Saturday Night Live wrapped up its 40th season on Saturday, and even without the anniversary fanfare, it was actually a pretty good one. We’ve often thought of the last couple of years — following the departure of giants like Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Fred Armisen — as kind of “rebuilding” seasons for the show, but this was the season the current cast inarguably came into its own as a mix of all-stars and burgeoning talent.
Because season 40 was such a whopper for SNL, there are plenty of great moments to revisit, from great hosts to great musical guests to, of course, great sketches, but I did my best to whittle the latter category down to 10 for your viewing pleasure. Keep in mind, of course that this is my list, and that your mileage on these particular sketches may vary.
“Puppet Class” (Episode 3, Host Bill Hader)
I firmly believe that Bill Hader will go down in SNL history as one of the all-time great cast members, and he proved it when he returned to host the show this season. There are plenty of fantastic moments in his episode, but I particularly want to revisit this one, in which he plays a PTSD sufferer and his adorable puppet.
“Lincoln Ads” (Episode 4, Host Jim Carrey)
Jim Carrey’s episode was one of the best of the season, and I could’ve easily picked at least four sketches from it for this list, but I decided on this one. It basically ran throughout the episode, and features Carrey absolutely nailing Matthew McConaughey’s cryptic Lincoln commercials.
“Drunk Uncle Halloween” (Episode 4, Host Jim Carrey)
“Weekend Update” has always been a place for recurring characters to come out and draw applause, but all too often those characters become so overused that they turn into half-assed versions of former greatness. Thankfully, Bobby Moynihan proved that this hasn’t happened to his Drunk Uncle character just yet.
“Back Home Ballers” (Episode 7, Host Cameron Diaz) Last season, SNL had a viral hit with the Christmas music video “(Do It On My) Twin Bed,” and in season 40 it got a surprisingly worthy Thanksgiving sequel about going home to your parents’ house and tearin’ the place up.
“Singing Sisters” (Episode 10, Host Amy Adams)
I have a soft spot for the weird stuff on SNL, the sketches that air near the end of the broadcast, when some viewers have already fallen asleep. It’s a place for experimentation, and often those experiments can produce gold (the best example being “Wayne’s World”). During the Christmas show, host Amy Adams and cast members Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong took Weird SNL to the best place it went this season as three singing sisters. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it sketch, but I love it.
“Bushwick, Brooklyn 2015” (Episode 11, Host Kevin Hart)
SNL’s pre-taped segments have always been an artform all their own. They basically adhere to whatever the show’s comedic view at the time is, sure, but they also allow the kind of exploration that live sketches just can’t, and this segment is proof. It’s an amazing blend of black stereotypes and hipster stereotypes, and it was easily the highlight of Kevin Hart’s episode this season.
“New Disney Movie” (Episode 16, Host Dwayne Johnson)
Dwayne “You’re Always The Rock in My Heart” Johnson’s episode was definitely one of the best of the season, and this was the best moment. Using the Fast and the Furious franchise as a springboard, this sketch re-imagines Bambi as a revenge-seeking badass, and delivers some of the season’s most memorable lines.
“Neurotology” (Episode 17, Host Michael Keaton)
Remember the Scientology documentary Going Clear and its use of the amazing Scientology anthem music video? Well, SNL was quick to latch on to that, and the result is an amazing parody complete with annotations.
“Easter Candy” (Episode 17, Host Michael Keaton)
I told you before that I have a soft spot for SNL weirdness, and it really didn’t get weirder than this in season 40, when Michael Keaton extolled the virtues of Easter with the help of some friends.
“Black Widow Trailer” (Episode 19, Host Scarlett Johansson)
We knew there would be some kind of Black Widow nod during Scarlett Johannson’s episode this season, but we didn’t know it would be this great. This sketch perfectly skewers Hollywood’s ideas about women, Marvel’s skittishness about female superheroes, and plenty more.
BONUS SKETCH: “That’s When You Break” (SNL 40 Special) Because SNL hit the season 40 milestone this year, NBC devoted several hours to a live special featuring the show’s greats from past and present. There were plenty of interesting moments that evening, but the best might’ve been this one, when Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler paid tribute to the show’s long tradition of performers laughing during sketches.