Doing the quick-hits list of best sketches from this year's Saturday Night Live made me realize that I never did one from last season. Easy to remedy that.
I could have listed these "in no particular order", since it was one of those years on SNL - a huge pack of very solid, memorable sketches, all about equal in terms of staying power - except for the top few, which I feel we'll be remembering for years to come.
15. Two A-Holes At A Pitch Meeting in the 1960's
This one is only rated this low since it's perhaps too inside joke-laden - not only do you have to have seen "Mad Men" before, but you needed to have specifically seen their Emmy-nominated season finale, "The Caousel." It also wouldn't hurt to have seen Jason Sudekis and Kristen Wiig's "Two A-Holes" series before. With or without that preparation, the sketch is loads of fun - especially with the appearance of John Hamm's real-life co-stars Elizabeth Moss and John Slattery.
14. Immigrant Tale
1800's-era Irish Immigrant Justin Timberlake philosophizes about his future progeny, Justin Timberlake, and the great things he will achieve. Timberlake manages the exact balance of self-deprecation and winking self-aggrandizement - a sentiment that frankly may someday be engraved on his tombstone.
13. "Goodnight Saigon"
Season 34's final sketch featured both a who's who of celebrity cameos (Tom Hanks, Anne Hathaway, Paul Rudd, Artie Lange, et al.) and a surprisingly and weirdly moving version of Billy Joel's "Goodnight Saigon". There's a reason Ferrell ended his career as perhaps the best sketch artist in the history of SNL - he's perfectly cut out for this sort of work. Even as the sketch gets stranger, he only gets funnier.
12. "I'm On A Boat!"
This one only gets better the more you watch it. Millions and millions of people have done comic raps, but not very many go so far as to snag a hip-hop superstar (T-Pain) and do a fully professional music video while they're at it. They're also the first people to realize what's now abundantly obvious - T-Pain is fully willing to mock the horse that brought him here (see: Funny or Die videos, CMA skit with Taylor Swift, etc).
11. Madonna & Angelina Jolie
Two spot on impressions by Wiig and Abby Elliot, the best of which is both of their expressions when they say the phrase "space baby."
10. High School Musical
It's not just that Zach Efron showed some acting chops on his turn on SNL - he was exceptionably good. Especially when knocking the show that made him famous, when he shows up at his old high school as their shellshocked commencement speaker.
9. Whopper Virgins
A take on Burger King's controversial (and legitimately offensive) Whopper Virgin commercials, SNL imagines what, exactly, an actual Whopper Virgin interview would look like.
8. Mary Poppins
I knew that Anne Hathaway had a theater background, so I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me that she was excellent on SNL, but my esteem for her acting chops had risen significantly by the end of the show. Sort of the opposite of watching Matthew Fox or Tim McGraw host. This isn't the only time she's in the top 10.
7. Weekend Update: Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake takes us through an entire SNL episode in 3 minutes. And it's spellbinding. Because Timberlake could host SNL every week and no one would be bothered at all.
Really, it's 10 different brilliant new characters that all happened to be tried out at the same sketch. It's just kismet it all happened at once.
The first of the truly memorable moments of the season on the list, this was one of those skits that got broken down ad nauseam by the press for no other reason than Sarah Palin was such a polarizing figure last fall that the press remained deeply fascinated by her throughout the race, to a truly bizarre degree. And Tina Fey's impression of her - helped immensely by Seth Meyer's sharply funny writing - ended up a condemningly accurate portrayal of what, exactly, Palin's appeal really was.
4. The Lawrence Welk Show
It's not so much that it's an accurate imitation of what "The Lawrence Welk Show" was, it's just that doing a version of the show in the 21st century, completely irregardless of context, ended up being much more funny than doing it 40 years beforehand.
3. Mark Wahlberg Talks To Animals
I don't know why this is funny. It's just that it somehow seems totally accurate.
Because it took guts to say "y'know what the world is crying out for? A sequel to our song about hiding our penises in boxes!" It also probably took guts to call Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson and ask them to be in the music video. I can't imagine how you start that phone call.
1. Sarah Palin Rap
And the cultural zeitgest comes to rest on Amy Poehler, who, seeming to physically hold off labor while performing, raps a song that features her killing a moose with a handgun, screaming "Now you're dead! Now you're dead, 'cause I'm an animal! And I'm bigger than you!" while Palin cheerfully bobs her head in rhythm three feet away. In 15 years, we will have no way to explain this clip to our children. It will absolutely mystify them, and possibly us as well.