Series / Saturday Night Live
''Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

"It was like the X-Men school for comedians y'know? All these guys with superpowers, together!"
Chris Rock on SNL

Saturday Night Live is a ground-breaking NBC sketch comedy/Variety Show, broadcast live from New York City in what had been, up until its premiere in 1975, TV's "graveyard shift" slot.

Often shortened to SNL for ease of reference, the show was specifically designed by its creator, Lorne Michaels (who was once a writer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In), to showcase young and edgy talent as a direct reaction to the older comedians who dominated primetime, but were fundamentally clueless about the tastes, styles and preoccupations of young Americans circa 1975. Rotating celebrity hosts and musical guests added to the "fingers on the pulse of pop culture" vibe the show strived for. Reveled during its early years in a feeling of being just shy of completely out of control, and pushed the boundaries of television far beyond what anyone had ever seen before. The cast is continually shifting, with veterans departing for solo careers and young performers being recruited regularly.

The number of stars that emerged from this show is mindboggling by itself:

    Cast Members (Past & Present) 

    Frequent Guests 

Not coincidentally, many of these cast members are also veterans of The Second City, a world-class improv theatre troupe in Chicago and Toronto.

Every episode features the guest host delivering an opening monologue and participating in most of the evening's sketches. Actors, musicians, and comedians are the most common selections. They have always had a standing band for various musical numbers, but often with a guest musician to perform a piece or two in the middle of the program. If the host is a well-known musician, they will often fill both roles, and sometimes guest musicians participate in skits too, though not as often as the host. Steve Martin, John Goodmannote , and Alec Baldwin all have hosted the show over a dozen times, while Dave Grohl holds the record for musical appearances, with eleven.note 

Widely viewed as always having been better when one was younger, whenever that happened to be. In fact, the show seems to operate in cycles — it starts out outrageous and fresh and stays that way for a few years, then when its outrageousness becomes the norm the show gets panned for "not being funny anymore". The claims are solidified when a favorite cast member leaves, and the show goes through a down period as it transitions to a new cast. Then when the right cast members are found, the show becomes funny again and finds a new audience.

SNL has essentially become a New York City treasure, despite the years of turmoil (both on the show and in the world) that threatened to end the show and tarnish its legacy, and has proved time and again that it can survive anything thrown at it, from fickle fans to national crises.

Thank you, and...


This show and the sketches within provide examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer:
    • The various girlfriends / co-workers of Barbara DeDrew at the "Whiskers R We" pet shelter all seem to be waaaay more into her than she is into them.
    • Michelle, the reporter on the "Around the Town" beat, is clearly very attracted to the various women she interviews, but her socially awkward, desperate and inappropriate flirting style really puts them off. And it's not like they were exactly drooling over her to begin with.
  • Acting Unnatural: One of the challenges in the digital short Extreme Challenge.
  • Accidental Athlete: "Waikiki Hockey" from the Wayne Gretzky/Fine Young Cannibals episode of season 14.
  • Adam Westing: It's not uncommon for the host to do a sketch in which he or she exaggerates how the public views him or her (cf. Lindsay Lohan playing herself as a convict on a season 37 episode, Tom Hanks playing a moronic version of himself on Celebrity Jeopardy, Justin Timberlake playing a fictional ancestor of himself who predicts that his future child will be a boy band singer, break out into a solo career, team up with Andy Samberg to make music videos, and, most importantly, have sex with Britney Spears and deny it up and down, Kelly Ripa attributing her perky personality to a cocaine-laced hair dye in a fake commercial from season 29, etc).
  • Air Quotes: Chris Farley's "Weekend Update" character Bennett Brauer uses air quotes for most of his segment. In one memorable episode he does so many air quotes he actually takes off. Then the wires holding him up get tangled.
    Bennett Brauer: Thought you'd seen the last of old Bennett, perhaps? Thought the network bigwigs would have sent Bennett and his negative "Q rating" on a slow boat China? Well.. maybe I don't "look the part." I'm not "svelte."I don't "look comfortable on camera,"I'm not "sobby". I don't "understand what's going on in the news." I'm not "likeable" I don't "get along with people," when I go to work, I don't "make eye contact." I guess I don't "fit the mold." I don't "wear the latest clothes" or, even ones that don't "reek!" I don't "change my underwear," I'm not "buff." I don't have "firm breasts" I don't "exercise." And when I do sweat, I don't "shower." I'm not "spic-and-span" I don't "clean the area between my crotch and legs.". But, for the time being, I guess the network "enforcers" are opting for my approach, until Joe Consumer tells them he'd rather get his two cents from commentators who don't "make babies cry" and don't "drink maple syrup straight from the bottle" and don't [as he makes the quotes sign with his fingers, wires pull him in the air to create the illusion that he's made the gesture enough times to make him airborne] "leave old, dried-up deodorant cakes under their arm for weeks at a time" and, uh.. I'm flying. I'm flying! I'm flying! [the wires get caught in the lights atop the Update set, as Chris Farley hangs little more than three feet above the floor] Holy Schnikes!
  • Alien Among Us: "The Coneheads", who always answered questions with "We come from France!". Also, Bill Hader's Greg in "Game Time with Randy and Greg".
  • All-Cheering All the Time: The Spartan Cheerleaders
  • All Just a Dream:
    • To make people forget about the disjointed lousiness of Season 11 (1985-86) and to start fresh with a new and better cast — and to spoof what Dallas had just done over at CBS to negate its badly-received 1985-86 season — SNL used this trope by having Madonna (who hosted the Season 11 premiere) announce during the cold opening of Season 12 premiere that Season 11 was all "a dream...a horrible, horrible dream." While this would be met with contempt over the writers pulling something so cliched, the fact that the first episode had a newer, funnier cast made up for it.
    • The end of the Season 20 (1994-95 season) episode hosted by Bob Newhart was revealed to be this, mimicking the All Just a Dream ending to Newhart, complete with Suzanne Pleshette.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
  • The Lara Flynn Boyle sketch that sent up The Scarlet Letter, where, just as the men are reprimanding Hester Prynne for her scarlet "A", Boyle's character wanders in with a scarlet "BJ" sewn into her clothing. The men become delighted.
  • Ambiguous Gender: "It's Pat".
  • Amusing Alien: "The Coneheads", again.
  • Amusing Injuries: Dana Carvey's "Massive Headwound Harry" (which went straight into Nausea Fuel when a dog was shown chewing off the head wound prosthetic on Carvey's head) and the recurring sketch, "Appalachian Emergency Room" (where rednecks come into a backwoods doctor's office and tell the receptionist how they got injured).
  • Anachronism Stew: Kristen Wiig's opening monologue about the first few Thanksgivings is a mishmash of American cultural icons, from Columbus (who's apparently Korean) to Betsy Ross sewing the first napkin for FDR.
  • The Announcer:
    • Don Pardo, who announced the first season back in 1975 and had been holding the job well into his nineties. Up until his death in 2014, his announcements had been prerecorded from his home.
    • For Season 7, Pardo was replaced by Mel Brandt, reportedly at the insistence of Michael O'Donoghue, who'd been re-hired as a writer/producer for the show by incoming producer Dick Ebersol. By the end of the season, O'Donoghue had been fired, and Pardo was brought back. For the December 1981 episodes hosted by Tim Curry and Bill Murray, however, Brandt was replaced with Bill Hanrahan.
    • With Don Pardo's death, former cast member Darrell Hammond is now hired as Pardo's replacement.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • The categories on Sprockets' Das Ist Jeopardy are "Pain", "Fear", "Art", "Inert Gasses", "Countries That Are Weak", and "Things That Begin With 'P'"
    • In The Godfather in group therapy sketch, Vito Corleone talks of all the bad things that have happened to him: Mob War, Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee, the death of his son Sonny, and the ASPCA is still after him for that horse's head stunt.
    • In one sketch from the Dec. 17, 2016 episode, when Hillary Clinton shows a list of reasons to a member of the Electoral College to not vote for Trump, the last reason is "He met with Kanye West this week."
  • The Artifact: "Live from New York, It's Saturday Night!" comes from the fact that the show was actually called NBC's Saturday Night and not Saturday Night Live during its first season, because of that aforementioned short lived Howard Cosell show on ABC.
    • The show's 90-minute running time. Originally, SNL was a replacement for Tonight Show reruns, which was a 90-minute show at the time. If the show were to premiere today, it would probably be limited to around an hour like NBC's other late night offerings.
  • Artistic License – Sports: Guilty of this in a 2013 sketch featuring host Melissa McCarthy as Sheila Kelly, the aggressively abusive womens' basketball coach at fictional NCAA Division III school Middle Delaware State (parodying former Rutgers mens' coach Mike Rice). In an interview clip, the school's athletic director (played by cast member-at-the-time Tim Robinsonnote ) tries to defend her behavior by pointing out that the players are receiving a free education via athletic scholarships. Division III institutions are prohibited from giving out athletic scholarships (in fact, that's the main distinction between Division III and the other two divisions.)
  • Ascended Meme: The whole point of the 100th Digital Short is cramming in every Memetic Mutation permeated by previous The Lonely Island digital shorts (and cramming the ascended memes of Will Ferrell's most popular sketches and plugging his three "Best Of" DVDs).
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Japanese-sounding gibberish that John Belushi would spout during his "samurai" sketches.
  • Attack of the Political Ad: Most of their political sketches are exaggerated versions of common attack ads that appear during elections.
  • The Backstage Sketch: These happen occasionally, and tend to show the host preparing in his/her dressing room, cast members interacting with each other or Lorne Michaels, etc. Usually these are used as cold openings.
  • Bad Boss: One sketch involved guest star Pierce Brosnan as a prospective employee who has second thoughts when his potential boss, Mr. Tarkanian (played by Will Ferrell), is a complete monster to his underlings. Mr. Tarkanian even murders an employee right in front of him.
  • Bad Future: When Alec Baldwin is shown the future of 2011, he finds the term Baldwin is synonymous with crap, after his hosting sucked so bad. Realizing what an important responsibility hosting is, Alec asks to be taken back to the present, but discovers he is still in the present.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: From one Celebrity Jeopardy sketch:
    Sean Connery: "What's the difference between you and a mallard with a cold? One's a sick duck... I can't remember how it ends but your mother's a whore."
  • "Balls" Gag: The entire "Schweddy Balls" sketch.
  • Black Comedy Burst: For a show like SNL that prides itself in being funny without being mean, sometimes they will delve into dark humor to make their point (or to get a rise out of the audience). On a documentary special about SNL in the 2000s, Horatio Sanz has said that if a joke in a sketch made the audience groan in disgust, then the writers did a good job.
  • Bloody Hilarious:
    • The season 38 sketch on the episode hosted by Kristen Wiig about an acupuncture session gone horribly wrong used this to particularly chilling effect.
    • In a Season 4 sketch, Dan Aykroyd plays famous TV chef Julia Child — who accidentally cuts "the dickens out of my finger!" and proceeds to bleed to death.
  • Body Horror: Massive Headwound Harry.
  • Brainless Beauty:
    • Cecily Strong's Weekend Update character "The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started A Conversation With At a Party".
    • Another Cecily character, a former porn star who does commercials with a friend (played by Vanessa Bayer) after her career in the industry. Initially, she just can't remember her name. In a later skit, she seems to have forgotten the very concept of names.
    Vanessa's character: Hi, I'm Brookie.
    Cecily's character: And you can, too.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: A spoof MTV bumper from the broadcast with John Cena:
    "At 6, it's Teen Mom. At 7, it's Teen Wolf. And at 8, it's Teen Wolf Mom.
  • Brick Joke:
    • The first episode had as part of "Weekend Update" a joke-free segment in which Laraine Newman reports to Chevy Chase about a series of 38 serial murders at the Blaine Hotel. At the end of "Weekend Update", announcer Don Pardo says "Guests of 'Saturday Night' stay at the fabulous Blaine Hotel!"
    • The cold open of Season 42's Alec Baldwin episode has Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Melissa McCarthy) tell the press that President Donald Trump will take the appeals court that stopped his travel ban to The People's Court. A later sketch has Trump (Baldwin) on The People's Court doing just that.
  • Broadcast Live: From New York (only on the Eastern and Central time zones, tape delayed for all others).
  • Broken Record: Will Ferrell's character in the "Wake Up and Smile" sketch undergoes this when the teleprompter is on the fritz. "I understand you've got some cooking tips for us, Diane. I understand you've got some cooking tips for us, Diane. I understand you've got some cooking tips for us, Diane." (etc)
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The black hosts of "How's He Doing?" have this reaction to white people's unabashed love of The Wire. You know, that show about lower-class black people struggling to survive the inner city?
    • Occasionally Norm Macdonald told jokes like this on "Weekend Update".
  • Butt Monkey: Mr. Bill, the adorable little Claymation man who always dies a horrible death.
  • Call Back:
    • In the Don Rickles episode, the character he was playing chewed out Joe Piscopo for slapping him in an earlier sketch.
    • In the Kevin Hart episode there's a filmed Parody Commercial for the Z-Shirt. Hart's character asks "Is it an A-Shirt? Is it a B-Shirt?" etc., much to the annoyance of his on-air friend played by Tim Robinson. Later in the episode Robinson is playing a mourner at his mother's funeral who is saying a few words about the departed when Hart jumps in: "Is it an X-Shirt? Is it a Y-Shirt?"
    • The "Leslie Wants to Play Trump" sketch from Season 42's Alec Baldwin episode continues with the Leslie Jones/Kyle Mooney relationship from the "Love and Leslie" sketch in the Dave Chappelle episode earlier that season.
  • Camera Abuse: Occurs in a several sketches (not always intentionally). During Jim Breuer's tenure, The Joe Pesci Show segments would always conclude with Joe or one of his guests confronting the cameraman and "breaking" the camera lens.
  • Cannot Convey Sarcasm: Angela Merkel, on one of the Weekend Updates, tries a little too hard.
    Jost: I have to ask: are you worried at all about the rise of nationalism in America and Europe?
    Merkel: (rolling eyes) NaaaaAAAOOooo! Nationalism in Europe? (snort) What could go wro-o-ong? (Beat) Sorry, that was ze first German attempt at sarcasm. I'll work on it.
  • Casanova Wannabe: A good amount of recurring characters are sleazy men trying to get laid and failing. Some examples include: Chris Parnell's "Merv the Perv" (and his brother, Irv, played by episode host Johnny Knoxville), Christopher Walken's "The Continental" (mixed in with Handsome Lech), The Roxbury Guys (Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan), and The Wild and Crazy Guys (Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin).
  • Cat-apult: The laser cats from... "Laser Cats" are a variant. While the cats aren't being launched, they are themselves guns.
  • Catch Phrase: The most enduring one is, of course, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!", but it was the biggest single meme generator in the pre-Internet days of entertainment. Even today in the age of the Internet, it still generates memes and catchphrases and has adapted well to the era where most people find their humor online rather than on TV.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A lot of sketches have the celebrity host, musical guest, or special guest star meeting a cast member's take on that celebrity.
    • Jimmy Fallon playing Mick Jagger's reflection on the Hugh Jackman episode from Season 27.
    • The real Governor David Paterson confronting Fred Armisen's take on him to speak out against the cheap shots about his blindness.
    • Steve Forbes participated in "Forbes on Forbes" (with Mark McKinney as Steve Forbes) whose lampshade was so thin it falls just short of Better Than a Bare Bulb.
    • The short-lived but still funny "Joe Pesci Show" ended with Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro beating the snot out of Jim Breuer and Colin Quinn, respectively.
    • Another "Pesci" skit had Jim Carrey playing Jimmy Stewart, while Mark McKinney played. . .Jim Carrey. Sure enough, Jimmy Stewart was nothing but disgusted and irritated with Jim Carrey's antics.
    • The Miley Cyrus Show sketches where Miley Cyrus herself (the week's host) played Justin Bieber to Vanessa Bayer's Miley, then the episode with Bieber as host playing a Miley Cyrus fan club runner who takes potshots at Justin as he's being "interviewed" by Bayer as Miley.
    • In a recurring Weekend Update segment called "In the Cage with Nicolas Cage", in which (Andy Samberg) Nic Cage discusses new movies with their stars, he ends up talking to... Nic Cage. This is explained as the result of Cloning Blues.
    • In one musical performance The '70s where John Belushi impersonated Joe Cocker singing "Feelin' Alright" next to the real Joe Cocker.
    • There was an early 90s sketch from a Michael J. Fox-hosted episode about former child starts gone wrong that featured, among others, Michael J. Fox as Danny Bonaduce and David Spade as Michael J. Fox.
  • Cliffhanger: Season 11 ended with a sketch in which Yankees manager Billy Martin set fire to the studio while onscreen titles wondered which cast members would return. Originally, the cliffhanger was never going to be resolved, as NBC pushed Lorne Michaels to cancel SNL due to low ratings. When Lorne convinced the higher-ups that he can do better with a better cast (including some cast members from Season 11 who proved to be stand-outs in a mediocre season), the cliffhanger — and everything about Season 11 — was written off as a bad dream during the Season 12 premiere, parodying what Dallas did to undo an unpopular season just weeks before.
  • Cold Open: Nearly every episode (including anniversary specials and clip shows) have these. Most are political (usually a special message from the U.S. President or a government official/leader from another country, or a special press conference as aired on a cable news network), some focus on recurring characters, few are one-shots that have to do with a current event, and a handful of them take place backstage before the show starts.
  • Comically Inept Healing: The sketches about "Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber'' (played by Steve Martin). He would order his patients to undergo bloodletting or some other medieval quackery, usually resulting in their disability or death.
  • The Comically Serious: Lorne Michaels' on-air personality is not only famous for how dry he acts, but also for the fact he has almost never lost his composure (he only did once, on the first time Hugh Laurie hosted on season 32, and that was because of a botched cue that happened off-screen).
  • Comically Small Bribe: In one early episode, Lorne Michaels came on to offer The Beatles a check for $3,000 to reunite on the show (a few episodes later, he offers to "sweeten the pot" to $3200). Lennon and McCartney, who both happened to be in New York that night and saw the bit on TV, nearly went down to the studio for a surprise visit. Turned into a Running Gag — whenever an ex-Beatles member later appeared on the show as a musical guest, they would usually be shown trying to extract the promised cash from Lorne. (George Harrison: "$750 is pretty chintzy.")
    Michaels: If you want to give Ringo less, it's up to you.
  • Completely Off-Topic Report: Gilda Radner had two characters for whom this was their entire schtick, both commentators on "Weekend Update". One was Emily Litella, who, being hard of hearing as well as a bit naive, always misunderstood the topic she was supposed to be speaking about (too much violence on television, for instance) and ends up discussing a different topic (too much violins on television). When told of her mistake, she would the drop the topic entirely, ending with her Catch Phrase "Never mind." The other character, Roseanne Roseannadana, would always veer from the original subject and into some embarrassing, graphically disgusting personal anecdote. When told what that had to do with the original topic, she responded with her own Catch Phrase, "It's always something."
  • Continuity Nod: Bill Hader's Stefon character first appeared in 2008 in skit where he and his brother (played by Ben Affleck) try to pitch a movie. Fast forward to a 2013 Weekend Update sketch where Seth Meyers breaks up Stefon's marriage to Anderson Cooper and convinces Stefon to run away with him. Affleck returns as Stefon's brother encouraging him to follow his heart.
  • Corpsing: Justified as it's a live TV show, so mistakes of all kinds (including actors losing it due to hammy acting or an unscripted mistake) are bound to happen.
    • Prevalent when Jimmy Fallon became a Weekend Update anchor (which most fans declared was distracting).
    • It also happens every time Bill Hader appears as Stefon on Weekend Update (That Other Wiki and most late-night talk show interviews even claim that Bill Hader has never got through a Stefon segment — both in dress rehearsal and on the live show — without cracking up note ), though, unlike Jimmy Fallon's cracking up note , there's a reason why it happens to Bill Hader. According to That Other Wiki and an interview on The Late Show with David Letterman, John Mulaney (one of the show writers) changes some of the lines without Bill Hader's knowledge and Hader is actually reacting to what he's reading.
    • An example from the fourth season: During one "Weekend Update" segment, Bill Murray reported the death of the horse who played Mister Ed. He followed that up with a live interview with Ed's "widow": a live, rather uncooperative horse (voiced by Gilda Radner). Right after this hilarious moment, the camera cut to Jane Curtin, who immediately burst out laughing and was barely able to say the segment's closing line.
    • The first "Debbie Downer" sketch, in early 2004 with Lindsay Lohan, was arguably made memorable by the corpsing. A flubbed line by Downer (Rachel Dratch) and the sketch's constant use of the "wah-wah" was enough to crack every member of the sketch (except for Fred Armisen, though he still struggled), with the worst culprit being Horatio Sanz, who was eventually doing nothing but laughing hysterically by the end of the sketch.
    • One of the few times Phil Hartman lost it was as Frankenstein, disagreeing with Tarzan and Tonto on whether "fire - bad!"
    • It still happened on occasion, but corpsing was seriously frowned on in the early years of the show. It was seen as part of the "old-fashioned" comedy exemplified by The Carol Burnett Show that the early creators wanted to avoid.
    • Perhaps one of the more obvious examples was in the "Dr. Beaman's Office" sketch where, sometime around the moment when Dr. Poop came in, Molly Shannon (playing the baby's mother) had a hard time keeping a straight face, and this spread to Will Ferrell (playing Dr. Beaman), who had to put his hands over his face to compose himself when he delivered the line, "The truth is... we misplaced your baby." In the next cut, Molly Shannon is smiling wide instead of being horrified, and Chris Parnell (the baby's father) doesn't look too upset either.
    • Another example is Taran Killam's character Jebidiah Atkinson who reviews speeches(along with Christmas specials.) Both times he has appeared Seth Meyers tries to keep a straight face but he fails. In his first appearance he flubbed a Pearl Harbor speech joke. He along with Seth failed at keeping smiles off their faces. In his second appearance he missed a sentence for a joke about A Christmas Carol, and Seth ended up dying of laughter.
    • In a DeMarco Brothers sketch with Bon Jovi, both Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora are struggling to keep a straight face the whole way, culminating in Bon Jovi erupting into laughter when Chris Parnell and Chris Kattan break out '80s Hair wigs to imitate the band.
    • In the classic "Space: The Infinity Frontier with Harry Caray" sketch with Will Ferrell and Jeff Goldblum, Goldblum increasingly starts to break as Ferrell/Caray gets more loopy ("It's a simple question, would you eat the moon if it were made of ribs?!...Just say yes and we'll move on!"). Finally Goldblum cracks up as Ferrell!Caray remarks about not getting Mad Cow Disease; the camera stays focused on Ferrell while Goldblum comes unglued to applause.
    • Acknowledged in a brand new Digital Short that debuted during the 40th Anniversary special. Andy Samburg and Adam Sandler sing about the numerous times the SNL cast broke character. Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz got the most mentions.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The point of the Tom Brokaw pre-tapes sketch. Brokaw is recording death notices for President Gerald Ford for every possible cause of death, including zombie Richard Nixon strangling him!
  • Cue Card Pause:
    • Prevalent in the "Jimmy Fallon cracking up" era
    • Whenever Bill Hader plays Stefon (which overlaps with the aforementioned corpsing).
    • Visibly occurred when Chris Farley appeared in a 21st season Spade In America segment as Newt Gingrich. He quickly drops character, stumbles over reading his line then dives into doing Matt Foley shtick before David Spade flat-out asks if he's having trouble reading the cue cards. They then admit Farley is really just there to promote Black Sheep.
    • During Weekend Update, Norm MacDonald appeared to pause in the middle of a joke to shuffle some papers before finally snapping "You can flip that cue card anytime you want to", thus revealing the real reason for his fumbling.
  • Curtain Call: Each individual episode ends like a theatre show with the entire cast and any guest stars (and musicians in the guest band) gathering on the stage, with the ending theme music playing.
  • Deal with the Devil: In the first TV Funhouse "Anatominals" short, Lorne Michaels views the skit and is disgusted what the show has sunk to, and calls up Satan to get out of his contract of keeping the show running if he gets his soul. After getting a glimpse of what Lorne's life would be like without SNL (he provides foreign aid), he rescinds his offer and lets Satan keep his soul after all.
    • A People's Court parody had a hairdresser take the devil (Jon Lovitz) to court for violating their contract.
  • Deconstructive Parody:
    • Most of their TV show or movie parodies rip apart the logistics behind certain plotholes, tropes (as in "cliched plot devices," some of which can be found on this website), and character traits. Case in point: The Avengers sketch, with Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. The parody centered on why an archer who doesn't have any superpowers would need to be in a superhero group (especially one that has a super soldier, a radioactive monster, and a Norse god) and what would happen if he ran out of ammo.
    • The "You're A Champion, Charlie Brown" sketch from the Season 24 episode hosted by Brendon Fraser gives a realistic and depressing spin on the old "Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown" gag, in that Charlie Brown ends up with a severe head wound and the sketch ends with Lucy, Linus, and Franklin (the black Peanuts kid) sobbing as Charlie Brown lays dying.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • George Coe, who was in his mid-forties, was hired to be one of the original Not Ready For Primetime Players in 1975, and was billed along with the rest of them. The idea was for him to play the "older male" part in sketches, but that was deemed to be unnecessary and Coe was dropped from the regular cast after only three episodes. However, he continued to get occasional guest parts through 1976.
    • Yvonne Hudson was the first black woman to be an SNL cast member, though she was credited as a featured player. (A black female repertory player wouldn't be seen until Danitra Vance was hired in 1985, and even still, it would be a while before SNL would have a black female cast member who lasted more than a season [Ellen Cleghorne] and who became popular outside of SNL [Maya Rudolph and, hopefully, Sasheer Zamatanote ].) Sadly, it was during the disastrous 1980-81 season. She was fired along with everyone in that cast except for Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy, but she continued to appear as an extra periodically through 1984 and has faded to obscurity. Not even hardcore SNL fans know what happened to her, except for the fact that she's still alive somewhere.
    • Michael Patrick O'Brien was a cast member during the 39th season (along with then-newcomers Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, Brooks Wheelan, John Milhiser, and Noel Wells, with Sasheer Zamata and Colin Jost added later). When Lorne Michaels made extensive changes to this overloaded cast, Milhiser, Wells, and Wheelan were fired, Bennett, Mooney, Zamata, and Jost were kept on as cast members, and Michael Patrick O'Brien went back to work as a writer (with occasional appearances in his short films and in sketches that have large crowds and audiences).
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Mr. Hands in the Mr. Bill Show. Also, everyone on "Happy Smile Patrol" and Mr. Robinson (Eddie Murphy) on "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Some of SNL's sketches play this for humor. The infamous "Schweddy Balls" sketch, the "Colonel Angus" and "Cork Soakers" sketches are some famous examples.
    • The "Ambiguously Gay Duo" was basically this trope personified.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: Ed Grimley would often say, "I'm as doomed as doomed can be."
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male:
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Played for laughs in the "Teacher Trial" sketches which involve a teacher (Cecily Strong) on trial for having a sexual relationship with her student (Pete Davidson), who clearly enjoyed the encounter. The boy's father, friends, classmates, and everyone at the trial, especially the judge, is impressed with the boy for pulling it off. The only one who's disgusted is his mother, who was the one who pressed charges in the first place.
  • Drop the Cow: Zigzagged. Some seasons (and episodes within seasons) will have overly long sketches; others will have sketches that know when to stop (or come up too short).
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A handful of cast members appeared on the show before they became full-fledged cast members (featured and repertory). Among them:
    • Denny Dillon: Performed a stand-up routine on the Rob Reiner episode (season 1). Despite unsuccessfully auditioning for the show in 1975, Dillon was chosen for the 1980-81 cast.
    • Ann Risley: Had a small speaking role in a pre-taped sketch called "Mobile Shrink" during season 2's Dick Cavett episode. Like Denny Dillon, Ann would be chosen for the 1980-81 cast.
    • Yvonne Hudson: Before she became a credited featured player during the 1980-81 season, Yvonne often appeared in season 4 and 5 sketches that needed a black actress note . Her most prominent role was during season 5, as a co-host (with Garrett Morris) of the talk show "Bad Clams," where a pair of black talk show hosts feed Lucille Ball (Gilda Radner) bad clams until she gets sick.
    • Terry Sweeney: Originally hired as a writer for the 1980-81 season, five years before he was hired as a castmember by Lorne Michaels. He makes one on-screen appearance that season, in the cold opening of the Sally Kellerman/Jimmy Cliff episode where Ronald Reagan (played by Charles Rocket) celebrates his 70th birthday.
    • Rob Riggle: Appeared on the Donald Trump/Toots and the Maytals episode (from season 29) in a pretaped commercial parody called Fear Factor Junior. Riggle played the father of a child who had to eat the maggots off a plate of eggs Benedict or risk watching his parents divorce.
    • Tina Fey: Back when she was the first female head writer of SNL note , Fey appeared in some sketches as an uncredited extra and even had a celebrity impersonation (Kathleen Willey) before she became a cast member/Weekend Update anchor in Season 26.
    • Jason Sudeikis: Had a lot of bit roles in seasons 29 and 30 (the years when he was a writer) until he was hired as a cast member near the end of Season 30.
    • Billy Crystal: As mentioned in the intro, Billy Crystal is one of two cast members who hosted the show before being hired (the other being Michael McKean). Crystal was originally supposed to be a guest performer on the 1975 premiere, but was passed up in favor of Andy Kaufman.
    • Phil Hartman: On the Season 11 episode hosted by Pee-Wee Herman, Hartman made an uncredited appearance as a Pilgrim (and also wrote the "Pee-Wee Herman Thanksgiving Special" sketch, on which Hartman played the aforementioned Pilgrim). A year later, Hartman would be part of the cast that would make SNL fans forget about Season 11's informed lousiness and launch a second Golden Age for the show.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • When Saturday Night Live premiered (as NBC's Saturday Night), it was much more of a Variety Show, despite that Lorne Michaels wanted the show to be a subverted version of the kind of variety shows they had back in the late 1960s into the 1970s. The first few episodes had multiple musical guests and other performers (Andy Kaufman the most notable of these), with the Not Ready For Prime Time Players only one part of the larger whole. The second episode (October 18, 1975) had no sketch comedy at all other than Weekend Update; the whole rest of the show was given to host/musical guest Paul Simon and other musical acts. Before the first season was finished, the sketch comedy part of the show came to dominate — thanks, in no small part, to the episode hosted by Richard Pryor, which also established SNL as the comedy that wasn't afraid of tackling edgy issues with humor.
    • With few exceptions, Chevy Chase opened each episode with his signature pratfall and then announced the show. The only exceptions were the first episode, in which he didn't fall, the Richard Pryor episode, in which Garrett Morris imitated Chase's fall and opening, and the Ron Nessen episode, in which President Ford himself (on tape) delivered the opening after Chase's fall. After Chase left the show, the fall left with him and now anyone could announce the show.
    • The infamous sixth season (1980-81) included a specific case of Real Life Early Installment Weirdness in the form of cast member Gilbert Gottfried. Watch clips of Gottfried from that season and you will see that he doesn't squint, has a full head of black hair, and (most jarring of all) didn't have his trademark loud, obnoxious voice (it does crop up sometimes, but mostly Gottfried was soft-spoken).
    • When The Blues Brothers made their debut on January 17, 1976, they were dressed as bees (the "Killer Bees" were a recurring first season sketch).
    • During the first few years, it wasn't uncommon for the same person to host more than one episode a season. It still happened occasionally during the Dick Ebersol era, but stopped after Lorne Michaels returned to the show in 1985.
    • For a couple months, the show portrayed Kellyanne Conway as a guilt-ridden broken shell over her role in Donald Trump becoming president. After it became clear that she wasn't going away any time soon and was still an avid Trump supporter, they switched gears as announced with a spoof of "Roxie" from Chicago the day after the inauguration.
      • The show also changed its portrayal of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump drastically over the course of the campaign. In early skits Trump, while still portrayed as a bully, was established as fairly intelligent and a Deadpan Snarker, before evolving into Stupid Evil. Clinton, on the other hand, started out as power hungry with No Social Skills, before becoming the Only Sane Man in the face of Trump's lunacy.
  • Establishing Shot: Most sketches that don't have a theme song use one (and sometimes show the same establishing shot at the end of sketch as well).
  • Extra Digits: A parody commercial advertising a finger removal cream for people with extra fingers.
  • Fake Hair Drama: A parody commercial was about avoiding this trope by using a pubic hair transplant instead.
  • Fan Disservice: Kristen Wiig's character Shana was a buxom, breathy-voiced Expy of Marilyn Monroe, whose appearance at a party would be hotly anticipated by all the male characters, who would ignore the only other female character. When Shana showed up, she would behave like a stereotypical Brainless Beauty, except that she would invariably start to behave in shatteringly unsexy ways (delivering an incredibly long belch or fart, accidentally defecating, telling a story about how she went ducking for apples but mistakenly ate cow manure instead). All of the men except one would be completely turned off.
    • During Season 42, Margot Robbie plays a hot librarian that students are lusting after... until she starts doing horrific things like letting her hair fall out, taking out her teeth, showing embarrassing tattoos, and murdering a woman.
  • Fanservice: The Kellyanne Conway musical number parodying "Roxie" from Chicago has Kate McKinnon singing in a short flapper dress and playing up the Blonde Republican Sex Kitten act.
  • Feedback Rule: Will Ferrell & Ana Gasteyer's recurring sketch about middle school music teachers Marty Culp & Bobbie Moyhan-Culp, who are there to do a gig by playing popular music in a classical style, always begins with mic feedback. "Ooh, we got a real hot mic here."
  • Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult: Cheri Oteri's recurring character Rita DelVecchio, who would tell kids "I keep it now! It's mine now!" when their football/novelty flying disc/etc. would land on her lawn or porch.
  • Gallows Humor: Immortalized in the first episode following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York. Mayor Rudolph Guiliani said in a press conference that one of the first orders of business was to get Saturday Night Live back on the air, he appeared in person along with actual members of the relief team clearing away debris and rescuing stranded individuals, explaining how the show was a New York institution and continuing business as usual is the best way to keep the terrorists from winning. Lorne Michaels queried, "But can we be funny?" and his reply was "Why start now?"
  • Germanic Depressives: When Angela Merkel comes on Weekend Update, her dialogue is heavy on this.
    Angela Merkel: (regarding getting TIME Magazine's 2015 Person of the Year and making a lot of goofy faces) I am trying to celebrate, but my body is rejecting it.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: Done in a sketch where the Wishmakers Foundation grants a child's desire to be a sports commentator at a professional game (football the first game, basketball the 2nd). The only football term he knows is "That'll move the chains!" and basketball, "Nothing but the bottom of the net!" This eventually gets taken to a hilarious extreme when the other commentators lets him take over to make up for complaining about the supposed disease (the kid said he had O.C.D. when asked, but this really stood for "Overwhelming Corpse Disease") and eventually begins shouting various sports terms and maneuvers all in the same sentence ending with "NOTHING BUT THE BOTTOM OF THE NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!" and then dies onscreen.
  • Groin Attack: "By the Balls", a sketch where Katie Holmes repeatedly grabbed Will Ferrell's crotch to interrogate him.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: How Barry Gibb (played by Jimmy Fallon) is portrayed in "The Barry Gibb Talk Show". One such example:
    Cruz Bustamante: I'm a real big fan! When I was growing up, I thought you guys were the greatest band around!
    Barry Gibb: Oh yeah, huh? You thought we, you thought we were the greatest? You hear that, Robin? We were! WERE!! Huh? Don't you EVER talk to me like that AGAIN!! I'M BARRY GIBB!!
  • Happily Married: Stefon and Seth Meyers.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Ned and Fed Jones, a pair of drugged-out street hustlers (1985-86 cast members Damon Wayans {who later played Homie the Clown, Blaine the Gay Movie Critic, and homeless wino Anton Jackson on In Living Color!} and Anthony Michael Hall {who was in those 1980s teen movies like Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club} who sold everything stolen, including pocketbooks (with ID), bikes, 1980s-style home computers, radios, and 1980s-style cable TV hook-ups.
  • Hot for Student:
    • The Season 35 classroom sketch with Tina Fey and Justin Bieber. Deconstructed when the student (Bieber) catches wise to what his teacher is doing and threatens to sue her for sexual harassment.
    • A Season 32 sketch where episode host Annette Bening plays a teacher who's in love with an apathetic student (Andy Samberg) who doesn't realize that he's in a relationship with his teacher.
    • On the Josh Brolin/Gotye episode from Season 37, a drunk teacher (Brolin) during Booker T. Washington High's prom confessed that he's in a relationship with a student (played by Nasim Pedrad).
  • Hulk Speak: The team-ups of Tarzan (Kevin Nealon), Tonto (Jon Lovitz), and Frankenstein's monster (Phil Hartman)! One sketch revealed the monster had a completely articulate Evil Twin played by Mel Gibson.
  • Hypocrite: In the "High School Theatre" sketch, one of the scenes the students perform involves a girl delivering a eulogy to her dead mother, delivering an Anvilicious message about how you should cherish your parents before its too late. This is not appreciated by her actual mother, very much alive and in the audience, who disgruntledly points out that despite the pious and self-righteous tone of the eulogy her daughter is actually a "total bitch" to her on a daily basis.
  • Hypothetical Fight Debate: In the recurring sketch "Bill Swerski's Superfans", the Chicago natives sit around discussing who would win things, with the answer always being "Da Bears!" (Or if it's basketball, "Da Bulls!") Or complete non-sequiturs like Mike Ditka vs. a hurricane.
  • I Approved This Message:
    • From the parody of Hillary Rodham Clinton's 3 a.m. ad: "I'm Hillary Clinton and I approve this unfair and deceptive message."
    • In the episode where John McCain, then the actual Republican Nominee for President and the election only a few days away, McCain appears in a sketch as himself where he is personally approving the radio ads his campaign is putting together, complete with a live recording of "I approve this message" rather than them sticking a prerecorded version on to the end.
    • In the Seth MacFarlane episode/Season 38 premiere, Barack Obama (now played by Jay Pharoah) prefaced his attack ad on Mitt Romney with, "I'm Barack Obama, and I approved this message. Uhhhh...but I'm not real proud of it."
    • Done repeatedly in "The Passion of the Dumpty" sketch when the program cut to commercial.
  • I Have Many Names: Nick the Lounge Singer's last name changes depending on what film's theme song he has added lyrics to.
  • Incredibly Long Note: The Arsenio Beckman sketch ends with Phil Hartman (as the announcer) saying, "Don't leave your seats, we'll be right back with more Arseniooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Beckman!"
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: The third ex-porn star in the "We're not porn stars anymore" skits will walk in and ask "Did somebody say [pun relating to the item being sold]?" - only it's subverted because the cue is never said, and eventually the main girls just have the third one do their schtick regardless.
  • It Is Pronounced Tropay: The premise of the "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" song during Christopher Walken's monologue. Played with: Walken didn't alternate pronunciations like he was supposed to:
    Walken: You say potato, I say potato, you say tomato, I say tomato, potato, potato, tomato, tomato...
    (take two...)
    Walken: You say potahto, I say potahto, you say tomahto, I say tomahto, potahto, potahto, tomahto, tomahto...
  • It's Raining Salesmen: One sketch involves a man in a restaurant trying to propose to his girlfriend, only for their server to come by the table constantly and interrupt with unnecessary "Anything you need"-type questions. He finally shouts out his proposal over the waitress's talking; his girlfriend accepts, and at last they're ready to order. However, when he tries to get the server's attention, she snaps at him: "I've only got two hands, jeez!"
  • Karmic Rape: At one point during his tenure as host of Weekend Update, Norm Macdonald joked that Prison Rape, being the worst part of the whole experience, should be formally portioned out during sentencing.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: In the March 4, 2017 Weekend Update, Jost's U2 pun makes much of the audience groan.
    Che: He insisted on telling that.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes:
    • In "Weekend Update", Bill Hader as culture reporter Stefon often cracks up because the writer of the bit changes the cue cards at the last minute to stuff even more outrageous than planned.
    • In a "Celebrity Jeopardy!" skit, Sean Connery would nearly always crack up at his own obnoxious jokes while Alex Trebek would wear an annoyed deadpan expression.
  • Least Rhymable Word: In The Religetables, during the Salem witch burning part:
    Broccoli and Yam: (singing) "God has a hitch / To right the witch / Without a hitch / We'll watch her twitch / And then we'll pitch / her in a ditch / And it's a cinch..!
    Broccoli: (talking) That doesn't rhyme.
    Yam: (talking) Whatever.
  • Leaving Food for Santa: "The Night Hanukkah Harry Saved Christmas". Harry is Subbing for Santa and discovers some milk and cookies out.
    What's this? [sniffs milk] I'd better put this in the fridge before it turns.
  • Leno Device: In "Divertor", Leno is shown making jokes on the various scandals that erupt.
  • Live but Delayed: SNL had three episodes were put on seven-second delay, all of which were hosted by controversial comedians — Richard Pryor (Season 1), Sam Kinison (Season 12), and Andrew "Dice" Clay (Season 15). Outside of that, SNL is only live on the East and Central Time Zones and tape delayed on the Mountain and West.
  • Long List: When Dana Carvey impersonated George Michael, complaining about how the editor of his music video didn't follow his instructions:
    Carvey: It went: Shot of boot, beard shot, belt, bullfighter, hair, crowd, face, hand, bull, boot, hair. And I told them specifically it was supposed to be: Butt shot, shot of the hand, back to the butt, hand, butt, hand, butt, hand, butt, belt, butt, beard, butt, butt, earring, face, butt, earring, tight, hold on the butt, hold on the butt; it's a formula, but it bloody works!
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: The show's cast and crew turnover is as legendary as its peak-and-valley quality, and the reason why it has such a love/hate relationship with viewers. According to show creator Lorne Michaels on an E!-channel special about the history of the show (from Season 1 to 28), this is the secret to the show's longevity (that, and NBC calling a mulligan on Seasons 6 and 11).
  • Lounge Lizard: Bill Murray's Nick the Lounge Singer is the Trope Codifier for the stereotypical lounge singer.
  • Long-Runners:
    • SNL has hit 41 and shows no signs of ending its run anytime soon (with Lorne himself stating that the only way the show is going to end is if he dies or decides to retire, as he really doesn't want SNL to fall into another showrunner's hands like what happened between 1980 and 1985). It has survived cast and crew changes, seven U.S. Presidents (starting with Gerald Ford), harsh critics, low ratings, threats of cancellation, fickle fans, radical (and not-so-radical) social and cultural shifts, world and domestic events that often make it hard to laugh at the news (particularly the September 11th attacks, as it happened in the city where the show is broadcast), and all of the Dueling Shows that have aired as alternatives (taking out Fridays and MADtv, which were specifically made to get disillusioned fans of SNL to watch their shows and see them as better). Its presidential election spoofs are now so traditional, they're a de facto part of the American Political System.
    • A lot of cast members have been on for more than seven years like Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Nealon, Tim Meadows, Al Franken, Fred Armisen, Kenan Thompson, Seth Meyers, and Darrell Hammond.
  • Machine Monotone: Utilized in the "Robot Repair" sketch.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: A lot of people who recap episodes like Rich Tackenburg and Rob Cesternino say that a lot of current charcters do this. Such as Drunk Uncle, The Porn Stars, or Riblit.
  • Malaproper:
    • Al Sharpton, as played by Kenan Thompson, is the king of this trope.
    • Two recurring Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong characters are a duo of porn actresses-turned-advert stars with barely functioning brains. Naturally, they have difficulty with some of the words they have to say in their commercials.
    Cecily's character: All the grits and grammar of a high-class shoe.
    Vanessa's character: Good ribbons.
    • Bobby Moynihan does this a lot, most famously as Drunk Uncle, but also as Anthony Crispino, a "second-hand news correspondent" who has a habit of mangling words when retelling the gossip he's overheard.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices:
  • May–December Romance: A Season 41 episode had Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host Meet Your Second Wife!, where three unsuspecting, happily-married men (and their wives in the audience) get to meet their future partners as they are that moment. The first one is an eighth-grader, and the second one is five (and will meet her husband for real when her college roommate tells her about the internship program her dad's company runs). The third one is a college sophomore, which doesn't seem so bad...until it's revealed she's three months pregnant with the actual bride-to-be.
  • Monochrome Casting: The show has received some criticism in The New '10s for not having a diverse cast. The majority of its cast members have been white and the show has rarely had more than one non-white cast member at a time (and has never had any fully Asian cast members). The show has especially come under fire for not having any black female cast members since Maya Rudolph's departure in 2007(and for having had only 4 black female cast members in its 38 year history), a fact that was highlighted when Kerry Washington guest starred (the Cold Open featured her having to play Michelle Obama, Oprah and Beyonce in the same sketch because of the lack of black women, also mocking the show's tendency to use black male actors in drag). SNL attempted to remedy this by holding a casting call in December 2013 specifically for black women, and in January 2014 hired black woman Sasheer Zamata. In season 40, SNL hired (or rather, rehired) Michael Che (a former short-lived SNL writer who quit to do The Daily Show, but was called back to SNL when Cecily Strong decided that Weekend Update wasn't for her) and Leslie Jones as cast members. Because of this (and the fact that Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, and Sasheer Zamata haven't been fired or quit), SNL's 40th season is the first time that the show has had more than three black cast members and the first time they've have two who were black women.
  • Mood Whiplash: In-universe, the couple on the "100 Floors of Frights" Halloween ride are enjoyably freaked out by everything they see until David S. Pumpkins — who is basically just a smarmy guy in a suit covered with pumpkins accompanied by two guys in skeleton costumes doing a dance — shows up out of nowhere. At which point they are so bewildered by how weirdly out of place he is and the fact that he keeps showing up that they spend the entire rest of the ride trying to figure out what his deal is.
    David S. Pumpkins: Any questions?
    Man: YES! SEVERAL! I mean, what, he has the middle initial now? I am so in the weeds with David Pumpkins!
  • Mouthing the Profanity: The show once featured a sketch with Joe Pesci playing his "Goodfellas" character buying a pinkie ring. He goes to the mirror to try it on and begins miming a conversation which ends as an angry argument full of F words. Today, censors would pixelate his mouth and no one would get the joke.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The SNL Digital Short "Lazy Sunday", in which Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell rap with hugely inappropriate levels of aggression about their Sunday afternoon of waking up late, getting cupcakes together and going to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • Muppet Cameo: Back in the late nineties, Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Kattan used to do an annual Christmas song. When Fallon, Morgan, and Kattan left, The Muppets came in to cheer up Horatio!
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • One of the most famous sketches in the history of the show was the first-season "Word Associaton" sketch in which Chevy Chase's character gives Richard Pryor's character a series of increasingly nasty racial slurs during the word association test. It ends with a terrified Chase giving an enraged Pryor the job.
    • The 70s Buddy Cop Show parody "Dyke & Fats" about a pair of Chicago policewomen: "Les Dykawitz"(Kate McKinnon), who's gay and "Chubbina Fatzarelli" (Aidy Bryant), who's large. After they solve a case they congratulate each other, calling each other by their nicknames but when the Da Chief (host Louis C.K.) says "Good going Dyke and Fats!" they get angry and yell "You don't get to call us that! Only we get to say it! Those are our words! We love each other, we're friends!" and then the end credit reads: "Created by Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant".
    • A joke by Michael Che during Weekend Update on the 42nd Season about why one of the former cast members of The Cosby Show didn't denounce Bill Cosby once he got accused of sexual assault was because, according to her, "That nigga made me rich."
  • Naked People Are Funny: "The Sensitive Naked Man" sketches.
  • Never Heard That One Before: In the 40th Anniversary Special, during the Wayne's World sketch, one of the top 10 reasons why SNL is great is because every season, some reviewer titles their review "Saturday Night Dead" (usually in a review about how weak and lame the show is/has become), and acts like they're the first person to come up with that.
  • New Season, New Name:
    • When this show first started, it was called "NBC's Saturday Night" because there was already a show on ABC called "Saturday Night Live" (this one had Howard Cosell as a permanent host). The NBC version wouldn't be officially called Saturday Night Live until season three (in season two, the "NBC" part of the title was dropped and the show was called Saturday Night).
    • The 1980-81 season was renamed "Saturday Night Live '80" in order to differentiate it from the five Lorne-produced seasons before it. The "80" was dropped in January 1981 (and the rest of the Jean Doumanian season was dropped a month later).
    • On most anniversary seasons, specifically the 15th, 20th, 25th, 35th, and 40th seasons, the show is referred to in the opening credits and commercial break bumpers as Saturday Night Live, plus the corresponding number (SNL 15, SNL 25, SNL 35, and SNL 40).
    • The name of "Weekend Update" changed a couple of times during the Dick Ebersol era. It changed back to "Weekend Update" when Lorne Michaels returned in 1985.
  • News Parody: Weekend Update, which has been a part of the show since the beginning, is arguably the Trope Maker for this genre.
  • Non-Standard Prescription: Christopher Walken has a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.
  • No-Hoper Repeat: When "Vintage SNL" appears on Saturday night at 10PM EST, you can rest assured NBC had nothing else to put in that timeslot.
  • No Product Safety Standards: Dan Aykroyd's recurring character Irwin Mainway. He's a corrupt salesman; in his first appearance he is trying to persuade a TV reporter that his company's toys are fun and safe for children. The products include a teddy bear with a built-in functioning chainsaw, Johnny Switchblade Adventure Punk, and Bag O' Glass (a bag of real broken glass! Also try Bag O' Sulfiric Acid!), etc. More Hilarity Ensues when he then tries to "prove" that other, safe toys are extremely unsafe. In a later appearance he's running an Amusement Park of Doom that works on similar (un)principles; the sketch ends with the host attacking him out of sheer horror!
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: In the December 03, 2016 cold open, both Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway look into the camera and point out that Trump really did retweet a 16-year-old boy.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Kristen Wiig and Mike & Molly's Melissa McCarthy do a jazzy dance behind a sheet, so we only see their outlines. McCarthy's is about 150 lbs thinner than she is.
  • Occidental Otaku: Jonathan Cavanaugh-‘san’ and Rebecca Markowitz-‘san’, the hosts of Jpop America Funtime Now!, a campus TV programme, are about the most caricaturistic weeaboos you can possibly imagine, much to the frustration of their (white) Japanese studies professor and faculty advisor, Mark Kaufman (Jason Sudeikis).
    Prof. Kaufman: If there is such a thing as a loving version of racism, I think you found it.
  • Old Shame: In-universe, there's a TV Funhouse cartoon where a boy and a girl gain entrance to the "Disney Vault", which is filled with old shames from the Disney legacy (such as a really racist cut of Song of the South). Mickey Mouse argues that you have to take the bad with the good.
    • The Jean Doumanian-produced sixth season is considered this for the show itself.
  • Overly Nervous Flop Sweat: There was a skit, Alex Karras as guest host, where Billy Crystal plays a guy at a soda company who sweats excessively at a board meeting.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: From the "Bambi 2002" sketch: "Pokahontass". From the "Disney Vault" sketch: "101 Fellations".
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: In the "Dr. Beaman's Office" sketch, Chris Parnell called Will Ferrell a "vondruke".
  • Persona Non Grata: There are a handful of hosts who have caused so much trouble backstage (or on the show) that they can never host SNL again.note  Who are they, you ask? Well...
    • Louise Lasser: Hosted the penultimate episode of Season 1 (1975-76). Michaels has gone on record in saying that Lasser was incoherent during her performance and wouldn't appear in any sketches unless she was by herself or with Chevy Chase.
    • Chevy Chase: Speaking of which, he's banned from hosting (after doing so nine times, the record for a former cast member) due to his Jerkass attitude toward the writers and cast members. He has made cameos in a few episodes, but hasn't hosted since Season 22 (1996-97).
    • Steven Seagal: Hosted the April 20, 1991 episode, and was banned soon afterward because he had difficulty working with the cast and crew.
    • Martin Lawrence: Hosted the episode that came right after the infamous Alec Baldwin-hosted show with the "Canteen Boy Goes Camping" sketch (where Canteen Boy (Adam Sandler) is molested by his scoutmaster) in 1994 (Season 19), and got himself banned when he launched into a monologue about the decline in women's hygiene. All reruns have cut off Martin's monologue and replaced it with cards that explain why this can never air on TV again.
    • Adrien Brody: Hosted in Season 28 (2002-03) and got himself banned after introducing musical guest Sean Paul in a rude boy Jamaican get-up and ad-libbing. There was nothing obscene about it; it's just that Lorne Michaels didn't approve of the piece and warned Brody not to do it. Considering how shaky in quality SNL was in its 28th season, this was considered a highlight (along with Dan Aykroyd coming back to host the last episode of the season).
    • Musical guest Sinéad O'Connor was banned after ripping up a picture of the Pope and calling him 'the real enemy' after her second song (the segment has been edited out as well, replaced with the dress rehearsal version where she shows the audience a picture of a starving child from Africa).
    • The most famous was probably Elvis Costello, who in a 1977 appearance defied Lorne Michaels' order that he was not to play "Radio Radio" on air. The ban was in effect until 1999, when Elvis was allowed to disrupt a Beastie Boys performance to play the song again during the 25th anniversary special and was the musical guest for the season 14 episode hosted by Mary Tyler Moore.
      • Speaking of musical guests, Fear was banned after their performance in 1981, since they made such a mess of the set while performing (not helped by the people in the mosh pit, who caused at least $20,000 in damages).
  • Phone Word: A Parody Commercial for a harassment agency's phone number is 1-800-HARASSS - "the extra "S" is for extra harassment."
  • Pixellation: When Pamela Anderson guest hosted, she admitted to being nervous and remembered that the best way to combat stage fright is to picture the audience naked. When that didn't work, she surmised that you actually have to be naked. At that, she stripped and her breasts and pubic area were censored by pixellation (of course, she wasn't actually naked- if you look closely you can see she's still wearing underwear).
  • Plant Hair: There was a sketch recommending chia hair for people suffering from hair loss. Hilarious in Hindsight now that chia seeds are being sold as a nutritional supplement that allegedly promotes hair growth.
  • Pregnancy Scare: One skit parodied pregnancy test commercials, with a couple who were really hoping their one-night-stand hadn't resulted in conception.
  • President Superhero: The X-Presidents. Hey, a President who has left office is customarily called "President" forever, so they do count.
  • Pretty in Mink: Some rich ladies in skits would wear nice furs, although there were a few instances of Fur and Loathing as well.
  • Recurring Extra: The show often uses writers and production staff as extras in sketches. The show's "all hands on deck" mentality was more prevalent in its early days, but these days, SNL will use writers as honorary cast members, often if the monologue involves the celebrity host to interact with audience members (mostly the Q&A sessions where a celebrity fields questions from fans) or other sketches where they have more roles than cast members or need some background people if the sketch takes place somewhere where there is a high number of people (restaurants, busy streets, Congressional hearings, press conferences, classrooms, hospital waiting rooms, stores, etc). SNL's choreographer Danielle Flora has appeared as a recurring extra in sketches (often ones that are big musical numbers and they need dancers).
  • Reluctant Gift: In an episode from late 1992/early 1993, Barbara Bush is showing Hillary Rodham Clinton around the White House, but is reluctant to let go of the precious antiques and such that stay with the house.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated:
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: A sketch from 2015 parodied Disney's then-recent trend of remaking their animated movies in live action by reimagining Bambi as one. Dwayne Johnson (the episode's host) played the title character going after the hunters who killed his mother.
  • Rule of Drama: Averted for laughs in the Forgotten TV Gems soap opera spoof "Supportive Women", in which all the women were consistently nice to each other and all drama was thereby averted. As host Reese De' What (Kenan Thompson) observed, "Viewers tunes in in whatever the opposite of droves is."
  • Running Gag: Generally specific to individual performers; some guest hosts have appeared so often that they've developed their own.
    • One particular gag was running roller captions over a bit. Done twice during Garrett Morris' songs ("An Die Musik", on Garrett's surprising song choice, and "Danny Boy", supposedly written by Morris himself in response), and twice during Buck Henry's monologues (one on how he was hired out of pity, and another on how he was brought back because the writers didn't need to work very hard for him).
    • Whenever a sketch takes place backstage, there are usually a bunch of showgirls, a llama, and a man dressed as Abraham Lincoln hanging out.
  • Satan Is Good: A recurring bit on "Weekend Update" has The Devil (played by Jason Sudeikis, not Jon Lovitz) invited on to comment on something heinous in the news, only for him to be appalled when he hears the act described and disavow having any part in it.
  • Secret Word: A recurring joke in the show was the segment "Secret Word" in which two contestants in a game show had to guess hidden words based on clues from their celebrity partners.
  • Shameful Source of Knowledge: From a Weekend Update segment on January 25, 2014:
    An 18 year old high school student in Florida, who was suspended after school officials learned that he was starring in adult films, has been allowed to return to classes. School officials are also stressing that the way they found out the student was starring in adult films "is not important."
  • Sketch Comedy: Not the first of its kind, but definitely one of the most popular.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: The show alternates between Level 0 (Non-Linear Installments) and Level 1 (Negative Continuity), with some recurring sketches and characters.
  • Soapbox Sadie: The "High School Theatre" sketch involves a production delivered by a group of high school students who have clearly just recently discovered both the concept of avant garde and various social justice issues such as homophobia, transgenderism, and so forth. The resulting production is a series of skits that are the worst combination of insufferably self-righteous, poorly informed and utterly pretentious, which their long-suffering parents are forced to endure while snarking and complaining from the audience.
  • Soap Punishment: Sean Spicer as played by Melissa McCarthy attacked a reporter with a Super Soaker full of soap water to wash out his "filthy lying mouth".
  • Something Completely Different:
    • Two months into the summer break between Season 1 and Season 2, the show aired two more live episodes at the end of July, then went back to reruns until the proper start of Season 2 at the end of September. This remains the only time that SNL has aired new episodes during the summer TV hiatus.
    • The December 17, 1977 episode hosted by an old woman named Miskell Spillman, winner of an "Anyone Can Host" contest, is the only episode hosted by someone who's not a celebrity.
    • The February 20, 1977 episode was staged in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and it aired in prime time on Sunday. It was a fiasco, and remains the only time the show has left New York.
    • A Season 11 episode hosted by George Wendt featured a Framing Device in which Francis Ford Coppola appears As Himself, a Hollywood director brought in to boost the show's ratings by making it more cinematic.
    • The musical guests' performances are usually straightforward (unless there's a nasty surprise to it, like when Sinéad O'Connor tore Pope John Paul II's picture, when Ashlee Simpson did an awkward jig and left the stage after the music track for the first song accidentally played during her second song, and when Fear turned their performance into a mosh pit on the 1981 Halloween episode hosted by Donald Pleasance), but there have been unusual approaches taken on rare occasions. ABBA's appearance in Season One has them as entertainment on the Titanic as it begins to take on water. All three songs in David Bowie's first appearance in Season Five have surreal, Bowie-conceived staging and even Costume Porn. When George Harrison appeared on the show hosted by Paul Simon in the second season, Harrson presented two of his music videos rather than playing live (Harrison did join Simon for two duets). Kanye West's performance on the Bryan Cranston episode from season 36 had the entire stage covered in white with a troupe of ballet dancers.
  • Spoofed with Their Own Words: The famous skit about Sarah Palin during the 2008 U.S. presidential race. It very intentionally consisted almost entirely of actual Palin lines from her interview with Katie Couric. A couple of judicious additions and Tina Fey's delivery were all it took.
  • Staging an Intervention: in a Weekend Update segment.
    Seth Meyers: NBC announced that Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb will host a primetime special on the network called A Toast to 2013 in which they recount their favorite stories from the past year. But [whispering behind his hand] shh, it's actually an intervention.
  • Straight Gay: Seth Meyers is revealed to be this, after stopping Stefon's wedding and claiming Stefon for himself.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: "Mango" is this joke stretched out to several sketches.
  • Surprise Party: A recurring sketch is about a group of people planning a surprise [birthday/anniversary/retirement/etc.] party for one of their friends, and Kristen Wiig's character is so very very excited about it she just can't keep still - or keep her mouth shut when the character in question appears.
    • Jeremy Irons's guest appearance featured a skit in which Sherlock Holmes's friends try to throw a surprise party for him. Turns out they can't surprise the clever Holmes with anything!
    • A Christmas-related sketch from Season 13 has the Apostles giving Jesus a surprise birthday party, but they have a hard time being able to surprise him.
  • They Killed Kenny Again:
    • Mr. Bill, the little Play-Doh man who died a violent death in every sketch at the hands of...well, a giant pair of hands known as Mr. Hands!
    • Also Bobby Moynihan's character, Ass Dan, who, despite being dead since 2009, has been appearing in the Under Underground commercials alive and well, until they freeze-frame the shot and play funereal music as the caption: "Ass Dan 1981 - [whatever year he died. So far, he's died once in 2009, twice in 2010, twice in 2011, and once in 2012, so that's six times if you're keeping score at home].
  • Threatening Shark: Chevy Chase's "Landshark" skits:
  • Title Sequence: One thing that SNL has been known to do, constantly, is to update the opening title sequence drastically (as well as the logo) from time to time, in order to look fresh. Only one thing has remained consistent in the sequences, which is that they always feature scenes of New York City locations and goings on,note  either going about their business, showboating for the camera, or being a part of the sequence skits as they were in season 29. Even the Theme Tune has changed frequently, only starting in season 12 to have a more consistent melody to it (and starting in season 24 to also feature a sax solo halfway through that has extended itself over the years). It's also rather long, which, as this video demonstrates, allows for time to prepare the set.
  • Top Ten List:
  • Trash the Set: Some SNL sketches do end with a character laying waste to the cheap, flimsy sets and props on the show, most notably the sketches featuring Molly Shannon's neurotic Catholic schoolgirl Mary Katherine Gallagher or Chris Farley's loud, obnoxious motivational speaker, Matt Foley.
  • Trolling Translator: In a 1987 sketch, Kevin Nealon plays a translator live-translating a joint press conference by Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev, but he doesn't speak Russian very well. To cover Nealon "translates" Gorbachev saying "I'm now going to start speaking in a very obscure Russian dialect that very few have ever heard of and it will be impossible for your translator to translate." (paraphrased.)
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Alec Baldwin is brought to the future by Jimmy Fallon, the Ghost of SNL Hosts Future, who is hosting the show on December 12, 2011. The show has a more futuristic looking intro sequence narrated by The Don Pardo 9000 android announcer. In that timeline, the term Baldwin has become synonymous with crap, leading to the phrase "I was scared that I nearly took a Baldwin in my pants".
  • Unfortunate Implications: Invoked in the "High School Theatre" sketch. At one point, the Soapbox Sadie performers all in unison chant "Who runs the world? Whites." While this is presumably supposed to be a searing indictment of white privilege, one of the parents points out that, since all the performers happen to be white, this has the unintended effect of making it seem like they're just bragging.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • An infamous Season 20 sketch titled "Rookie Cop", where a murder victim is apparently so gruesome that all the cops/coroners/reporters/etc. who see pictures vomit everywhere. It was later parodied on 30 Rock.
    • In the Mark Jensen Christmas sketch, Will Ferrell was singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" while spinning around on a rotating platform. Gradually he became more and more nauseated until he vomited profusely.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Vladimir Putin, played by Beck Bennet, is shirtless all the time. Nobody seems fazed by his appearance, even the judges in a courtroom.
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Parodied on the banned TV Funhouse cartoon "Mediaopoly"; late in the song, after exposing many dark secrets about General Electric, a "technical difficulties" title card appears, implying GE censored the sketch. However, it's actually part of the sketch, since the chorus keeps singing afterwards. The singers even lampshade the fact that We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties is sometimes used as a cheap way to censor out anything that the sponsors or network may find controversial.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: In the Feb. 4, 2017 cold open, a cranky Trump (Alec Baldwin) agrees to call other heads-of-state without getting briefed first, asking what could go wrong.
  • Wicked Toymaker: One of the first recurring sketches was a segment called "Consumer Probe". The interviewer always wound up interviewing toymaker Irwin Mainway (Dan Aykroyd), who made and marketed children's toys like "Bag o' Glass" and "General Tranh's Secret Police Confession Kit".
  • Wishing for More Wishes: In a sketch John Goodman plays a fisherman who catches a wish-granting fish. He hires a team of lawyers to craft his first two wishes so that they don't backfire; his third wish is to pay his lawyers. The lawyers' fee is 100 wishes.
  • Word Association Test: The seventh episode of Season 1, hosted by Richard Pryor, had a sketch in which a prospective black employee (Pryor) is interviewed by a white boss (Chevy Chase). Everything goes normally until partway through the test, when Chase breaks out the black racial epithets. Pryor counters with white racial epithets, escalating to:
    Interviewer: Jungle bunny!
    Mr. Wilson: Honky!
    Interviewer: Spade!
    Mr. Wilson: Honky honky!
    Interviewer: Nigger!
    Mr. Wilson: Dead honky!
    (In the end, Pryor's character gets the job.)
    • It should be noted that this sketch was cited (by Tina Fey, on a Season 31 episode that aired on the same day Richard Pryor died) as the sketch that solidified SNL's reputation as the "edgy, outrageous late-night sketch show".
  • Xenofiction: Dwayne Johnson / The Rock's Dumb Muscle portrayal of Superman spoofs the trope. As in most Superman adaptations, Superman uses his cover identity as journalist Clark Kent to blend in with humans, but his Daily Planet co-workers immediately find him out because, among other reasons, he keeps haplessly writing his articles from a Superman-centric perspective, e.g. "A man in New York was shot to death yesterday because bullets do not bounce off of human bodies."
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Parodied in the "Z shirt" sketch from the episode hosted by Kevin Hart. The sketch is a commercial for the "Z-shirt" (which is just a T-shirt with the letter "Z" on it), and Hart's character keeps asking what kind of shirt it is, using every letter of the alphabet in order ("Is that an A-shirt?" "Is it a B-shirt?" etc.).