Missing 'Saturday Night Live'? Revisit Some of Our Favorite Recurring Sketches (VIDEO)

Best Saturday Night Live Recurring Sketches Characters
NBC; Will Heath/NBC (2)

Few American television brands have a legacy as enduring as Saturday Night Live’s.

After its explosion onto television screens in 1975, the Lorne Michaels comedy brainchild has aired consistently on NBC for the past 45 years. Generations of households have dedicated parts of their Saturday night ritual to the iconic sketch series, a reliable and consistent weekly staple (that is, of course, until the recent pandemic). 

With COVID-19 shutting down production across entertainment, SNL has had to close its doors for reasons other than a seasonal hiatus, a mostly unprecedented step in the show’s history (save a small handful of special occasions). Despite the interruption, the team has remained dedicated to continually engaging its audience, airing a number of quarantine episodes taped from the performers' homes.

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While the quarantine episodes have produced some really fun moments, nothing quite beats the traditional SNL telecast from Studio 8H. And for die-hard fans, the absence of the live show is felt especially strongly.

So for those of us really missing SNL, we’ve compiled some of our favorite recurring sketches and characters from recent years to help fill the viewing void and to pass the time until it can finally return to its iconic stage: 

"Close Encounter"

In this vintage scene ripped right out of 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a trio of unsuspecting civilians (played by Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, and the host for that given episode), recount their experiences with alien abduction in a UFO. 

While Strong and the host’s characters generally have a shared, mostly stereotypical abduction experience, Ms. Rafferty (McKinnon) recounts a series of highly sexualized and uncomfortably graphic details about the way she was dealt with by the aliens. McKinnon’s performance in this series is often so hilarious that it is a regular occurrence for her costars to break character, unable to stifle their laughter at her ridiculous interjections. 

"Black Jeopardy"

Kenan Thompson stars as game show host Darnell Hayes in this culturally cognizant spoof of the iconic Jeopardy!. Darnell is charged with presenting a series of answers in much the same fashion as the real show, only this time, they focus on larger tenets of the Black cultural experience.

Contestants are usually played by two of the show’s Black players, with the host a third who is completely out of their depth. That contestant provides a Jeopardy-style question response to Darnell Hayes’ answer that would otherwise be correct. But the two Black contestants reveal the proper responses as they correctly answer with Black lingo, anecdotes and trivial knowledge. 

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"Chad"

In "Chad," Pete Davidson plays the titular character, a stereotype of “every Chad ever” who is clueless and very easily distracted by the easiest to ignore occurrences. Given his “go with the flow” attitude, he responds to everything with his catchphrase — an apathetic “OK!” — even when he is presented with a serious, emotionally draining, or life altering prospect.

Despite being a young careless loser, Chad is often the sexual and romantic object of his much older suitors’ desires. The sketch is a commentary on the often hilarious dynamic between certain archetype mature women and the bummy "boy toys" they insatiably pursue. 

"Fox News' Jeanine Pirro"

Strong has become a standout among the SNL cast for her consistently hilarious performances and uncanny ability to master impressions of personalities. One of her most memorable recurring roles is as frequent Weekend Update guest and real life Fox News host Jeanine Pirro.

Strong makes light of some of Pirro’s most ridiculous tidbits, even at times including direct quotations from her real life Fox telecast to ground the performance in our political reality. But the highlights of Strong’s performance come in the things that aren’t explicitly said: her physical mannerisms, down to the stiff shake of her bobbed wig, as well as her mastery of Pirro’s distinct speaking voice, hit this impression right out of the park. 

"The War in Words"

Hollywood’s obsession with World War cinema is well documented and gets a hilarious makeover in this sketch pulled straight from a PBS documentary we have all seen a thousand times. In it, Mikey Day plays a private deployed to the trenches of bloody conflict who emotionally writes back home to his wife (played by the host). 

The private's wife, however, consistently sends back letters with canned and aloof responses that seem to suggest she is completely removed from the psychological plight of her husband. As her letters become increasingly uninspired (even once asking “Oh! P.S. How is World War I going?”), Day's character grows increasingly incensed. 

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"Whiskers R We"

McKinnon is no stranger to performances of older, eccentric characters, and this recurring bit is no exception. Here, she plays Barbara DeDrew, a stereotypical cat lady who, along with her girlfriend (the host), shows off a roster of feline friends that are up for adoption at the “Whiskers R We” animal shelter.

The two provide a hilariously elaborate backstory for each cat presented, personifying them in ways only a cat lady could. The cats involved can also be expected to do any number of unpredictable things throughout the scene, which adds to the fun. 

"High School Theater Show"

Any resident high school theater kid can relate to this hilarious series of sketches about the pitfalls of scholastic drama departments. It features a rotating ensemble of SNL players (usually including Aidy Bryant and Kyle Mooney) and the host as high school students putting on a black box theatrical production.

The students incorporate incredibly heavy handed social justice themes as a means to relay important messages to their audiences in not-so-nuanced ways. Because of this, important lessons about same-sex love and racial injustice come off as offensive. The sketch intermittently cuts to a rotating roster of parents in the audience (usually played by Thompson and someone else) to showcase their bewildered reactions to their children’s mess of a production. 

"Cinema Classics"

Thompson’s penchant for playing television hosts continues with his role as Reese De’What, the eccentric presenter of the anthology series “Cinema Classics.” He fills the viewer in with trivia from the 20th century Golden Age era of film and television, often presenting “facts” about Hollywood classics that are anything but true in the real world.

The trivia sometimes manifests as histories about Hollywood starlets that have never existed at all, like in “Actress Scene,” where two actresses try desperately to get the last word in as they parody the melodramatic rivalries that often developed between performers of that age (such as the famous one between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis). The cherry on top for this recurring sketch is the ridiculous way that Thompson pronounces his character’s last name; “De’HWHAT!”, with obvious emphasis on the ‘H.’ 

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Bonus Pick: Weekend Update’s "Stefon"

Despite the fact that he is no longer an SNL cast member, we would be remiss in excluding Bill Hader’s iconic and enduring performance as “Stefon,” Weekend Update’s resident cultural critic with an eye on New York’s hottest trends. Stefon’s breathy voice, tendency to cover his mouth with his hands in inexplicable shock, and other mannerisms have made the character an enduring icon in and out of the context of Saturday Night Live. He is a huge fan favorite and garners rapturous applause whenever he returns to the Update news desk.