10 Best 'SNL' Sketches of Season 43, From Natalie Rap to 'Black Panther' - Rolling Stone
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10 Best ‘SNL’ Sketches of Season 43, From Natalie Rap 2.0 to ‘Black Panther’

From a priceless Will Ferrell/Kate McKinnon team-up to a Migos-like rap group in therapy – the best of ‘Saturday Night Live’s past season

10 Best 'SNL' Sketches of Season 43

The 10 Best 'SNL' Sketches of Season 43 – from Natalie Rap 2.0 to a 'Black Panther' game show, a perfect Ferrell/McKinnon team-up to Migos in therapy.

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No one expected Saturday Night Live to deliver another 2016-2017 season – a standout run in which the show suddenly surfed the pop-political zeitgeist in a way that it hadn’t done for decades. Yes, you still got Alec Baldwin’s Trump pursing his lips and perversely reflecting back the administration’s boiling-frog slow erosion of American democracy, but it felt a little less urgent this time around … even as our IRL state-of-emergency increased with every breaking-news alert. 

Season 43 didn’t give us the scalpel-sharp satire we needed regarding our POTUS – but it did give us a Jost/Che “Weekend Update” that’s finally hitting its stride rapport-wise, some on-point #MeToo commentary and a handful of incredible digital shorts. (The show is beginning to rely on filmed bits the way it relies on movie-star drop-ins, which definitely hit peak quantity this year.) That, and a lot of tried-and-true surefire set-ups: Even the appearance of cast-members moms on the Mother’s Day episode meta-asked why the show relies on “talk shows and game shows” so much for sketch fodder.

Still, there were a ton of high points from the 2017-2018 SNL year; we could have filled most of this list with bits from the Will Ferrell episode alone. And once again, Kate McKinnon proves she is God. Here are our picks for the 10 Best Sketches from Season 43. (We’re leaving out monologues and “Weekend Update” character stuff, though a shout out to McKinnon’s sassy AF version of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Cecily Strong’s Claire from H.R. and Heidi Gardner’s moody teen critic Bailey Gismert.) 

10 Best 'SNL' Sketches of Season 43

‘Natalie’s Rap 2’

Of course Natalie Portman would reprise her wild-child rap from 2006, one of the highlights of the early Lonely Planet era of digital shorts. We just didn’t think a sequel would be this funny. “Portman, Portman, Portman, Portman/I fucked your husband/and his best friend/just for sport, man” – and we’re off. Sure, the short itself acknowledges that it just sounds like “exactly the same, only with current references” and a new Cardi B-like cadence. But it still works, right down to Portman telling Beck Bennett he can “juggle these nuts” and some choice Jar-Jar Binks jokes. No more questions.

10 Best 'SNL' Sketches of Season 43

‘Film Panel’

Does anybody still need to be convinced that Kate McKinnon is not just the best thing to happen to SNL in years, but has already ascended to G.O.A.T. status? We’ve gone on record regarding our love for these recurring “Women in Film” sketches, in which McKinnon’s old-school Hollywood starlet recounts tales of studio-era horror stories. Dropping the daffy, dementia-suffering Debette Goldry into a middle of panel on sexual harassment just as the Harvey Weinstein scandal was at full boil, however, produced some real standout gems on Tinseltown toxicity, male complicity and how this has been going on for decades. “Sexual harassment is Hollywood,” she exclaims, followed later by “We had a secret code among actresses to warn each other about creeps. The code was: ‘He raped me.’ That way, if any men were listening, they’d tune us right out, easy-peasy!” Ouch.

10 Best 'SNL' Sketches of Season 43

‘Commercial Shoot’

“Baked in a kissy cat puss.” Even if you didn’t know that this sketch was based off real bloopers from a regional restaurant commercial, this McKinnon/Ferrell two-hander is one beautifully demented, deadpan duet. (Seriously, how has no one put them in a movie together yet? Pairing Will Ferrell with a top-tier female comedian doesn’t always automatically equal a home run, but still.) We don’t know what kills us more: the look on Kate McKinnon’s face every time she and/or her screen husband screws up the line “baked in a crispy buttery crust”; the declaration that this shouldn’t be so hard because they “raised five boys, and some girls”; or when the two of them simultaneously yell out “Yahtzee Isis Quiff!” It’s a masterclass.

10 Best 'SNL' Sketches of Season 43

‘Welcome to Hell’

It starts with “all these big, cool, powerful guys are turning out to be … what’s the word? Habitual predators?” And from there, this bright, shiny, K-Pop–style video about how sexual harassment has always been a part of a woman’s daily existence – that just because people are paying attention now that things are “button-under-the-desk bad” doesn’t mean this is new – just starts slaying across the board. From the “it’s like a maze here, all full of boners” line to the montage of Melissa Villaseñor as incredulous feminist icons, it’s tough to pick a highlight here. Personally, we’d nominate the list of stuff that’s long been hazardous for women: “parking, and walking, and Uber, and ponytails, bathrobes and nighttime, and drinking, and hotels, and vans.” SNL took on what felt like daily revelations of famous men behaving badly a number of ways, but this ditty hit the most bullseyes. It’s simultaneously a bubbly #TheReckoning cri de couer and an angry eyeroll.

10 Best 'SNL' Sketches of Season 43

‘Dinner Discussion’

How do we love this sketch about the minefield of modern dinner conversation in the #MeToo era? Let us count the ways: the use of camera movement and lighting for dramatic effect is spot on; the escalating absurdity of reactions as everyone gingerly tries to avoid saying the wrong thing, peaking in Kate McKinnon pulling a mini-theater curtain (complete with proscenium!) over her face; the way that Aidy Bryant says “Care-fulllll” like an old-timey 1930s character actor and Heidi Gardner says “Watch it” like she’s had emergency jaw surgery; that Pizza Rat insert in the everything-falls-apart montage after Keenan Thompson brings up race. 

Pound for pound, this was one of the single funniest bits of the past season, one that would have worked even if Will Ferrell didn’t bring his death-defying deadpan to the table. But he does – boy, does he! – which seems to force the rest of his scene partners to up their game as well. It felt like an old-fashioned SNL highlight in the best possible way: a great ensemble piece, a well-written bit of commentary, a sketch that understood exactly how to use its guest host and all of its various players’ strengths to a tee. We’ve watched this one a dozen times since it first aired. It’s one of the few Season 43 sketches that, years from now, we could imagine watching a dozen times more.

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