Regardless of the cast, the guest host, musical act or the writing, Saturday Night Live has produced some truly memorable moments since it debuted in 1975. Moments that are permanently etched in the pop culture consciousness. Some of the best moments were mistakes. The fact that show airs live means that there is no safety net or ability to fix things with editing. If a line gets flubbed or someone starts laughing, then that’s how viewers see it. And whether a moment is intentional or not, the show has provided many great memories over the decades. Here are the 10 best SNL moments ever.
Some of these videos are region locked, but you can probably figure out a way around that, savvy internet user!
10. Steve Martin’s King Tut Skit (1978)
Comedian Steve Martin has been on SNL so often that most people assume he was part of the original cast. He wasn’t. Steve Martin has always been a guest host on the show. But he has still been part of many great SNL moments – none better than the “King Tut” skit he performed in 1978. The skit that features Steve Martin as a dancing singing King Tut is so memorable, it has been seen countless times by just about everyone. In fact, even people who have never seen the skit all the way through are familiar with it. What makes the skit truly memorable is the fact that Steve Martin pulls off the song perfectly. He doesn’t miss a beat, a note, or a word in it. And his Egyptian dancing is pretty cool too. A classic from the 1970s SNL.
9. William Shatner Scolds Trekkies (1986)
William Shatner had one of the best moments ever for a SNL guest host in 1986 when he played himself at a Trekkie (or Trekker) convention. Taking the stage to address the assembled crowd of geeks and fan boys, Shatner launches into a tirade against the overzealous fans, telling them to “Get a life, people” and exclaiming “For crying out sake, it’s just a TV show.” As concerned stage managers look on, William Shatner then begins to single out the emotionally crushed nerds, pointing to the crowd and saying: “You. Have you ever kissed a girl?” and “You. Isn’t it time you moved out of your parents’ basement?” This all occurred at a time when Trekkies were still on the fringes of pop culture and geek culture had yet to become cool. The results are super hilarious.
8. Celebrity Jeopardy (2001)
Celebrity Jeopardy took on a life of its own on SNL. This is mainly due to the awesome impressions that cast member Will Farrell did of host Alex Trebek (playing him as a stuck up pill) and Daryl Hammond as actor Sean Connery, who insults Alex Trebek at every opportunity. But in the late 1990s early 2000s, Celebrity Jeopardy was made memorable by many other great impressions – notably Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds, Tom Cruise as Ben Stiller and Jimmy Fallon as former SNL cast member Adam Sandler. However, it is the back-and-forth between Ferrell and Hammond that really makes Celebrity Jeopardy one of the greatest moments in SNL history. The insults and Trebek’s reactions are priceless.
7. Dick In A Box (2006)
Singer Justin Timberlake has had a ton of great moments on SNL. He’s one of the best hosts ever. However, the high water mark for Timberlake came in the 2006 Christmas episode when he and cast member Andy Samberg starred in the fake video/infomercial for “Dick In A Box.” The two play greasy boy band singers who think that the best thing they can give the girl in their life is their own junk in a gift wrapped Christmas box. The song, the visuals and the dance moves are bust a gut funny and make this one of the best moments ever on SNL. There’s a reason why this clip is shown on each and every SNL Christmas retrospective. It rocks!
6. Samurai Delicatessen (1976)
This is a classic moment from the first season of SNL. It’s one of those skits that has become synonymous with the show. To see cast member John Belushi as Samurai Fatuba is to recognize the TV program. And in this 1976 skit, a meek and mild Buck Henry tries to order a sandwich from a Katana wielding samurai played by Belushi. The audience is laughing loudly throughout the skit, yet Henry and Belushi never lose it. They stay in character the whole time, and Henry plays it perfectly straight even as Belushi goes crazy with his samurai sword. By the end of the skit you can barely hear what the two actors are saying because the audience laughter is so loud. This is a skit that has been etched in the Mount Rushmore of SNL moments.
5. Ebony and Ivory (1982)
“I am dark and you are light/You are blind as a bat and I have sight.” So begins, arguably, the funniest song parody in SNL history. Rarely have two cast members had better chemistry than Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo, and that chemistry is on full display in this parody of the hit song “Ebony and Ivory”. Eddie Murphy as Stevie Wonder and Joe Piscopo as Frank Sinatra are unbelievably funny, as are the lyrics to their version of the hit song made popular in real life by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. The two cast members nail it and never break character. “You’re my amigo, negro. Let’s not fight!” This is definitely a defining moment from the Eddie Murphy era on SNL.
4. Need More Cowbell (2005)
This parody of VH1’s “Behind the Music” has entered the pop culture lexicon. As members of the rock band Blue Oyster Cult, cast members Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz are funny enough. But it is guest host Christopher Walken as the record studio producer Bruce Dickenson who continues to demand “I’ve gotta have more cowbell!” that steals the show. Walken’s intense demands for more cow bell and Will Ferrell’s efforts to beat on the cow bell will have tears streaming down your face. Jimmy Fallon can be seen laughing in the background throughout the entire skit, but no matter. It is still really, really funny. So funny that the phrase “need more cowbell” is now a popular and well known saying among people of all ages.
3. The French Chef (1978)
Dan Aykroyd’s impersonation of cooking expert Julia Child is reason enough to watch this skit, but when he cuts his finger and starts spraying blood all over the set, the hilarity really sets in. According to legend, the machine meant to spray the blood in the skit broke when they were live on air, leading to even more blood than expected to be sprayed around the set. Dan Aykroyd’s reaction to all the blood and his attempts to carry on even as more blood comes out of his hand provides one of the greatest moments in SNL history. Watching this skit now, it is hard to believe that it was performed live on air. Dan Aykroyd plays Julia Child as a real trooper who literally doesn’t want to throw in the towel – even as she bleeds to death on her cooking program.
2. Schweddy Balls (1998)
Another classic Christmas skit is the infamous “Schweddy Balls” one from 1998. Featuring Alec Baldwin (one of the greatest SNL hosts ever) as a baker Pete Schweddy who is on National Public Radio to hoc his popular Christmas balls (rum balls, etc), the laughs begin when SNL cast members Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer as laconic NPR hosts begin telling Alec Baldwin’s character how they can’t wait to taste his balls and put his balls in their mouth. Crude in the funniest way, this skit is delivered in a mellow, laid back way that makes the crazy banter back-and-forth all the funnier. It is literally one double-entendre after another in this skit. One of the very best moments ever on SNL.
1. Chippendales Dancers (1990)
Even people who don’t watch SNL are familiar with this classic skit from 1990 featuring a ripped Patrick Swayze and a flabby Chris Farley as dancers who are competing for a job with Chippendales. The contrast between Swayze’s tight and toned body and Farley’s fat and flabby one is funny enough. But the dance moves that Chris Farley pulls off, including diving to the ground and doing the worm at one point, are gut busting funny. Cast members Kevin Nealon and Mike Myers, who keep saying “I don’t know. This is a tough choice for us,” add to the laughs. It’s also funny how much like a real Chippendales dancer Patrick Swayze (who was a professional dancer in real life) looks next to the horribly out of shape Farley. This all adds up to an unforgettable moment for SNL. One that will live on forever. A true classic.