- Season 7: On the rerun of the episode hosted by Robert Urich with musical guest Mink DeVille, Brian Doyle-Murray appears in a memorial piece about John Belushi (who had recently died, becoming the first SNL cast member to do so) and tells the story of how John Belushi looked after him when he came to New York and saved him from getting hit by a ten-ton truck (also a Crowning Moment of Awesome, as Belushi pushed Brian out of the way and Belushi got hit, only to reveal during a hospital visit that he wasn't hurt — no broken bones, no bruises, no head injuries, nothing).
- Season 14: Steve Martin ended up hosting the program the same day Gilda Radner passed away (May 20, 1989; S14E20). Instead of the planned monologue (where Martin discusses his good and bad sides in photography), Steve pays tribute to Gilda by flashing back to the Season 3 episode he hosted in 1978 where he and Radner did a takeoff of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in The Bandwagon in a sketch set at a discotheque. At the end of the clip, Steve mentions how much he's going to miss Gilda and there are visible tears in his eyes.
- Years later, on the season 37 episode hosted by Emma Stone, one of the bumpers showed episode host Emma Stone as Gilda Radner's Roseanne Roseannadanna. That they did this (and the fact that Emma Stone looked so much like Gilda) showed that, despite all of SNL's changes and peaks and valleys, they still remember the people who made the show great (be they living or dead).
- Season 14: The Schillers' Reel short film "Love is a Dream" which, while a departure from the usual comedy fare, is one of the most beautiful and heartwarming things to be shown on SNL. It involves an elderly woman (Jan Hooks) flashing back to her younger self while looking at her safety deposit box containing a tiara and a necklace. In the flashback we see a man played by Phil Hartman in uniform and taking her by the hand as they waltz together. It's just so romantic, but the capper is when the flashback ends and we see the elderly woman again. She departs from the bank and she glances at the security guard (who had previously let her in) and it's the same gentleman from the flashback. Unfortunately, with Hartman's death in 1998, and Hooks' dying 16 years later, this now doubles as a major Tear Jerker. In her honor, they re-aired the sketch on the season forty episode hosted by Bill Hader (with Kristen Wiig as a special guest).
- Season 19: The last sketch on the season finale with Phil Hartman (his last episode as a castmember) and Chris Farley singing "So Long, Farewell" from The Sound of Music, now a Harsher in Hindsight moment as both Farley and Hartman died within six months of each other in the late 90s.
- Season 28: The end of the Queen Latifah episode, where Horatio Sanz does a tribute to Fred Rogers (the episode first aired around the time that Mr. Rogers died).
- Season 30: Similarly, an episode had Darrell Hammond as Rodney Dangerfield (who had recently passed away at the time of the episode's premiere) doing his "I don't get no respect" schtick for St. Peter (Horatio Sanz). Rodney thinks he has to do it to get into Heaven, but really St. Peter just wanted to hear Dangerfield's jokes just because. Oddly enough, that episode was also hosted by Queen Latifah (this time as host and musical guest; the first time she was on, she just hosted)...
- Also Season 30, back in the late nineties, Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Kattan used to do an annul Christmas song. When Fallon, Morgan, and Kattan left, The Muppets came in to cheer up Horatio!
- Season 33: On the episode hosted by Ellen Page, there was a final sketch where a girl (Page) tells her boyfriend (played by Andy Samberg) about the fun time she had at a Melissa Etheridge concert, and her boyfriend keeps accusing her of being a lesbian because of how much she enjoyed it. You would expect the boyfriend to dump her or only keep her around so he can watch her make out with other girls, right? Wrong. The boyfriend told his ex that if she's going to go gay, then he'll go gay too so they can share the apartment they live in and still be friends. It's now more Heartwarming in Hindsight and based in Reality Subtext now that Ellen Page has come out as a lesbian.
- Season 35: On the Tina Fey/Justin Bieber episode, there's a sketch where Fey plays a nine-inch-tall hooker named Loleen who sells her body so she can raise money to go to Paris. When she hears that a priest (Bill Hader) has to come up with $1,300 overnight or his orphanage will be shut down, Loleen gives the priest her money to save the orphanage, telling the priest not to tell the kids who the donor is or what she had to do to get it.
- Season 35: Betty White's episode as host counts as a Crowning Moment of Awesome, a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, and a Crowning Moment of Funny — the first for the simple fact that White is now the oldest SNL host ever (hosting the show at 88-and-a-half years old), the second for the standing ovation she got just before her monologue, and during the closing credits, and the third for several of the skits during the show.
"And now I'm here tonight because you wanted me to be. I just want to say that I feel so loved. Thank you."
- After the closing, the cast handed White a bouquet of flowers.
- And, in the opening monologue she states how grateful she is:
- During the 25th anniversary special, some screentime is devoted to honoring cast members that have passed on. A couple involve some good natured ribbing of the departed, of course, but there's no doubt they're honoring the departed. Appropriately, Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman do a segment about John Belushi; Steve Martin again about Gilda Radner; David Spade about Chris Farley; and Jon Lovitz (backed up by the 80s cast) about "[his] big brother, Phil Hartman."
- The Zooey Deschanel episode, in which a brief still of Whitney Houston on a Mary Katherine Gallagher sketch was shown before commercial break in complete silence (the episode aired within minutes of Whitney Houston's death being announced on the 11PM news.).
- The Catherine Zeta-Jones episode from season 31 had a brief still shot of Charles Rocket (with the caption: "Charles Rocket: 1949 - 2005") that appeared after Weekend Update (Rocket had committed suicide two weeks before this episode premiered). It's just nice that SNL acknowledged him, even though he was part of a cast that most — of not all — fans have branded the worst season ever and most people these days wouldn't know him from SNL (Charles Rocket, in his post-SNL years, has been on such shows as Max Headroom and Normal, OH and had supporting roles in movies like Dumb and Dumber and Titan A.E., but sadly couldn't find any lasting fame, which depressed him immensely)
- When George Carlin died in 2008, rather than rerun the season 33 episode hosted by Ellen Page, the network decided to air the very first episode (which Carlin hosted) in his memory.
- After seven years on the show, Kristen Wiig got a sendoff at the end of the 2011-2012 season finale hosted by Mick Jagger in a sketch where she "graduates" from "high school" and dances with all the cast members note and Lorne Michaels. Probably the most tearjerking and heartwarming goodbye of a popular female cast member since the "Steve Martin tribute to Gilda Radner."
- Bobby Moynihan and the other cast members hugging the real Big Bird (who appeared in that episode's Weekend Update) in the final goodbyes.
- The pretaped sketch "Sad Mouse" on the episode hosted by Bruno Mars. Mars plays a man who is depressed over his girlfriend breaking up with him and his dad leaving him for another family he had behind his mom's back, but has to go to work as a mouse, greeting tourists at Times Square. Throughout the short film, the man tries to keep a brave front, but is totally miserable, until he meets a girl in a frog costume who's also upset despite having to be all cheery for tourists and comforts her. It's the sweetest, strangest thing SNL has come up with (at least until the "Stefon's Wedding" segment of Weekend Update on the Ben Affleck/Kanye West episode).
- A day after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 28 people, including 20 first graders, were killed, SNL opens its Christmas episode with the New York City Children's Chorus singing "Silent Night", in lieu of the usual comedic cold opening (very much like what happened after the 9/11 attacks when the usual funny cold opening is replaced with something more somber). Also a Tear Jerker.
- From that same episode, Paul McCartney, the musical guest, giving a rare third musical performance of none other than his Christmas classic "Wonderful Christmastime", featuring that same choir. You can see the smiles on the kids' faces.
- A small one, from the Natalie Portman and Fall Out Boy episode: during most of Fall Out Boy's first musical number, the lead singer, Patrick Stump, looked totally shell-shocked and terrified of screwing up. At the end of the number, he moved away from the microphone and faced away from the audience to compose himself/hide... only for the rest of his band to go over and pat his head and hug him before the show cut to commercial.
- From the Vince Vaughn/Miguel episode, there was a pretaped sketch about a late 1970s punk rock group from Britain who became popular for their anti-establishment songs like "Cunt in a Crown," "Hey Police Man," and "Living in the Gutter"...until the lead singer (played by Fred Armisen) begins performing songs supporting Margaret Thatcher (who was Prime Minister at the time and was considered a very controversial choice, with a lot of people branding her a terrible person) and causes a strain within the group. The reason he killed his career and sold out: because he genuinely liked her (even saying Thatcher reminded her of his mom, and that he would miss her now that she was dead). He even had tea with Thatcher (played by Vanessa Bayer) when she was pushed out of office in 1991.
- Seth Meyers stopping Stefon's (Bill Hader) bizarre wedding to Anderson Cooper after realizing that, for all his Cloudcuckoolander ways and constant badgering into dating him (despite that Seth has a girlfriend), he does love him.
- Ben Affleck appearing as Stefon's brother, Dave note at his wedding. If you'll recall, Bill Hader's first appearance as Stefon was in a one-shot sketch about a screenwriter named Dave who invites his weird, estranged brother Stefon to help him pitch a movie (even though Stefon interrupts it with descriptions of bizarre, homoerotic imagery), only for executives to pick Dave's movie (a family-friendly sports drama) over Stefon's alleged pitch (described as a "...half-remembered gay nightmare.") and that was the last we heard of Stefon and his brother Dave (until Stefon became a Weekend Update character). It shows that Dave actually cares for his brother, even if he's weird and there's a slight chance that they may not be blood-related.
- During a segment of "Bill Swerski's Superfans" (you know, "DA BEARS" and all that...), fill-in host Bob Swerski (George Wendt) introduces his daughter (1991-92 featured player Beth Cahill), who starts flirting heavily with Todd O'Connor (Chris Farley). As Cahill's character sits in his lap, he briefly considers cheating on his wife with a younger woman, until an interjection by Carl Wollarski (Robert Smigel) gives way to an Imagine Spot of his wife (also played by Farley in drag). While she's not much of a looker, she tells him that she knows how much he enjoys watching DA BEARS and made Bratwurst for him for the game, then she tells him "You're MY Ditka..." This brings Farley's character to near tears as he spurns her advances proclaiming "I'm her Ditka!!" and remains faithful to his wife.
- The first time Sarah Michelle Gellar appeared on SNL, after she thanked the cast, crew and musical guests, she held up a sign reading "I Miss You, Aly! Willow Rules!" Later that week, when Alyson appeared on a talk show, she held up a sign reading, "Hi, Sarah! I Miss You, Buffy Rules!"
- From the 2000-2001 season, a parody ad for the drug Homocil, intended to help parents deal with the fact that their children were showing signs of being gay. The underlying message being that parents should be loving and supportive of their kids, no matter what.
(voiceover)"Because it's your problem. Not theirs."
- Ian Rubbish'snote (Fred Armisen) song, It's A Lovely Day. Since the Ben Affleck/Kanye West episode is the last episode featuring Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis (also Tim Robinson, though Robinson has now been hired as a show writer after a mediocre stint as a cast member), the song was Fred's way of thanking viewers for the 11 years on the show ("It's been all right/I've had a lovely night with you") and assuring fans out there that the cast and crew need to stay strong in the face of cast turnover and the critics and fickle fans coming after the show for "not being the same" now that he, Hader, and Sudeikis will be leaving ("If your mates are not around/And you need them when you're down/You gotta hang on/It's still a lovely day").
- Bill Hader nearly crying during the goodnights to the episode he hosted, saying hello to his wife (Maggie Carey) and his daughters, and calling the show "his home."
- Seth Meyers' final Weekend Update, where he's reunited with Amy Poehler and his "husband" Stefon (the burned-out club kid played by Bill Hader), who are ready to take him to his new post-SNL life. There were some funny moments (like Stefon hissing at Cecily Strong and telling him to keep her hands off his man and Andy Samberg's surprise appearance where he sings a heartfelt goodbye song, then just realizes that Seth Meyers is leaving), but mostly it was a heartfelt goodbye to a long-running head writer and Weekend Update anchor.
- Cecily Strong welcoming Colin Jost (who has been on the show since he was 22 as a writer, until he worked his way up to head writer and was recently chosen to be Seth Meyers' replacement on Weekend Update) as the new Weekend Update anchor.
- The end of this "web exclusive" backstage video featuring host Lena Dunham and cast members Vanessa Bayer, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant.
- From 2014's Seth Rogen episode, the "Monster Friends" short. In the same vein of being strange, but very sweet and human as "Sad Mouse" (from the Bruno Mars episode) and the "Seth Rescues Stefon" segment from the Ben Affleck/Kanye West episode, this short centers on two monsters who are friends, despite being bullied by humans. One of the monsters decides to get plastic surgery to look human and promises his friend that he'll always be there for him even though he looks different. The next day, the first monster returns to the bar and finds that his friend isn't there and goes around New York City looking for him (there are some funny moments, like the Asian girl shouting, "Holy shit!" when she sees the monster, the monster complaining about the movie Monsters University, the monster scaring off little kids, and the monster appearing on The Today Show) until he finds his friend at the pier (who turns out to be guest star James Franco).
- From the season 39 Christmas Episode, a spoof of the classic "Baby It's Cold Outside" done as an Immediate Sequel, but subverting whatever Unfortunate Implications there were by showing something real blossoming between them.
She: Do you mind if I sleep in this? (already wearing one of his football jerseys)
He: This is getting too serious...
She: You know I'm just as nervous as you / But who knows what this could turn into?
He: I don't know what to do...
She: Here's a clue. (she kisses him)
- The one "behind the scenes" sketch for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Andrew Garfield and surprise guest Emma Stone doing the important kissing scene, except it becomes one Awkward Kiss after another, including one where he takes her entire chin into his mouth. It could only be pulled off if both of them were dating in real life - and guess what, they are!
- From the Mothers' Day special, Kate Mckinnon is a mother who organises a game show with all her kids as contestant, and they're all just as reluctant to go along with it as you expect real kids to be. Then you realise that nobody gives a wrong answer, subtly hinting at how close they really are anyway.
- J. K. Simmons not killing Pushy (Bobby Moynihan) in the Microsoft Assistant sketch.
- Phil Hartman's daughter Bergen who is now 23 and engaged, being invited to SNL's 40th Anniversary.
- In the Reese Witherspoon episodes, the mothers of every current cast member (save Taran Killam, Jon Rudnitsky, and Leslie Jones) appear during the monologue and show adorable home movie footage of the comedians when they were kids (except for Kenan Thompson, which was just a clip from the movie The Mighty Ducks, as Thompson has been working in TV and movies since he was a childnote ). Continuing the trend, Colin Jost and Michael Che each read a joke from their respective mothers in Weekend Update (even though a picture of Michael Che's mother was replaced with a still of Diana Ross from the 1970s since Che's mom took too long at the salon to get a photo done and was aiming for that look).
- From the monologue: Kate McKinnon apologizing to her mom, Laura Bertholdnote for playing the Amy Fisher/Joey Buttafuco/Mary-Jo Buttafuco sex scandal and shooting from the early 1990snote when she was a child instead of something more traditional for girls, like princesses (with Laura nodding and cringing at the memory). Kate then apologizes for being weird, but Laura assures her daughter that she shouldn't apologize for being weird because, "...weird got ya here."
- Season 41: Tracy Morgan returning to the show after the car accident that nearly claimed his life (and saying that the accident showed him that he had a lot of love and support in the world, along with referring to Lorne Michaels as his Obi-Wan Kenobi), with cameos from some of his 30 Rock costars.
- Cecily Strong's bilingual condolences to the city of Paris in the episode that aired the day after the horrific attacks.
- The crossover between The Wiz Live! and The Wizard of Oz has the former's leads and Wiz, and the latter's Scarecrow, gradually agree that despite the cultural differences between their respective settings of East Oz and West Oz, they can also find qualities to admire in the other Oz's respective denizens. The West Oz Scarecrow declares that East Oz has "so much
colorheart and soul", while the East Oz people commend the victory the West Oz Scarecrow and his friends accomplished in ridding West Oz of its Wicked Witch of the West, rumored to act even scarier than East Oz's Evillene. The sketch closes with the East Oz people teaching the West Oz Scarecrow how to Dab and sing "Ease On Down the Road".
- Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, the cast & surprise guests Maya Rudolph & Paul McCartney close the Christmas episode of 2015 by joining Bruce Springsteen onstage for a rousing rendition of 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town'.
- The Saturday after Prince passed away, instead of rerunning the Peter Dinklage episode from early April (though it did end up airing the week after this), NBC created a tribute clip show episode called Good Night Sweet Prince, hosted by Jimmy Fallon (who looked and sounded like he was about to cry at any moment when he was telling stories about what it was like to meet Prince) and highlighting Prince's performances on the show, including his first from the infamous season six episode hosted by Charlene Tiltonnote , his performance on SNL's 15th anniversary in 1989, Prince's return to the show after 21note years in 2006, never-before-seen footage of his performance at the 40th anniversary afterparty, and three installments of the recurring sketch "The Prince Show" (with Fred Armisen as Prince).
- Though it borders on Cringe Comedy, Pete Davidson's mom, Amy, videotaping his commentary on Weekend Update on how she needs to start dating again (as she stayed single after her husband, Scott Davidson, died during the 9/11 attacks) and trying to defend his performance on the show from trolls criticizing him on Twitter (and asking Lorne Michaels to include him more) on the Brie Larson episode is very sweet.
- The Season 42 opening managed to include a tribute to Gene Wilder, which had Hillary Clinton limping to the presidential debate on a cane while coughing, then she drops the cane and does a somersault.
- After one more sketch playing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon get tired of all the bile and hatred that ran throughout the election. So they break character, go out into Times Square together and hug people at random, just to show that the world needs this kind of love before things turn ugly.
- With all the melodrama, it's easy to have missed that Kate McKinnon as Hilary Clinton performing "Hallelujah" wasn't just a tribute to Hilary's unsuccessful presidential campaign, but to Leonard Cohen, who passed away that week.
- Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata singing "To Sir, with Love", in tribute to the departing President Obama.
- The show re-running the episode Bill Paxton hosted in wake of his death.
- Louis C.K.'s tribute to Don Rickles at the end of the episode from two days after his death.
- Many people were introduced to Melissa Villasenor when she appeared on an episode of America's Got Talent. There, she described how she always wanted to be a comedian and was able to impress the audience with her impressions. It's heartwarming to see how far she's come and how she was able to make it to what's considered to be the highest honor of being a comedian: to be a cast member of SNL.
- During the Jimmy Fallon episode, we had the Civil War sketch, in which we see this group of war-torn soldiers enjoying themselves and singing with one another. Even their prisoner, played by Harry Styles, is allowed to sing with them.
- There's something so goofy and heartwarming about the SWAT Recon sketch that involved a SWAT team (played by Kenan Thompson and observing a target (played by Bobby Moynihan) only to be charmed and enthralled by the silliness going on next door which involves two men (played by Mikey Day and host Chris Pine) having a cotton candy dance party followed by a backpack fashion show and then bouncing on some exercise balls while a tall woman (played by Leslie Jones) in a zoot suit eating a huge gummy bear. The display ends up charming the target as well and it ends with one of the SWAT guys going over to dance and the other one going to join them. It's just a nice wholesome little sketch of silliness.
- Steve Martin appearing out of nowhere at the end of Melissa McCarthy's fifth hosted episode to welcome her to the five-timers' club.
- Vanessa Bayer as romantic comedy expert Daisy Rose checks off all the tropes like Cute Clumsy Girl, and Vanessa's own Disney Princess charm just sells it further.
Michael: We just met 70 seconds ago!
- On The season finale when the Rock hosted, after Bobby did one last sketch as his arguably most famous character, "Drunk Uncle", Colin gives him a big hug for his last show.
- Not to mention, that him and Vanessa (who will also be leaving this season), got quite a few sketches to themselves. The last sketch in general has a nice vibe to it. Its about departing seniors relaying their last year of high school, and all the crazy stuff that happened during it. Its mostly played straight, and a very nice sketch for their final goodbye.
- The Emily Blunt episode has a sketch about a super-long stretch limo at a drivethru, leading to an Overly Long Gag when the limo advances slowly so the occupants behind every window of the vehicle can order. The payoff comes when the owner of the vehicle is revealed to be Bruno Mars, who lets the beleaguered drivethru worker join them in their party.
Pete Davison: I can't, I'm working now...
Bruno Mars: Didn't stop your friend!
(Melissa Villasenor pops into view from inside the limo; the scene ends with Pete climbing through the window to join them)
- The show extends a rare olive branch by being rather sympathetic to Kellyanne Conway, about a week after that Fatal Attraction thing they did.
Michael Che: You know when you lose your luggage at the airport and you end up yelling at this woman who ends up spending her lunch hour crying over a Lean Cuisine? Well that woman is Kellyanne Conway. [...] Can you imagine being customer service to Donald Trump?
- Season 43: The cold open of the second episode had Jason Aldean simultaneously paying tribute to the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting and to Tom Petty (who died of a heart attack that same day) by performing Petty's classic, "Won't Back Down".
- Kumail Nanjiani plays a customer service employee who forms an Odd Friendship with Melania Trump, bonding over their shared frustrations with their lives and ultimately seeing Melania come over to tell off the people bullying Nanjiani, after her insecurities over not doing enough to help the problem back home.
- One Family Feud sketch in season 43 has Steve Harvey (Kenan)'s own family up against a mostly white family, by which we mean that they have what is obviously a Chocolate Baby played by Special Guest Chance the Rapper in his best Steve Harvey impression. With all the turmoil from the wave of sexual harassment allegations rocking the media, you half expect this to be a reference to that... until it's gradually revealed that it was from a completely consensual encounter from before the boy's mother was married (although from Mrs Harvey's Death Glare, there's a chance that Steve was...)
- A sketch for Christmas 2017 has a bunch of real little kids who are all clearly overjoyed to be on the show. A couple even get so excited they can't get their lines out, leading to Keenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon adorably helping them out.
Heartwarming / Saturday Night Live
You may be surprised, but Saturday Night Live does have these kinds of moments.