The Best of SNL Season 43

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CREDIT: Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

Best Sketches
(For my detailed thoughts on the best sketches, click here.)
10. Za
9. Diner Lobster
8. Cookout
7. Undercover Office Potty
6. Hollywood Update
5. The Race
4. Jurassic World Trial
3. Raz P. Berry
2. Beers
1. Barbie Instagram

Most Valuable Cast Member
Cecily Strong
Kate McKinnon
Kenan Thompson

Rookie of the Year
Heidi Gardner (Best Debut Season Since Cecily’s)

Best Hosts
1. Donald Glover
2. John Mulaney
3. Will Ferrell

Best Monologues
1. Will Ferrell
2. John Mulaney
3. Kumail Nanjiani

Best Musical Guests
1. Childish Gambino
2. Troye Sivan
3. Jack White

Best Weekend Update Segments
1. Angel, Every Boxer’s Girlfriend From Every Movie Ever
2. Stefon
3. Jacob Silj
4. Kyle Mooney on the Oscars

Best Episodes
1. Donald Glover/Childish Gambino
2. John Mulaney/Jack White
3. Will Ferrell/Chris Stapleton

Best Sketches of SNL Season 43

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This post was originally published on News Cult in May 2018.

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, with honorable mentions of 20-11 as well. (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.)

20. Family Dinner
19. The Dolphin Who Learned to Speak
18. New Wife
17. Fighter Pilots
16. Dying Mrs. Gomez
15. Ad Council Awards Dinner
14. James Madison High School Graduation
13. Black Jeopardy!
12. Office Break Room
11. The Last Fry

10. Za

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.”


SNL Review May 19, 2018: Tina Fey/Nicki Minaj

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CREDIT: Gianny Matias/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult:

Holsten’s Restaurant – C+

Tina Fey’s Monologue – B

Royal Wedding Reception – C-

Morning Joe – C

Mean Girls – B

Nicki Minaj performs “Chun-Li” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B/B+
Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. – B
Bishop Michael Curry – C

Dateline: Pervert Hunters – C+

Sarah Plain – C

Nicki Minaj ft. Playboi Carti performs “Poke It Out” – B-

Livingston High Talent Show – C

Dick Wolf’s Chicago Improv – B

SNL Review May 12, 2018: Amy Schumer/Kacey Musgraves

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult:

A Mother’s Day Message From the Cast of SNL – B-

Amy Schumer’s Monologue – B-

Mother Knows Best – B-

Handmaids in the City – C+

The Day You Were Born – C-

Gospel Brunch – C-

Kacey Musgraves performs “High Horse” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Bailey Gismert – B-
Michael Che’s Stepmom – C+

Wake Up Denver – B+

Kacey Musgraves performs “Slow Burn” – B-

Last Call – B-

James Madison High School Graduation (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+

SNL Review May 5, 2018: Donald Glover/Childish Gambino

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult:

Michael Cohen Wiretap – B

Donald Glover’s Monologue – B

Jurassic Park Courtroom – A-

Friendos – B+

Raz P. Berry – “The Night I Watched You” – A-

A Kanye Place – B

Dirty Talk – B+

Childish Gambino performs “Saturday” – A-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B+
Pete Davidson – B+
Leslie Jones – B-

Galactic Summit for All Black Humans – B

Barbie Instagram (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A

Childish Gambino performs “This Is America” – B+

Prison Customer Service – B

SNL Review April 14, 2018: John Mulaney/Jack White


CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

This review was originally published on News Cult in April 2018.

News Cult Entertainment Editor Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Hollywood Update – Mulaney finds brilliant inspiration from his very own “Family Flix” (aka “Rocket Dog”), one of the greatest sketches he ever wrote during his SNL tenure. This time around, the objectionable material for supposedly family-friendly entertainment is squarely present both in front of and behind the camera. Simply mentioning the uncomfortable sexual ramifications of a parent-child body switch premise would have been enough to make this sketch a winner, but the disturbing details just keep on coming.

Horn Removal – The second sketch of the night to take obvious and winning inspiration from a previous SNL bit hearkens back to a pre-Mulaney time, namely the Will Ferrell-starring Bad Doctor. This time around, it is the patients who are more the crazy people, although the biggest laughs come from Mulaney’s plastic surgeon calmly explaining to the horned fellow and his fetishistic girlfriend just how idiotic they are.

It always bodes well for the Monologue when you have a stand-up comedian hosting, and I furthermore appreciate that Mulaney delivered jokes I had never heard from him before. Maybe this was material that he had used on stage previously, but it was new to me…I have to give it up to Big Nick’s Greek Diner, or any comedy sketch past or present, that turns into a full-blown Les Miserables homage.

Keep It

Robert Mueller/Michael Cohen Lie DetectorMeet the Parents came out 18 years ago, which was around the time that my SNL fandom was really starting to bloom. So this Mueller investigation homage to the Fockers is like if Steven Spielberg and Drew Barrymore had cameoed in 2000 for an ET-centric parody about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Anyway, we certainly don’t need Ben Stiller and Robert de Niro to rehash their “you can milk anything with nipples” routine in 2018, but it is a unique enough entryway into the current scandal du jour.

The Drag Brunch is what we can refer to as precision comedy, and the target is hit…Mulaney’s student leader attempts to hide a boner on National School Walkout Day, and we should all know from Big Mouth how masterful he is at humorizing awkward bodily functions…Ah, a parody of Wild Wild Country, that new Netflix documentary series about a cult that a lot of people are obsessing over but that I have not watched (yet?); this isn’t the first time a sketch has revolved around Kenan’s insatiable appetite for booty, nor is it the best, but it is still fairly amusing (and props to the audience for cheering Nasim Pedrad’s cameo without prompting)…Michael and Colin’s most memorable bits this time around involve bringing the Cleveland Browns’ futility into all this and a zinging follow-up about cream soda…I have never subjected myself to Laura Ingraham, so I have no idea how accurate Kate McKinnon’s impression is, but the list of all her disreputable new sponsors is on-point…Kenan’s Lavar Ball routine is a steady, unwavering formula, but damn if I don’t lose it when he claims that his son Lonzo is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes or that he has a long-lost Mexican son named “La Biblioteca.” And “You say ‘tomato,’ I say ‘this tomato costs $500’” might just be the quote of the season…The Real Intros of Reality Hills zeros in on what that genre is all about, doesn’t it?

Leave It

No terrible sketches on John Mulaney’s watch!

John Mulaney

How many former SNL writers who were not also cast members have returned to host? The only other one besides John Mulaney that I can think of is Larry David. Mulaney is certainly well-known enough among comedy nerds to justify booking him as host, but is he famous enough among the general public? The correct answer is: who cares? The episode he is in charge of runs smoothly, and it appears that he had a powerful effect on the writers’ room, what with the plethora of concept-driven sketches. Also, Darrell Hammond twice refers to him (on purpose?) as John “Mulvaney.”

Jack White

On a scale of “absolutely essential” to “playing the hits,” this is hardly a landmark performance from Jack White, but of course his chops are as strong as ever. Are “Over and Over and Over” and “Connected by Love” future classics in his oeuvre? I’m not banking on that legacy, as they do not sound terribly different from his typical garage rock numbers, but maybe after a few more listens, I’ll notice some peculiarities.

Letter Grades

Mueller/Cohen Lie Detector – B-

John Mulaney’s Monologue – B+

Drag Brunch – B

National School Walkout Day – B-

Wild Wild Country – B

Big Nick’s Greek Diner – B+

Jack White performs “Over and Over and Over” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Laura Ingraham – B-
LaVar Ball – B

Hollywood Update (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

Horn Removal – B+

Jack White performs “Connected by Love” – B+

The Real Intros of Reality Hills – B

SNL Review April 7, 2018: Chadwick Boseman/Cardi B

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult:

Outnumbered – C+

Chadwick Boseman’s Monologue – B-

Nike Pro-Chiller Leggings – C

Black Jeopardy – B+

Fertility Frontier Project – B

Aidy B – B-

Cardi B performs “Bodak Yellow”/”Bartier Cardi” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Mark Zuckerberg – C
Angel, Every Boxer’s Girlfriend From Every Boxing Movie Ever – B

Magic Mirror – B

Warehouse Fire – B

Cardi B performs “Be Careful” – B-

Restaurant Complaint – B-

The Game of Life: DACA Edition – B

Black Panther Screening – C

SNL Review March 17, 2018: Bill Hader/Arcade Fire

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CREDIT: Kailey Fellows/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult:

Anderson Cooper 360 – B-

Bill Hader’s Monologue – B

The Californians – C+

Kiss Me I’m Irish – C+

Older Husband – B

Jurassic Park Screen Tests – B-

Arcade Fire perform “Creature Comfort” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Betsy DeVos – B-
Pete Davidson – B-
Stefon – A-

Spirit Quest Lodge – C+

CBC News Hour – B-

Arcade Fire perform “Put Your Money on Me” – B+

Undercover Office Potty (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

SNL Review March 10, 2018: Sterling K. Brown/James Bay

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult:

The Bachelor – B

Sterling K. Brown’s Monologue – B

Celebrity Family Feud Oscars Edition – C+

This Is U.S. – B-

Coco vs. Shrek Dinner – B

It Came From the Woods – C

James Bay performs “Pink Lemonade” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. – B-
Dawn Lazarus – A-

Black Panther Deleted Scene – C

Dr. Love – B

Movie Shoot – B-

Chris Fitzpatrick: Rock or Rap – B+

James Bay performs “Wild Love” – B

Dying Mother (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

SNL Review March 3, 2018: Charles Barkley/Migos

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult:

Anderson Cooper 360 – C

Charles Barkley’s Monologue – B-

The Grabbies – B-

Ned’s Roach Away – B

Homework Hotline – C

The Champions (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+

Migos perform “Stir Fry” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Hope Hicks – C+
Resident Movie Buff Kyle Mooney – B+
Leslie Jones – B-

Hump or Dump – B

Construction Site – B

Migos perform “Narcos” – B

Last Call – B-

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