As I sifted back through the 22 Saturday Night Live episodes that aired in 2016 to whittle more than 100 sketches down to the 10 best, that popular-with-Facebook-haters' refrain of "SNL hasn't been funny in years!" kept popping unbidden into my brain. The charge is definitely untrue -- the show still has the power to provoke belly laughs, as each of the sketches below proved. Especially No.1.
10. "The Pool Boy"
Some housewives looking to cut off affairs with impressively dimwitted 23-year-old hired helpers named Chad just won't take "Oh, OK" for an answer.
9. "Bern Your Enthusiasm"
This pitch-perfect parody feels dated in the wake of a brutal political season, but back in February, Larry David's impression of Bernie Sanders -- which was really just Larry David playing Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm -- was high comedy.
8. "Wells for Boys"
It was a banner year for wringing absurdist comedy from inanimate objects on SNL. Remember Emily Blunt's navel-gazing wide-mouthed bathroom sink? Or Dave Chappelle's egotistical hotel room swan painting? But best of them all is this fake ad aimed at mothers of unusually sensitive boys.
7. "Whiskers R We"
Kate McKinnon's fifth trip to the "Whiskers R We" well (not that kind of well, sensitive boy!) tops them all, and not just because the kittens were cuter than they've ever been. The added value: host Kristen Wiig's frisky, nipple-pinching Furonica.
6. "Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base"
Both a clever parody of Undercover Boss and a host-specific follow-up to The Force Awakens mania of late 2015-early '16 (RIP Force Awakens mania), this pre-taped sketch finds Adam Driver's Kylo Ren slumming it as a radar technician named Matt who "straight-up sucks."
5. "Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks"
The entire Tom Hanks episode ranks among the show's best ever (and I watched every single one of them a few years back), and that assessment doesn't even include a cut-for-time "Weekend Update" bit that absolutely should have aired. Among the highlights: Hanks' "Black Jeopardy" appearance as a Trump supporter who heard he could win some money and who displays a knack for ringing in correctly on questions not necessarily designed for someone like him.
4. "Farewell Mr. Bunting"
This spin on the famous Dead Poets Society scene gives a beloved prep-school teacher a very unexpected send-off.
3. "Haunted Elevator"
This sketch has become SNL's version of "Is this dress white and gold or black and blue?" Such are the vexing charms of David S. Pumpkins (Tom Hanks), an inscrutable performer confusingly found on a whopping 73% of stops on the 100 Floors of Frights fun-house elevator ride. Any questions (other than "why is this funny?")?
2. "Mafia Meeting"
A perfectly normal mob shakedown at a restaurant is completely derailed by the undying love Peter Dinklage's avant-garde singer Jonathan Cummins has for his whimsically designed trousers. (And a shout-out to Dinklage's cruelly underrated "Corporate Magic Show" sketch, in which he plays a humorless boss hell-bent on parsing a magician's joke involving soiled underwear.)
1. "FBI Simulator"
Similar but superior to "Haunted Elevator," this sketch puts Larry David in the role of "human puzzle" Kevin Roberts, a loud, boastful, spiky-haired simulator designer with a very important question to ask. Make the Kevin Roberts/Jonathan Cummins/David S. Pumpkins spinoff happen now, please.
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