With nearly 35 years under its belt, “Saturday Night Live” has entertained viewers with hundreds of sketches—a huge pool from which to select the 5 best SNL skits ever. Here are five that will forever be ranked among the funniest moments in television history.
- Men’s Synchronized Swimming. The first sketch on our list of the five best SNL skits ever comes from 1984 and features Martin Short and Harry Shearer as brothers hoping to compete in the first ever Men’s Synchronized Swimming competition. The two men are interviewed with clips interspersed showing them practicing under the tutelage of their apparently gay “director” played by Christopher Guest. Lawrence, (Short) wears a bathing cap and confesses “I don’t swim,” and “I’m not that strong a swimmer.” His brother Gerald (Shearer) is realistic about there chances: “Lawrence doesn't swim… no one's going to just walk up and hand us a gold medal.”
- Chippendale Competition. Chris Farley (Barney) and Patrick Swayze (Adrian) star in this piece from 1990 as two finalists competing in a dance-off for the last spot as a Chippendale dancer. The obese Barney and the perfectly built Adrian dance side-by-side showing the judges what they can do. Of course, Adrian’s routine is flawless while Barney gives it his all, dancing shirtless with his flabby belly bouncing and heaving over the top of his skin-tight black pants—complete with plumber’s crack—and matching Adrian step-for-step. Perhaps Farley’s most memorable “Saturday Night Live” performance ever, it ranks number two on our list of the five best SNL skits of all time.
- More Cowbell! Third on our list of the five best SNL skits ever is this 2000 spoof of VH1’s “Behind the Music,” which features Christopher Walken as fictional “famed producer” Bruce Dickinson overseeing a Blue Oyster Cult recording session. Will Ferrell plays BOC’s equally fictional cowbell player Gene Frenkle who wears a t-shirt about three sizes too small and takes his job very seriously. As the band records the classic “Don’t Fear the Reaper”—a song that features cowbell—Dickinson keeps stopping the session because he needs “more cowbell!” With each take, Frenkle obediently gives Dickinson more cowbell, but never quite enough for the music genius who says, “I got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell!”
- Lifeguard on Duty. Any skit in which Will Ferrell comes away as the sensible character has got to be wild, and number four on our list of the five best SNL skits ever does not disappoint. From 1996, Jim Carrey plays an overprotective lifeguard for a small Jacuzzi occupied only by Ferrell. Sitting on his perch adjacent to the Jacuzzi, complete with binoculars, swim fins, a whistle and lifesaving equipment, Carrey shouts out orders for Ferrell—merely sitting calmly in the water—to “Cut the horseplay Sir, or I'll be forced to eject you from the swimming facility.” Later, when Ferrell complains of a toe cramp, Carrey comes to the rescue diving into the Jacuzzi, performing mouth-to-mouth, pounding on Ferrell’s chest, and then yelling dramatically, “No! It’s not your time yet!” All the while, Ferrell struggles to fight off the crazy lifeguard.
- Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute. Last on our list of the five best SNL skits is this classic from 1979 in which guest host Margot Kidder plays Mrs. Potter, a female banking executive on a business trip. Dan Aykroyd appears at her hotel room door and explains that whenever a VP is in town, it is customary for the company—Great Lakes Feed & Grain—to send a hooker up to the room. Aykroyd, looking to be a nerdy man in his 40's complete with a polyester plaid jacket, fedora, and black horn-rimmed glasses, introduces himself as Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute. Attempting to talk the reluctant woman into bed, he assures Mrs. Potter of “professional hygiene, discretion, and animal gratification” and that “Great Lakes Feed & Grain is picking up the tab. You’ve got me for the whole night!”