Before we begin, an explanation: This is not a list of the 39 best SNL sketches of all time.
Any institution that lasts as long as Saturday Night Live has—and that experiences as much cast and writer turnover as Saturday Night Live does—will necessarily have stronger years and leaner years. In SNL‘s case, the difference between eras can be especially stark; you’re more likely to laugh at a meh John Belushi sketch than you are at even the finest display of Charles Rocket’s talents. Given that fact, it’s easy for a simple “best sketches ever” list to focus only on the best-known work of SNL‘s biggest stars (your Will Ferrells, your Eddies Murphy) while totally ignoring its less memorable seasons—which also means that such a list won’t really provide an overview of the show’s long, tangled, uneven history.
Thus this: In honor of the show’s upcoming 40th season, EW‘s team of SNL experts has assembled an inventory of each individual season’s best sketch. You’ll find many familiar picks below, as well as more obscure selections—and, perhaps, the absence of a few sure things. (There’s no “Celebrity Jeopardy,” for example, both because those sketches aired during a particularly fertile period—how can you pick even Turd Ferguson over “More Cowbell”?—and because we included one of them in a magazine feature called “Build a Perfect SNL Episode.”) Scroll through—and don’t forget to vote for your favorite one by 5 p.m. ET Sept. 26 at our poll here.
Season 1, 1975–1976
“Word Association,” Dec. 13, 1975
What kind of janitorial company gives job applicants a racist psychological test? The one Saturday Night Live invented for one of the most audacious two-minute segments in TV history. Even nearly 40 years later, Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor’s tense pas de deux (“Jungle bunny!” “Honky!”…”N—–!” “Dead honky!”) is just as sharp as it was in the ’70s—not to mention every bit as uncomfortably funny. READ FULL STORY