I Love Saturday Night Live! Well, I did anyway. When I was younger. Before it got stupid. After I hated the show. For no good reason.
Ahem, maybe I should start at the beginning. My parents were strict and never allowed me or my brother to stay up for SNL. When I did get older I had built up this misconception in my head, that the show was dirty and filthy and just raunchy. Ok, that can be the case but the truth is that when this show is funny, it’s funny as hell! It does great parodies of news and entertainment and features fantstic and memorable recurring characters. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to find that out, I missed out on some great stuff.
I grew to adore this show especially the period in the late 80’s thru the Will Ferrel era. Am I the only one who liked G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live band? So today I wanted to discuss my ten favorite recurring characters or sketches. I am going to try to be fair and not keep it in one era of the show, but it’s hard not to favor that period where I really loved SNL. I triedto pick characters who remain popular even if they are no longer on the show.
Man was this a hard list. Not only did I want to make sure it covered all SNL history, but was fair male/female and I did not have the same performer to many times So rules :. No parodies, it had to an original character. I tried to make it only one character per performer, unless a duo with someone else.
#12.Toonces the Cat
How? How can a dumb idea like this be so funny over and over and over? It is really amazing, it even earned a prime time special! It was the same gimmick, someone thinks the cat can drive and he does…for a little while before careening off a cliff! This was done several times and it was always fun to see Toonces again. The best was probably the Terminator spoof, where Toonces became a Terminator chasing after John and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton was hosting). It was a silly sketch that made no sense, and yet it was always funny.

#11.Matt Foley (Chris Farley)

 

Chris Farley…was never my favorite. I mean no disrespect to him or anyone who did like him, but to me all he ever did was yell and scream all the time and that isn’t comedy. Showing how fat he was also isn’t funny. Ok, the Chippendale’s sketch was but it got old. He never really did ant characters, with one big exception. Matt Foley was a motivational speaker and was just funny as anything. It wasn’t just what Matt said, or the fact that was a loser who lived in a van down by the river, but the very way he moved around and fell flat on his face. This character encompassed everything that made Chris Farley funny, and it’s no wonder he was so popular.
#10.Hanz and Franz (Dana Carvey & Kevin Nealon)

 

I will discuss Dana Carvey more later, but one of his best characters was the one he created with Kevin Nealon. Hanz and Franz were “fitness experts” who hosted a show called “Pumping up with Hanz and Franz”. They looked down on people who were in great shape, calling people girlie man losers. Problem was, they weren’t quite the muscle men they pretended to be. They had bad Australian accents and idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger (who appeared once!)They were flabby girlie men, but don’t tell them that!
#9.The Target Lady (Kristen Wiig)
So let’s talk about Kristen Wiig. She kept me watching SNL for seven years after I had given up on it. She is amazing, with all the characters she manages to create and the way she loses herself in all of them. Gilly, Kathie Lee Gifford, Penelope…I could make a whole list of just her characters, but I had to pick one. And my favorite had to be the Target Lady. She was just quirky and funny, and having spent lots of time in Target it just seemed like she could be a real employee. She is really hard to describe here, but no matter how many times they bring back this character I get a kick out of watching her.
#8.PAT (Julia Sweeney)

 

Sometimes a one joke character can work over and over. Take Pat for instance. It was the same joke every time, is Pat a man or a woman? This is another example of the performer knowing how to make the character likable while also keeping that big question a mystery. In fact Pat was creepy the first time we met her, but was wisely toned down to be more likable. The performer of course was Julia Sweeney and no matter what the scenario, Pat was always a clever bit. Oh, and what about the movie they made? Yeah, let’s not discuss that.
#7. The Church Lady (Dana Carvey)
High on this list because by the time I got familiar with the character Dana Carvey was ready to stop performing her. I missed a lot of great stuff, but let’s not get into that again. Dana Carvey was just amazing. His George Bush, Ross Perot, Johnny Carson, and Regis just to name a few. But by far the best was The Church Lady. Enid Strict was funny because of the way she looked down on people. And knowing some catholic people, I can say that the portrayal wasn’t that far off. Dana Carvey did a great job making her likable with cute catchphrases. Isn’t That Special???
#6.THE CONEHEADS (Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtain)

 

As I said I wanted to try to make sure this list covered all era’s, and so I give you the Coneheads. I love the way they have stayed popular years later. They haven’t even appeared on the show in ages! I did see the movie, and thought it was actually pretty good. The premise is that Coneheads Beldar and Prymaat, with their daughter Connie, are visiting Earth from Remulak. So you can imagine it’s like a million other things that have aliens visiting Earth, with the usual confusions on out customs and so forth. But this was funny because of the way the characters were played, and the dropped references to what life is like on Remulak. They eat enormous amounts, have a strange language all their own, and are just lots of fun to watch.
#5.Spartan Cheerleaders (Will Ferrel & Cheri Oteri)

 

It is almost impossible to pick a favorite Will Ferrel character or sketch. I loved him on Snl, almost everything he touches was gold.  I hate his movies, but I loved him on SNL. Cherie Oteri was underrated and picking a favorite for her is hard too. She would just nail every character she did, no matter how weird they were. So why not choose the one sketch they did together? I decided to put this one on here for one simple reason. I really admired this sketch. Not to say it wasn’t funny, because it was, but I was just so impressed at the work they put in. These sketches couldn’t have been easy to write the dialogue and choreograph all the cheerleader stuff. The effort showed and the two characters ended up being developed as the sketches kept coming. They were two close friends who had issues and rivals, and we almost hoped Craig and Ariana would end up together at some point!
#4.Mary Katherine Gallagher (Molly Shannon)
How is this character popular? She is gross, crude, inappropriate, self absorbed and totally clumsy. But somehow Molly Shannon injects so much humanity and likability to this character that audiences just fell in love with her. I think the rule with many of these characters is that they were established by the actors before we saw them on SNL. I know Julia Sweeney did Pat before for instance. I think that really made a difference because when they did them on SNL they knew these characters well. Mary Katherine was funny because she was clumsy but there was also a real person in there, anxious to break out as a “superstar”. This was one movie which made perfect sense, to bad it still sucked. The character clearly dreamed of being more, whether it be superstar or just getting it on with the head of the catholic school. But we routed for her and cheered when she did score a victory.
#3.Linda Richman (Mike Myers)
Coffee Talk was one of those sketches that really surprised me. At first, it was a boring sketch with Mike Myers playing Paul Baldwin. It wasn’t very good. Someone must have realized that so they swapped out Paul Baldwin for Linda Richman, a much more colorful character, and suddenly the bit worked. Linda Richman was very Jewish and used Yiddish catchphrases. She would get “verklempt” for instance. And when she did she would offer a funny topic for the audience to discuss until she had recovered. Every episode had a different guest star, but the best and most remembered has to be the one where Roseanne appeared with an uncredited Madonna. This sketch was a strong one, with every joke working, and the best part was at the end when Barbara Streisand herself make a shocking guest appearance!
#2.Wayne’s World (Mike Myers & Dana Carvey
Here is my big exception to my own rule, but how could I not list these guys? I loved Wayne’s World! Who didn’t? Well, the way the sketch took off in popularity I would say not many. The sketch was so simple and yet somehow it worked. I mean, it is one of the few SNL movies that was half decent. Well, the first one anyway. But before we got the movies we had the amazing sketches. There was just something so fun about watching these guys. I think one of the reasons they worked was because they were a positive take on teenagers. Yeah they were crazy guys but they weren’t bad role models. This made them relatable and likable at the same time. They appeared several times and it was always worth it. The catchphrases they would say were classic, and we never got tired of hearing them. These guys were so big they even got Madonna to appear in a very interesting sketch where Wayne dreams of being with her. By the way, it may seem a little bit much to put Mike Myers back to back, but it just kind of worked out that way.
#1 Weekend Update
  
This is my favorite recurring sketch ever. In fact, it was Weekend Update that finally brought me to the show in the late 80’s. I loved the jokes on the news of the day, from politics to whatever else. Of course it was started by Chevy Chase and later others such as Jane Curtain, but I only saw them in clips. I didn’t start watching until the 80’s and I loved Dennis Miller (ironic since I hate him today) and the riffing on news of the week. The hosts have changed a lot over the years. Kevin Nealon, who was dry but not bad. Norm MacDonald, who wasn’t nearly as funny as he thought he was. Colin Quinn, he was funny on the show but nothing else! Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon who were just awesome, their chemistry was amazing and they brought Weekend Update back to life. Tine Fey and Amy Poehler were also great. Amy Poelher was then joined by Seth Myers, who still does it even after Amy left. He will be leavinhg next year and I can only wonder who will take over. It’s not just the jokes on the news, but the characters that come in and do editorials. Man, the list is huge! Father Guido Sarducci, The amazing Gilda Radner with her Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litelaa characters, Victoria Jackson, Al Franken as the political reporter, Jon Lovitz and his pathological liar, David Spade and his Hollywood Minute, Adam Sandler and his Opera Man character not to mention the songs, Dana Carvey did Grumpy Old Man, Colin Quinn played severel characters before taking over as the anchor, Fred Armison who I hated was on a lot, Bill Hader’s classic Stephon, Kristen Wigg as Aunt Linda and many many others. Weekend update is a great place for a performer to get some screen time especially if they are new, or have an old character come back for one last visit before finally fading. In fact Hans and Franz made fun of that very thing one time when they were at the update desk, talking about that was where all recuring characters eventually went to die!  Weekend Update is a true fixture of SNL, and as long as it is I will continue to watch.
Honorable Mentions:
Celebrity Jeapody deserved a place but didn’t make it, those sketches were hilarious! Some may wonder, what no Adam Sandler? I was never a crazy fan of him and that includes the movies he made after he was in SNL. I think I am the only person on the planet WHO DID NOT buy his CD or care about his songs. What About Stefon? Sorry never found him funny, though the way they sent the character off in the season finale last year was awesome! How about Chris Kattan? His characters like Mango or Mr.Peepers rarely made me laugh. The Roxbury sketches with Will Ferrell were pretty clever though. Another person missing is Phil Hartman, who was such a great character actor that there is just no way to pick one. Many liked his Unfozen Caveman Lawyer. I did not.

 

Limiting this to 12 leaves so many off. Billy Crystal’s Fernando, Martin Short’s Ed Grimley, Eddie Murphy’s Velvet Jones and plenty more! So if I left off your favorite comment and let me know. I look forward to the new season in a few weeks, and see what they have in store for us next!

By richb

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