A lot of websites post their lists of the best SNL sketches of the season. What is unique about this particular list is that it is not the same as any of those other lists. If you love SNL, and you love reading about SNL, chances are this is not the only best sketch list you have read and are going to read, because you just love consuming a full range of opinions about a show that always inspires a full range of opinions. So without further ado, here is a thoughtful, passionate, well-researched ranking of the 10 best sketches of SNL Season 43. (Please note: dress rehearsal cuts that were posted online were considered alongside sketches that made it to air, in consideration of how much online viewing plays a part in this current SNL era.)
A lawyer’s (James Franco) argument rests upon his insistence that nicknames are based on pronunciation, not spelling, and he has never been more convinced of anything in the world. The writing on this one is actually paper-thin, but Franco propels it to classic territory with his ferocious delivery of “lasagna: za, pizza: suh.”
9. Diner Lobster
A foolhardy man decides to order that most classically fancy seafood dish at a too-humble dining establishment. The scene very quickly turns into an elaborate Les Miserables homage, and you have got to appreciate that chutzpah.
A rare case in which the cast breaking actually makes sense in-universe. A pair of vulgar reality stars (Will Ferrell, Cecily Strong) visit some friends from back home, and it all starts off relatively down-to-earth. But once the cameras start rolling, the insanity gets dialed up to eleven. The setup is so bare-bones that it hardly qualifies as a premise, but when you have two masters of characterization with no limits placed on their most grotesque instincts, magic is bound to happen.
7. Undercover Office Potty
What if you could do your business without getting up from doing your business? It turns out that is actually as terrible an idea as you could imagine. This filmed piece is not advertising a product that makes it any better, rather it is instead the chronicle of a desperate man in denial.
6. Hollywood Update
Body swap premises are really disturbing if you lean into them a certain way, and this sketch certainly does that. After gifting us the phrase “lil’ Andy Cunanan,” John Mulaney could retire now and his legacy would be intact.
5. The Race
A workplace where speed is currency breeds petty competition, but it also leads to finding the champion within yourself. This is a classic Kyle Mooney/Beck Bennett joint in which nonsense is somehow tied together in a way that makes perfect sense. I never would have predicted Greta Gerwig’s cameo.
4. Jurassic World Trial
A flamboyant lawyer attempts to defend the dino park from liability for the deaths of its customers. He can’t do it. Nobody could, of course. But he can give it his best harrumphing and unearned convincing of himself that he has pulled it off.
3. Raz P. Berry
“The Night (I Watched You)” gets stopped in its tracks as the creepy R&B lurker music video genre gets its much-needed deconstructing. Through his (thoroughly deserved) dressing down, Donald Glover’s Berry still manages to maintain his swagger. (The direct inspiration for this sketch is an unbelievable doozy.)
Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett had already covered plenty of territory with their flatly delivered, lightly surreal sitcom parodies, but when they teamed up with Larry David’s too-cool-for-school, chair-throwing style, it proved to be the unexpectedly perfect pairing. Plus, the random interstitials reached their greatest heights.
1. Barbie Instagram
A lot of SNL sketches follow the “three people in a row” formula. Usually the first two are normal, or relatively so, while the third is crazy. But what if the entire trio had more than a few screws loose? One might fear that that would make for incomprehensible chaos, but it can be done if the base reality establishes that all of them are deviating from expectations. Thus we have the masterful Barbie Instagram, in which Mattel interns Heidi Gardner, Pete Davidson, and Donald Glover give us three wonderful flavors of off-the-wall captions for the iconic doll’s social media. The effect is the gold standard for comedy, wherein the audience’s pleasure centers are satisfied from all directions.
Honorable Mentions: The Last Fry, Office Break Room, Black Jeopardy, James Madison High School Graduation, Ad Council Awards Dinner, Dying Mrs. Gomez, Fighter Pilots, New Wife, The Dolphin Who Learned to Speak, Family Dinner