Is it just me, or has “Saturday Night Live” been on fire lately? It feels as though the newer cast members (and writers) have finally found their stride, and the show is reflecting their new-found confidence. Thanks to it being an election year, “SNL” has had plenty of material to work with it to satirize (and this particular election is ripe for satire; it’s really a shame that Mark Twain isn’t still with us, he would be having a field day).
But it’s not just politics that “SNL” has taken on. After the Oscars second year of #OscarsSoWhite and the recent #BlackLivesMatter movement, minorities have felt the need to speak up and fight for their rights. “SNL” has been careful to not mock these minorities, but instead turn on their oppressors in clever and humorous ways. The show has been selective about what to poke fun at (as satire only works if one is trying to critique a social issue for the better), which is why their sketches have been so hilarious as of late. Here are my top picks for the best satirical “SNL” sketches of the past season (so far):
1. Republican Debate (Cold Open)
All of the “SNL” sketches that have focused on the seemingly endless Republican debates have been gold, but this one (which aired during host Adam Driver’s episode last month) stands out in particular. While some of the satire is just plain silly (as Taran Killam parodies Ted Cruz, he states "Canadians are well-liked. I’m not.”), other parts of it are spot-on. Pete Davidson portrays Marco Rubio’s confusion over why he is not the frontrunner brilliantly (and, with all fairness to Rubio, it is a legitimate question), and "SNL" alum/current announcer Darrell Hammond as Donald Trump tormenting poor Jeb Bush (Beck Bennett) is undeniably correct (he hasn’t actually called him “Jebra" yet, but this election isn’t over). What makes this sketch stand out isn’t the silly humor but how eerily accurate this is to the actual Republican debates.
2. Screen Guild Awards
This may be “SNL”’s most poignant sketch this year. After the recent controversy over the Oscars (in which, for the second year in a row, no minority was nominated in a major category), it would have seemed suspicious for “SNL” to not comment on this, especially since they have faced their own heat in the past for not having a more diverse cast. However, “SNL” didn’t turn a blind eye and instead tackled the issue of race in Hollywood perfectly. The writers played with escalation in this sketch (as each nomination of a white male actor becomes more and more absurd) and with quick cutaways (Leslie Jones's disbelief is ripe for so many memes). While “SNL” could have merely parodied those who were nominated or the overwhelmingly caucasian and male voters, they chose a more clever route.
3. The Day Beyonce Turned Black
The Oscar nominations haven’t been the only red-hot controversy in entertainment -- Beyoncé herself has found herself in a bit of hot water (or, as she might prefer, hot sauce) over her latest music video. In “Formation”, Queen Bey honors her Black heritage... And she didn’t just stop at the video either. She paid tribute to the #BlackLivesMatter movement (and Black culture) during her Super Bowl performance. Her homage to her race has sparked shock and even a recent protest (that was not well-attended). “SNL” found the whole hoopla over Beyoncé celebrating her roots to be a bit ridiculous and decided to parody that with a faux movie trailer entitled The Day Beyoncé Turned Black, in which a number of white Beyoncé fans throw themselves into a riot after finding out that their favorite singer is (gasp!) Black. The sketch effectively critiques the absurdity over this recent controversy -- Beyonce is not the first, nor the last, musician to celebrate her heritage (Kendrick Lamar just wrote an entire album about it -- and won Grammy’s for it!).
4. Palin Endorsement (Cold Open)
It wouldn’t be an election season without Sarah Palin! “SNL” alum Tina Fey returned to parody Alaska’s former governor, who recently went on a tirade in support of Republican hopeful Donald Trump. Palin’s real-life endorsement of Trump may have made even less sense than Fey’s interpretation, much of which I suspect was improvised. There isn’t much to this sketch beyond Fey’s spot-on impersonation of Palin, but does there really need to be when it’s this amazing?
5. Undercover Boss
Okay, this isn’t technically social satire, but this may be one of the best sketches “SNL” has done in a really long time. This parody of the reality series “Undercover Boss” features Star Wars: The Force Awakens villain Kylo Ren (played by host Adam Driver, naturally) as he goes “undercover” as a radar technician named Matt to see how his various stormtrooper employees really feel about him. He quickly learns that being a technician isn't as easy as he thought as his annoyed supervisor begs him to finish so she can go on her muffin break, and that he isn’t actually that respected among his employees, all the while blowing his cover pretty quick as he's not able to keep his well-known temper under control. I have not seen much of the real “Undercover Boss”, but I imagine that none of it will ever be as good as this skit, which has become Star Wars semi-canon at this point.
What are some of your favorite “SNL” sketches this season?