian
I dare you to find anybody who had high expectations for Kim Kardashian’s hosting debut, especially for her to deliver a comedic monologue on live TV. And yet, Kim surpassed even her most ardent supporters expectations with a whip-smart set of one-liners and zingers that left no punches pulled when it came to herself, her family or her ex-husband, Kanye West.
Best Reason to Return to SNL for an Encore: Cecily Strong’s Abortion Clown
If you’re not going to retire from the show after singing “My Way” while submerging yourself in a ginormous wine glass, then you better come back to the show on a mission. Mission accomplished. As Goober the Clown Who Had An Abortion When She Was 23, Cecily Strong turned in a transcendent Emmy-worthy performance, forcing Colin Jost to break the fourth wall just in case anyone watching hadn’t caught onto how personal Cecily’s clown confessional was, revealing she’d never have made it to SNL had she not gone through with an abortion herself.
Best Reason to Return to SNL for Manifesting Destiny: Pete + Kim’s Magic Carpet Kiss
Pete Davidson seemingly said goodbye during last season’s finale, but by returning, he surprised everybody and nobody equally by ending up in a relationship with Kim Kardashian after she hosted SNL and kissed him in a very meta parody of Aladdin. Was this sketch Pete’s way of shooting his shot? Was this sketch Kim’s idea? Either way, here we are. It’s Pete’s love life. We’re just vicarious spectators.
Best Derailing of a Live Sketch: Conan O’Brien
John Mulaney’s “initiation” into SNL’s Five-Timers Club should have been, or could have been performative jubilation. But the former SNL writer allowed his sketch to get supremely chaotic by inviting another former SNL writer into the mix: Conan O’Brien. O’Brien, who had appeared in the original sketch that introduced the idea of the “Five-Timers Club” for recurring guest hosts, went off-script. Forget the cue cards, flub the lines, we’re proving how unpredictable live TV can be!
Best Unexpected Cameo: Peyton Manning
This season’s NFL playoffs featured some unbelievable finishes. But nothing proved as unbelievable as Colin Jost introducing Peyton Manning to break it all down, only to discover the Hall of Fame quarterback possessed intricately detailed knowledge of Netflix’s Emily in Paris, and wanted to obsessively share all of that, instead. Manning’s comic timing remains as precise as his passing!
Best Branded Content: Target Thanksgiving Ad
We can argue whether SNL/NBC gets paid cash money to feature actual companies with their actual logos and products in live or pre-taped sketches, but there’s no debate that this Thanksgiving ad for Target with guest host Simu Liu hits all the right notes for anyone who loves and hates having to go home for this holiday.
Best Sketch That Even A Streaming Media Platform Can Relate To: Cancelling Cable
At Decider, we’re already living and breathing in a post-cable world. But we still can relate to the frustrations of any of our readers trying to cancel their cable subscriptions. Over the phone? We’re still doing that?!
Best Sketch That’s Mostly Talking And Reaction Shots: Zoë Kravitz’s Maid Of Honor
Wedding receptions provide evergreen opportunities for unhinged performances, and Zoë Kravitz’s speech as the maid of honor keeps revealing more and more outlandish secrets from the bride’s past. These revelations are funny enough on their own. But watching Kyle Mooney’s reactions as the hapless groom, combined with Cecily Strong’s shushing him as his new bride loving every minute of it, really lifted this live sketch to greater heights.
Best Sketch In Going Viral: Squid Game, Country Music Style
There was a period early in the season when Big Wet, a big ol’ country music guy who got bigger on YouTube, started showing up as a regular collaborator in SNL videos. Such was the case in episode 3, where he joined Pete Davidson and guest host Rami Malek for a music video that covered most of the beats of the hit Netflix series, Squid Game, only with much more musical twang. It became by far the most-shared sketch of the season, with more than 13 million YouTube views.
Best Nepotism: please don’t destroy
Ever since The Lonely Island joined SNL in 2005, Lorne Michaels has looked for subsequent young crews of white boys to sign up as a team making short films for the show. This year, Lorne kept it within the SNL family, as the “please don’t destroy” trio included the sons of longtime SNL producer Steve Higgins and former SNL head writer Tim Herlihy. But Ben Marshall, John Higgins and Martin Herlihy quickly established their own sensibilities and even more quickly earned the love and respect of the season’s guest hosts, who all wanted a piece of the action. None more successfully than Lizzo, who took one of the trio’s ideas and turned it into a catchy song and music video!
Best Weekend Update Takeover: Field Correspondent Sarah Sherman
Rookie cast member Sarah Sherman may not have been formally auditioning to take over Weekend Update in the penultimate episode of this season, but her backstage tour of “Colin Jost’s dressing room” was hilarious, her enthusiasm infectious, and her presence provided a much-needed boost to Update and to the cast as a whole.
Best Belated Parody: Old Enough! Long-Term Boyfriends!
A viral sensation as soon as the lighthearted Japanese reality show hit Netflix at the end of March, Old Enough didn’t get the SNL parody treatment until mid-May. Which could’ve come much too late to make an impact, but thankfully, the writers found a fun, fresh angle by saddling guest host Selena Gomez with a child-like longterm boyfriend in Mikey Day who struggled with even the simplest shopping list.
Best 2000 And Late Parody: Black Eyed Peas
Nobody was asking for a sketch about the Black Eyed Peas in 2022. Are wedding DJs even still playing Black Eyed Peas hits from “2000 and late”? Don’t answer that. Instead, revel in the pure silliness of Chris Redd, Bowen Yang, Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong imagining a re-enactment of the studio session in which they conceived the lyrics for both “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling.” Join the people in the place!
Best “10-to-1” Sketch: Truck Stop CD
Between 12:50 a.m. and 1 a.m. Eastern, any given episode of SNL reserves the final minutes for weirder premises to let their freak flags fly. What starts as a truck stop by two road-trippers (Kyle Mooney and Ego Nwodim) turns into a promo for a 42-track song collection for “Truck You, You Truckin’ Truck,” by singing trucker Johnny Goblin (guest host Jake Gyllenhaal) “Are all these songs about peeing?” Kyle asks. Yes, and more! Goblin’s passengers (Cecily Strong, Andrew Dismukes) are not just along for the ride, as they sing wayward melodies, too. And is that Melissa Villaseñor is El Chapo? Why, yes, of course. Clancy T. Bachleratt and Jackie Snad would be proud.