- Probably the most awesome thing about SNL is the fact that the show has been on the air for nearly 40 years, survived many things that would have taken down lesser shows (Executive Meddling, Seasonal Rot, cast and crew changes, weak writing, controversial moments, criticism over racial and gender equality in the cast, and fair-weather fans who will drop the show the minute it does something that misfires), and, for better or worse, is considered great entertainment, and has adapted to this current era, where people are finding their sketch show fix online and on cable rather than on free-to-air TV. On an E! special about the show's history, Lorne Michaels has stated that the show has lasted for as long as it has because it reinvents itself with talented cast members and writers.
- Will Ferrell's character pretends to have a Vietnam flashback and ends up singing (and maraca-ing) the entirety of Goodnight Saigon. Violinists come in from nowhere, Green Day casually steps into the background, and by the end of the sketch Ferrell's accompanied about fifty other people (celebrities, the whole cast [at the time], previous cast members, famous hosts, one of which was Artie Lange from the original cast of MADtv, which had reached the last episode at the time of the season 34 finale of SNL) singing with perfectly straight faces and doing various ridiculous things like playing along on unplugged Guitar Hero controllers. There's the sense that everyone turned out because Ferrell's a legend ó they all walk offstage at the end one by one as the song tapers off. It's so overdramatic that it breaks the walls of Narmy and Silly entirely and loops back around to Epic. It's already listed on the main page as Awesome Music, but this is also what a Moment of Awesome looks like.
- One famous episode had Aerosmith joining in on the Wayne's World sketch along with guest host Tom Hanks.
- Speaking of Tom Hanks, his showing up during a Celebrity Jeopardy skit, playing an utterly moronic version of himself, prompting Trebek (Will Ferrell) to sadly comment, "I had such high hopes for you"
- September 29, 2001: The first live show after the 9/11 attacks, with host Reese Witherspoon and musical guest Alicia Keys. After honestly paying tribute to the rescue people by bringing them on stage, Lorne Michaels talks with then-Mayor Rudy Guiliani. The following exchange may not seem like much now, but really went far in breaking the unease over the "Is it Too Soon to relax a little while still remaining respectful for the lives lost?" feeling everyone was going through:
Lorne Michaels: Can we be funny?Mayor Guiliani: Why start now?note
- What really makes this awesome is how Giuliani says the opening catchphrase: "Live, from New York, it's Saturday Night!".
- Elvis Costello returning to the show after being banned following his gig on the Christmas 1977 show (hosted by an old woman named Miskel Spillman, who won a contest where viewers got to pick an average person to host an SNL episode) where he played "Radio Radio" (which, at the time, was rejected for being anti-media). His return, taking place on the show's 25th Anniversary special, consisted of sabotaging the Beastie Boys' performance of "Sabotage" before they all played a rendition of Costello's "Radio Radio".
- In one of Buck Henry's episodes, John Belushi accidentally cut his forehead with his very real samurai sword towards the end of the "Samurai Stockbroker" sketch. After the commercial break, Henry appeared with a bandage over the cut. The show lampshaded the incident by having all the other cast members wear identical bandages on the same spot for the remainder of the show, as well as writing up a quick "newsstory" for Weekend Update: "Buck Henry was attacked with a sword by a coked-out John Belushi on a late-night comedy sketch show."
- This exchange by Chris Farley and Paul McCartney:
Chris Farley: Uh... remember when you were in The Beatles? And, um, you did that album Abbey Road, and at the very end of the song, it would...the song goes "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make"? You... you remember that?Paul McCartney: Yes.Chris: Uh...is that true?Paul: Yes, Chris. In my experience, it is. I find, the more you give, the more you get.Chris (ecstatic, starts to point at Paul and mouth "AWESOME!"): Well, that's it for this week's show...
- September 28, 1991. The Reverend Jesse Jackson (appearing as himself, as opposed to being impersonated by a cast member) reads "Green Eggs and Ham" in honor of Dr. Seuss, who had just passed away. He did it in the speaking manner he would have used were he speaking about racial injustice, or delivering a sermon.
- Betty White hosting the Mother's Day episode in 2010 all thanks to a Facebook campaign. It's considered one of the best post-2000 episodes of the series.
- And the cast tribute to her with them singing the theme song to The Golden Girls... which starts as a Heartwarming Moment, before very suddenly whiplashing into a thrash metal cover of the same song, which featured cast members getting attacked by the mosh pit and Jason Sudeikis recording the chaos on his iPhone.
- They also brought in an All-Star Cast of SNL's best female cast members, including Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer.
- The Ed Helms/Paul Simon episode — home to, not only the brief return of the TV Funhouse cartoon segments, but to the live-action version of The Ambiguously Gay Duo (featuring Jon Hamm as Ace, Jimmy Fallon as Gary, Steve Carrell as Big Head, Creator/Stephen Colbert as Dr. Brainio, Ed Helms [the episode host] as a Two-Face-esque villain, and Fred Armisen as a lizard man). Also a Negated Moment of Awesome, as Robert Smigel confessed during an interview with AV Club in 2010 that this was supposed to be one of many feature films based on a recurring character from SNL.
- From the May 14, 2005 show hosted by Will Ferrell, Queens of the Stone Age performing "Little Sister" with backup from Gene Frenkle, Will Ferrell's character from the legendary Cowbell skit.
- Colin Quinn's opening speech from his first time hosting Weekend Update After Norm MacDonald was fired, comparing himself to a new bartender who was hired in place of an old favorite who was recently terminated.
- Horatio Sanz' tribute to Mr Rogers after he passed away. It doubles as a Tearjerker and Heartwarming Moment as well.
- The musical performance from December 1998. Vanessa Williams, Luciano Pavorotti, and the Harlem Boys Choir delivering a GLORIOUS rendition of "O, Come, All Ye Faithful", sung in Latin and English.
- The hiring of Kenan Thompson, the first SNL cast member to be born after SNL premiered and the first one to have gotten his start on a kids' show (specifically, a Nickelodeon one).
- In November of 2009, Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed an homage to Donald O'Connor's performance in Singin' in the Rain, pulling off an energetic performance of "Make 'Em Laugh" — complete with the two backflips off the walls. Also, the second time he hosted, when he recreated the "It's Raining Men" sequence from the movie Magic Mike.
- The entire 1992 Presidential campaign, with Dana Carvey pulling double duty as both Bush Senior and Ross Perot. The high water mark of political satire the show ever pulled off.
- Big Bird's appearance on the Daniel Craig/Muse episode. Made more awesome by the fact that they didn't have to write anything dirty or outrageous for him to be funny; they just let him be his childlike self.
- Bruno Mars pulling off a decent SNL episode, despite the fact that he admitted in the monologue that he's never done comedy or acting of any kind.
- Jimmy Fallon's musical performance at the beginning of his episode. The entire cast of SNL dancing stands out in particular.
- Fallon admitting that his Corpsing ruined a lot of sketches. It's awesome because he admitted and embraced a fault that made a lot of people hate him when he was on the show.
- From the same episode, the Weekend Update where Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers all go against each other in the Joke-Off. Poehler's entrance in particular generated much applause. So much so that when Fey enters immediately after her, even though she can be seen mouthing phrases like "It's on!", it's nearly impossible to hear her because the applause was so loud.
- Really, Fallon's performance all throughout the episode can be considered its own Moment of Awesome. After so many years of people deriding him for his Corpsing, he ended up returning to participate in one of Season 37's most-acclaimed episodes. In his A.V. Club review, David Sims comments that Fallon's infectious energy that annoyed people during his tenure on the show actually served him well as a host, as it helped to spread an atmosphere of fun and excitement. It's as though Fallon's hosting allowed him to come full circle with SNL, especially when one recalls the Call-Forward Alec Baldwin made in 1998 (he accurately predicted (as a joke) that Fallon would host the Christmas episode of 2011). To cap it all off? Fallon won an Emmy for "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series" in 2012 thanks to the episode.
- Season 38's season finale has one in saying goodbye to Stefon, Bill Hader's burnt-out Club Kid character and Weekend Update's city correspondent (and, by extension, Bill Hader, as he announced earlier in the week that season 38 was his last season on the show). In it, he grows tired of Seth Meyers' dismissive attitude toward his club recommendations and announces that he's getting married to "someone who loves him for him". Seth, realizing that he truly loves Stefon, sprints to the church where the wedding is taking place (a Shout-Out to The Graduate), and calls out Stefon's name. At this point, we see that Stefon's fiance is Anderson Cooper (who gets hit in the face like he did in the Digital Short where Andy Samberg and Pee-Wee Herman have a drunken night out) and that all of Stefon's guests are the weirdos and freaks he mentioned in the past. Seth and Stefon proceed to escape from the wedding, with Ben Affleck (that night's host, and who previously hosted the first episode Stefon ever appeared in, playing his brother) seen in the crowd cheering Hader's character on to "follow his heart". It ends with Seth and Stefon returning before the Weekend Update audience to massive cheers, embracing as Seth signs them off, while several recurring characters from the last few years (like Bobby Moynihan's Drunk Uncle, Kenan Thompson's Jean K. Jean, Fred Armisen as David Paterson, Cecily Strong's Girl You Wish You Hadn't Talked To At a Party, and Jason Sudeikis' Devil) shower them with rice. Truly a fine farewell to Bill Hader and his most iconic character.
- Steve Martin sings "King Tut". In fact, that episode - which had the Blues Brothers performing as musical guest, Martin wordlessly dancing terribly with Gilda Radner, and classic appearances of Theodoric of York and the Wild And Crazy Guys - was considered and probably still is one of the best nights the show ever produced.
- "Lazy Sunday". The day after it aired, it blew up the Internet, made YouTube the must-visit video site (before NBC made their deal with Hulu) with thousands scurrying to watch what everyone else was hailing as "awesome," got SNL out of the slump it was in from 2002 (when Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer left) to late 2005 (when Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, and Kristen Wiig were brought in and when Jason Sudeikis went from being a writer to being a cast member) and pushed Lorne Michaels to look to Internet-based sketch troupes and humor site owners and contributors for new talent along with finding talent at The Groundlings, Second City, Upright Citizens' Brigade, and the world of stand-up.
- October 27, 1990: The "Chippendales Auditions" sketch with Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley was most likely Farley's Win the Crowd moment on SNL.
- The final Janet Reno Dance Party sketch, with the real Janet Reno making a surprise appearance. Janet Reno actually flew out on her last day in office to specifically appear in the bit. The best thing about the appearance, and the sketch as a whole, is that Janet Reno loved the entire sketch, as she said that it caused young people to approach her and ask her about it, giving her a brand new audience.
- William Shatner's (in)famous "Get a Life!" skit from his 1986 appearance.
- Matthew Mcconaughey does his opening monologue all by himself, with zero support from the SNL cast, a feat once thought to be possible only by the best standup comedians... just by retelling the story of where the "alright alright alright" came from.
- A sketch from the Jim Carrey-hosted episode in season 40 where Vanessa Bayer hosts a costume contest. Carrey and Kate McKinnon must settle their differences with a "Chandelier" dance-off, which extends right into the crowd. The audience goes wild as Carrey and McKinnon dance around the studio, past Lorne Michaels, Iggy Azalea (also dressed accordingly), and finally right back into the sketch.
- A sketch in which a group of internet commentors played by Bobby Moynihan, Taren Killam, and Melissa McCarthy get embarrassed by a TV host played by Jason Sudeikis and punched by Bill Hader.
- Mike Myers returning as Dr. Evil interrupting the Cold Open (which was supposed to be "A Very Somber Christmas with Sam Smith"), so he could personally deliver "The Reason You Suck" Speech to North Korea, The Sony Hackers and Sony for the fiasco surrounding the movie The Interview.
- The 40th Anniversary special. Just... all of it. The celebrities, the sketches, the fact that the show was able to go on for forty years, the way that it honors the history of the show and how much effort was into it, it's all awesome.
- Staging a 30 Rock reunion when Tracy Morgan hosted.
- The It's a Wonderful Life "lost ending" is this to anyone bitter over Mr. Potter being a Karma Houdini in the original. Specifically, all the protagonists form a Torches and Pitchforks mob and give him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to remember.
- Kate McKinnon winning the 2016 Emmy award for "Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series". She is the first SNL cast member to win in the supporting category and only the fourth person to win an Emmy while still a series regular. The others were Chevy Chase (in 1976), Gilda Radner (in 1978), and Dana Carvey (in 1993), each of them having won in the now-retired "Best Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program" category.
- In the season 42 premiere's "Celebrity Family Feud: Political Edition", Bernie Sanders (Larry David) is leading Team Hillary Clinton after having conceded the race over the summer and insisting his supporters get behind her. He makes a pretty effective analogy to both his most ardent supporters, independent voters, and undecided voters.
Bernie: Hillary is the prune juice of this election: she may not seem that appetizing, but if you don't take her now, you're gonna be clogged with crap for a very long time!
- The fact that they were able to dedicate nearly an entire sketch to Donald Trump's Access Hollywood tape only a day after it occurred. Considering how much time goes into writing and rehearsing for a sketch before its performance, the execution of this last-minute addition is surprisingly well done.
- The episode with Lin-Manuel Miranda has a different take on the opening monologue by having Manuel-Miranda rap it to the music of "My Shot", one of the Signature Songs of his masterpiece Hamilton.
- When the Cubs won the World Series, three of them (Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, and David Ross) and Bill Murray showed up on the Weekend Report and sang "Go, Cubs, Go!"
- Dave Chappelle resurrecting several of his Chappelle's Show characters after 11 years to spoof Negan's big entrance scene in The Walking Dead. And when Tyrone Biggums is the one who gets beheaded, the head keeps taunting him and dodging his swings, before the body picks it up and we get a heartfelt plea to carry on in the wake of the 2016 election. Chappelle's monologue in the same episode was itself awesome: it was his first time hosting the show and it was the first show after the 2016 election, and he took the opportunity to calm everyone down, without downplaying what had just happened, and reminding everyone that for some people, this was just confirmation of what they already suspected.
Dave Chappelle: "Blue Lives Matter." What, was you born a police? That is not a blue life. Thatís a blue suit. You donít like it, take the suit off, find a new job. ĎCause I tell you, if I could quit being black today, Iíd be out the game.
- Kate Mckinnon's beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is a heartwarming, tearjerking and awesome moment. She was dressed as Hilary Clinton while doing in, in light of Donald Trump being elected President of the United States which for a lot of people (including members of the LGBTQ community like Kate) is a moment of fear.
Kate McKinnon: I'm not giving up, and neither should you.
- Bryan Cranston making an appearance as Walter White, having just been appointed by Trump as the head of the DEA.
- Aziz Ansari becoming the first person of South Asian descent to host the show. Not to mention his opening monologue, where he talks for nine minutes about the aftermath of Trump's inauguration, among other issues.
- Anytime a non-actor (athlete, politician, musician) hosts the show (or appears in a sketch like Weekend Update) and reveals themselves to be a pretty gifted comedic actor after all. Particular stand-outs include John Cena, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (which is funny considering he became one of the show's favorite whipping boys during the 2016 election), and John McCain.
- After the show got a lot of flack for letting Trump host in the middle of his presidential campaign, which is often accused of getting many people more accepting of it, after the election it's proven especially brutal in its parodies of him, to the point where it genuinely gets under his skin and he feels the need to insult the show almost every week.
- Not quite Trump, exactly, but Melissa McCarthy's surprise cameo as White House press secretary Sean Spicer, parodying his extremely combative relations with the press and his bordering on Insane Troll Logic embracing of "alternative facts" in pursuit of the administration's agenda, was widely embraced as a particularly effective satire of the administration. And once again, it apparently got under Trump's skin to the point where for a time, several commentators openly wondered about the chances of Spicer keeping his job. Spicer himself thought it was funny, although he pointed out that they got the amount of gum (and brand) he chews wrong. Cue a follow up sketch where McCarthy "cuts down" on the Gum and gets the brand right. Spicer generally took it in stride, though the recurring skits got more and more under his skin as time went on. During the show's off-season, Spicer did ultimately leave the White House, but SNL did enough damage to where he will never be taken seriously again, let alone not be associated with Melissa McCarthy.
- The public ended up so impressed with the show during the Trump era that the show got its highest ratings in more than twenty years. The rating for Alec Baldwin's hosting for 2/11/17 was higher than Trump's controversial hosting back in 11/7/15.
- On the 2/11/17 airing, the show (through Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren on Weekend Update) finally acknowledging that letting Trump host was a bad idea.
- After a week of Jeff Sessions getting nailed for lying about his own discussions with a Russian ambassador, he talks to a bunch of people about it on a bus bench Forrest Gump style. The last to arrive is host Octavia Spencer as Minnie, who has a special pie for him...
- A pre-recorded sketch, "Girl At A Bar", is a terrific takedown of shallow guys who are creeps to women. A woman (Cecily) is waiting at a bar for her friend (Aidy), and a man (Beck) takes the seat next to her. The two make friendly small-talk, with Beck basically announcing he's a devout liberal and feminist. However, when Beck asks to hang out with Cecily some time, she turns him down, and he angrily rants about how she's supposed to say yes since he apparently did everything right. Beck is chased off by a succession of guys who also try to pander to Cecily's liberal and feminist viewpoints, only for them to be enraged that she's still turning them down despite meeting her apparent bare minimum in terms of beliefs. The sketch is an excellent skewering of "nice guys" who think they deserve something from women just for being a nice human being. It's also a takedown, by extension, of the concept of the friend-zone which the show had taken some flack for joking about a few weeks beforehand.
- In just a few days after the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, they put together a great-looking spoof of it with costumes that are a perfect match for the real thing. The show was also quickly able to incorporate some recent developments during the preceding week, such as Trump's missile launch at Syria and Bill O'Reilly's sexual harassment scandal. The cold open where Trump basically brags to his most loyal supporters about how he's taking away their healthcare and removing several vital protections for miners was so effective, it pissed off Trump's loyal voter base enough to the point many claimed the show had gone too far. In other words, the satire succeeded because it struck home.
- The actual Trump was really pissed at the "President Bannon" meme that didn't seem so far-fetched, since it looked like Bannon was really the one pulling the strings in the Trump administration. Trump was pissed that the memes and SNL in particular portrayed him this way, and it's speculated that the show was eventually a major impetus in Bannon being fired from the National Security Council and losing his position as de facto president to Jared Kushner. On the show, Trump sends Steve Bannon back to Hell, courtesy of a bigger and scarier Grim Reaper. The show admittedly jumped the gun a bit, as Bannon remained Trump's chief strategist until August of that year (and still has plenty of sway even if he's not in the White House anymore). The actual Bannon grew irritated when asked about the show's portrayal of him, insisting that he didn't care about it.
- Alec Baldwin flexes his range a little as a General Ripper type and not Trump for once. What could have been a horrendous flub when his line "smells worse than the outhouse at a chilli cookout" ends instead with "cookie chillout", forcing him to backtrack verbally and physically, yelling "CHILLI COOKOUT I SAID" at Alex Moffat's head for effect. It's awesome because nobody cracks.
- The May 13th episode's Trump sketches go for the throat even more than before, outright portraying him as a horrible racist who can say any stupid thing he wants (like essentially confessing to having the Russia investigation in mind when he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey), because the rest of the Republican party are his eager lapdogs ready to mindlessly serve his every beck and call. After the show got some criticism for playing up Trump's buffoonish side at the expense of truly hard-hitting material, seeing the crew unmistakably out for blood is well worth the wait.
- The political turmoil of early 2017 is enough that SNL started making a Weekend Update Summer Edition, essentially taking one part of their show and turning it into its own thing, something that's been derided before. Some would also call it Tempting Fate, and were proven right as the first episode came out just before the Charlottesville riots. SNL's response? Roll right along with the next episode on schedule. Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers guest star as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in direct response to Donald Trump lumping them together with Confederate slave owners, and Tina Fey returns as herself to deliver a heartfelt but no less hilarious message - ordering a stars-and-stripes cake from a bakery run by minorities (and a real cake is used here), just to tear into it Heartbreak and Ice Cream style.
"Trump says we should defend our proud Confederate heritage, but he'd tear down those statues himself if he could build a condo over it!"
- Even better - the episode ends with Colin and Michael deliberately trying to finish that cake.
- Also from Weekend Update Summer Edition, Leslie Jones flips two big ones to the online haters by acknowledging her age and then doing something about it, by taking up an exercise routine during the offseason. The end result is what she calls "Michelle Obama arms".
Leslie: (while flexing) Kiss it, Colin. KISS IT! [...] This is what it's gonna be like when you go to prison.
- And when the show came back, Che takes the gloves off perhaps more than ever before after Trump insulting Puerto Rico for its horrific damage from Hurricane Maria.
"Oh really, Donald, you bitch? Was she nasty to you? How nasty? Are you shaking? You want to go shake a Virginia Slim until your hand stops moving? This isn't that complicated, man. It's hurricane relief. These people need help. You just did this for white people twice! Do the same thing. Go tell Melania to put on her flood heels, get some bottled water, some food, pack up some extra Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl t-shirts, and write them a check with our money, you cheap cracker! You know, in one month you've mishandled Puerto Rico, DACA, the NFL, it's like whenever anybody darker than your golf pants has a problem, you're thinking, how can I make this worse?"
- The week of the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, the show dropped its planned opening sketch in favor of Jason Aldean (who was in the middle of his act when the shooting started) making a plea for unity and performing the recently deceased Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."
- Che's third-degree burn on anyone upset at people saying "Happy Holidays": Just think of it as saying "All holidays matter."
- Brand new World Series champions Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Alex Bregman making a surprise appearance after Leslie Jones had been insulting them.
- The show having no hesitation at all in going after its own former writer and cast member Al Franken over his sexual harassment charges.
- Trump goes through Yet Another Christmas Carol after Mueller's investigation really starts heating up, with the Ghost of Christmas Future being Hilary Clinton. "You've given me the greatest Christmas gift of all: sexual gratification from your slow demise. You have no idea how long I've been waiting to say this: LOCK HIM UP!"
- Unusually for this show, they do another Christmas Carol thing the week after that last one, but what saves it is the deliberately modern take on Scrooge (ignoring the completely traditional appearance). Thanks to social media, the woman he spurned is still able to stay in touch, making his rejections even more jerkish than before, not to mention the rest of his updated Jerk Ass behavior. Instead of the Ghost of Christmas Present, it's a stoner on the roof played by Special Guest James Franco, who shows him via a well-placed skylight what the people around him really think of him. Then the stoner is revealed to be a genuine Ghost of Christmas Present the whole time.
- After more than a year, the show finally reveals who's playing Steve Bannon: BILL FUCKING MURRAY!
- After Trump's "shithole countries" statement, Weekend Upstate pays lip service to NBC asking everyone to just say "s-hole" before gleefully defying it.
- Aidy Bryant discusses the All the Money in the World pay gap, and refuses to let Mark Wahlberg off the hook for donating his extra payment to Time's Up, as it shouldn't have taken a week of public shaming to get him to do it.
- Rather than going the obvious "dumb porn star" route, the show portrays Stormy Daniels as a smart, savvy businesswoman who gleefully lectures the country that she's exactly the hero they deserve for letting the whole Trump situation happen, plus a dig at the porn industry actually having its fair share of female directors.
- George W. Bush (Will Ferrell) reminds everybody that, as bad as Trump's presidency may be, Bush's presidency wasn't much better.
Awesome / Saturday Night Live
For a show like Saturday Night Live that's been around for a while and has gone through many changes (some good, some bad), your gauge of Awesome really depends on what era you watched and/or loved.