Well, another year of SNL has come and gone. Unlike any other show on television, the skits on SNL have the potential to sneak into the cultural consciousness on their own terms, becoming much more relevant than the show itself — and sometimes more relevant than whatever they’re mocking. So what were the best skits of the year? From where we’re standing, the earlier half of 2012 was much stronger, bringing us a couple of our new all-time favorites, and the hilarity trailed off a little, but maybe it’s just that the new goodies haven’t had time to sink in yet. Either way, after the jump, watch our picks for the ten best skits from this year of Saturday Night Live. But since humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, let us know which of your favorites we missed in the comments.
10. Hypnotist Air date: September 22 Host: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Oh boy, does Taran Killam sell it with the physical comedy in this one. If you don’t laugh while watching him climb over Kenan Thompson in his underwear while Thompson keeps whimpering “no, no,” well, you might be slightly more mature than we are. Also: twist ending!
9. Homeland Air date: November 10 Host: Anne Hathaway
Like everyone else we know, we’re obsessed with this show, so if that’s colored our view here, please excuse us. But the impressions here are just spot-on, particularly Bill Hader’s Saul and Taran Killam’s tiny-mouthed Brody. The jazz freak out might have been over the top, but after a year of looking at Carrie’s cry-face, we were totally on board.
8. The Standoff Air date: November 17 Host: Jeremy Renner
We’ve never seen a funnier Mexican standoff. And unlike many SNL sketches, this one had an actual, compelling storyline in addition to all the goofiness. Well done.
7. The Legend of Mokiki and the Sloppy Swish Air date: November 10 Host: Anne Hathaway
It may be a really stupid dance created by a crazy person, but we were charmed. Zombies in love! Dancing as disease! Kenan Thompson as a Lou Bega impersonator! All good things.
6. The Real Housewives of Disney Air date: March 3 Host: Lindsay Lohan
We resisted this sketch, but in the end we just couldn’t help ourselves. After all, everyone loves a good Disney princess in-joke, and who can resist drunk Cinderella, Snow White’s epic burns (and “OMG” face), and a Jasmine who accidentally slept with Iago? “Here comes midnight, bitch!”
5. Downton Abbey on Spike TV Air date: February 4 Host: Channing Tatum
We’ve never heard a more succinct and hilarious sum-up of our favorite show. “Like eavesdropping? Then this show is for you. Anytime anyone says anything, a third person hears it from a doorway… Watch what you say, because the Dowager is listening.”
4. Bein’ Quirky with Zooey Deschanel Air date: February 11 Host: Zooey Deschanel
It’s always a mixed bag when the show tries to make fun of the host, but this time, they hit it out of the park. Sure, Zooey Deschanel is an easy mark, but still — Abby Elliott’s impression of her was only the first treat. Deschanel herself pulled off a hilarious Mary Kate Olsen and Taran Killam’s Michael Cera had us sniggering into our hot chocolates. There are pointless musical interludes, wide-eye-offs, and knitting (Björk’s octopus sweater has an extra hole for its dreams and ideas). Adorkable and mildly scathing. What else could you ask for?
3. Bronx Beat Air date: February 18 Host: Maya Rudolph
Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph fast-talk riffing as disgruntled Bronx housewives? It doesn’t get much better than that. Until Andy Samberg and a large foreheaded Justin Timberlake arrive for a sexual harassment-off.
2. Lincoln Air date: November 3 Host: Louie C.K.
Not only was this clip, a parody of Louie if it was about Abraham Lincoln, hilarious and topical — it was also smart. This is what SNL should be doing all the time: playing to their hosts’ strengths rather than burying them in makeup and hoping for the best.
1. Maya Angelou’s Prank Show Air date: February 18 Host: Maya Rudolph
This is the only sketch that we’ve gone back to over and over again since its airing. Rudolph’s impression is incredible, and this is probably the best SNL premise we saw all year. Then again, it’s the literary editor judging this.