After only catching bits and pieces of new Saturday Night Live episodes over the past few years, and finding only about 39% of those bits and 27% of those pieces funny in any way, I was glad to see the show step up its game a little in 2008. It was, of course, mostly thanks to the endless comic fodder provided by the presidential campaign, with Tina Fey's star-making turns as Sarah Palin and the four-for-four run on the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates and Amy Poehler's moose-killing rap. But the political funnies really upped the ante, and I found a lot more than usual to laugh at. Here are my picks for the seven funniest apolitical SNL sketches of 2008. (Oh, and for the record: "Fartface" may now be just crappy enough for the internet-- the video is finally online-- but it's still my pick for totally dumbest SNL sketch of 200ever).
This maybe got one passing half-giggle from me when it first aired, but became suddenly hilarious after I saw The Happening, which so fully illuminates Mark Wahlberg's Mark Wahlberginess. The sketch made the movie funnier, the movie made the sketch funnier. If there's one good thing to be said for The Happening, I guess that's it.
6. "The Japanese Office" (May 17)
Doesn't quite top Rainn Wilson's opening sketch from 2007, but still a clever play on this now endlessly, internationally adapted series, and proof that the bumbliness of Michael Scott knows no cultural or linguistic bounds.
5. "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" (Nov. 1)
Granted, politics are discussed at length in this sketch, but its crux is really just one self-posessed, irate man and his darling pet cat. Oh, and lots of rapid-cut camera angles. As Olbermann, Ben Affleck works himself into such a brilliantly frothing fit of indignation that may have well canceled out Gigli.
4. “Girls Trying on Clothes” (May 29)
Aside from the relative hilarity of Shia LaBeouf in drag, this sketch may have only appealed to residents of Decatur, Ga. who've spent any amount of time in dressing rooms while clothes shopping with their mothers. Guilty as charged! I'd like to point out, though, that Decatur has a number of fine clothing boutiques as well as many stylish residents, including a transvestite that I used to see around wearing a wig just like Shia's. Yes, no!
3. "Single Ladies" dancers sketch (Nov. 15)
Bobby Moynihan, Andy Samberg and special guest Justin Timberlake (whose 2005 hosting stint weirdly remains one of my favorite SNL episodes ever) don black leotards and platform heels as backup dancers for Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video. (Which I still love. Too much.) Unfortunately, the sketch isn't online. You can see snippets in the backstage clip above, but the full sketch in all its goofy majesty was really something to behold.
2. “Milkshakes” (Feb. 25)
What better way to send up the dark beauty of There Will be Blood than as a Food Network show? Bill Hader as Daniel Plainview and Amy Poehler (!!!) as H.W. Plainview (!!!) accosting strangers for their milkshakes are uncanny, and you've got to love that crack at Anton Chigurh's ridiculous hairdo.
1. “The Lawrence Welk Show” (Oct. 10)
Could I love Kristen Wiig any more than I already do? Only if she can get weirder than she already is.