Laughing All The Way: The Best SNL Holiday Sketches

The holidays are a time for being with friends and family, giving presents, getting presents, eating too much, etc. etc. And at the root of all this is something so simple – cheer. We revel in being around people and doing things that make us happy, because that’s what this time of year is all about.

One of the things that make us joyful, not only during Christmas but all year round, is Saturday Night Live. It has a storied history of making viewers laugh every Saturday night, and in December, there are sketches that dreams are made of. For our final December playlist installment, we present to you the sketches that make us laugh, make us cry from laughing, that just make us happy. And hopefully you’ll catch the contagious cheer this season and all year round.

Molly’s Picks

Consumer Probe (1976)

I’m going to yank you back into memory lane for a second. I started watching SNL regularly when I was 10 or so, because I’m the fourth kid and my parents DGAF. But before that, I’d get to stay up and watch when my family swarmed my grandparents’ house for the holidays. Around Christmas, that often meant ancient repeats or compilation episodes, which is how I got acquainted with the original Not Ready For Primetime Players. This sketch, with Dan Aykroyd schilling unsafe children’s toys like Bag O’ Glass and Johnny Switchblade, played right into my silly little-kid comedy sensibilities. As a grownup, I find it even funnier. [watch here]

Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood (1984)

Would I find this one so funny if, during the Cabbage Patch craze, my uncle hadn’t sold my parents a bootleg Cabbage Patch Kid that was stuffed with gasoline-soaked rags? They took the rags out, restuffed it, and gave it to my siblings. We’re all adults now so I think I can write that without fear of us being removed from their custody. Anyway, I think the answer is yes. Yes, I would still find it so funny.

Steve Martin’s Holiday Wish (1986)

At Christmastime, we all say stupid stuff about wanting world peace and for the children of the world to join hands in perfect harmony or whatever, but deep down, we all want stuff. Stuff, and revenge.

The Sweeney Sisters Bells Medley (1986)

Watching Nora Dunn and Jan Hooks’ characters try a bit too hard to sell the unfunny Christmas banter and the Carol Of The Bells now just makes me think of how darn funny Jan Hooks was. Which reminds me of another family Christmas tradition – my pessimistic grandmother chiming “laugh today, cry tomorrow!” over the laughter of children.  [watch here]

Dysfunctional Family Christmas (1990)

Is your family passive-aggressive, or just aggressive-aggressive? Is your only family tradition disappointing your parents and drinking to forget? Does someone always call someone else fat? Then screw Jingle Bells, this should be the soundtrack to your family festivities. [watch here]

Mary Katherine Gallagher’s Christmas Concert (1996)

This is 90s as heck: Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher character, Rosie O’Donnell as a Catholic school nun, Penny Marshall on piano, and Whitney Houston as that one girl who gets all the solos. This is the cast that was on SNL when I started watching religiously, and rewatching this sketch reminds me that I came in at a good time. [watch here]

Martha Stewart’s Topless Christmas Special (1996)

Once again, take yourself back to the 90s. Before the market was saturated with celebrity chefs and DIY empires, Martha Stewart was the WASP-y face of American perfectionism. Ana Gasteyer posing with a boys’ choir while wearing just a dickie cracked me up in 1996 – and it still does.

The Narrator That Ruined Christmas (2001)

We were all so unmoored those first months after 9/11 that it felt disrespectful to do anything without acknowledging that something awful had happened. Even our high school homecoming t-shirts had an American flag on the back that year. I was reminded of that last month, when my family drove through an outdoor light display. There, in megawatt glow, were the twin towers with the words “Never Forgotten” underneath. I’m sure that display was purchased in Christmas 2001, when it felt like even a charity light setup should nod to our collective grief. Anyway, that’s how my 5-year-old nephew learned about 9/11.  This Saturday TV Funhouse takes you right back to that feeling, with the stop-motion snowman narrator giving up on holiday joy. Writers of this one included Stephen Colbert and Louis CK.

Two A-Holes In A Live Nativity Scene (2007)

The two a-holes are recurring characters that never really got their due. They played off the mid-2000s reality tv, conspicuous consumption, vocal fry trope, and you will never hear “myrrh” the same way again. [watch here]

Do It On My Twin Bed (2013)

This music video highlights how solid the current female cast is. Lil Baby Aidy and the gang are the stars of this “funny because it’s true” new classic: everything, from surly neighbor Jean to a high-status family member sprawling out in the guest suite, from the awkward junior high photos to the time capsule-like childhood bedroom, is part of the Christmas experience when you’re spending the holidays with your family.

Traci’s Picks

Motivational Santa (1994)

I got into SNL around middle school, so like the Cheerleaders, Superstar, Leon Phelps, Mango era. I didn’t do my research before that and admittedly have only seen a select sketches from anything before like 1996. Among those select sketches was Chris Farley as Motivational Speaker, Matt Foley. You know, the guy who lives in a van down by the river? He sometimes moonlights as a Santa, therefore making him a Motivational Santa that is even more frightening and alarming than ever before. Screen your Santa before taking your kids to them, folks. {watch video here}

Delicious Dish (1998)

This sketch is not only one of the most famous holiday sketches but SNL sketches of all time. As NPR hosts, Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon have the perfect tone to their voice as they talk about culinary delights on their talk show. When Alec Baldwin joins them, the NPR ladies secured themselves in the SNL Hall of Fame. Of course throughout the sketch, they make double entendres left and right, but it isn’t until Alec says, “No one can resist the taste of my Schweddy Balls”, did the audience go crazy and millions of viewers knew the skit would go down in history.

Wish it Was Christmas Today (2000)

I am a total FalPal (Jimmy Fallon fan, obvs). My love for Jimmy started around his era on SNL. This particular sketch I remember finding so ridiculous, yet so catchy. My friend and I used to crush of Jimmy  so hard and just sing this song a lot, which is definitely not annoying at all. While it started as a Christmas sketch, they went on to do it multiple times, altering the lyrics for different holidays. While I am a purist and enjoy the OG one from 2000 the most, the 2011 version when Horatio, Chris and Tracy surprised everyone while Jimbo was hosting, comes in at a close second.

Weekend Update Characters

It was already extremely hard for us to pick our favorites for this list because we are insane and just love SNL, so here’s a group of the best recurring characters of Weekend Update and their Christmas-themed visits to the desk.

This segment has everything – Tranderson Cooper, Taylor Negron, Kite Enthusiasts and human parking cones (it’s that thing of when two jacked midgets paint themselves orange and you have to parallel park between them).

Kids today just leave Santa almond milk and Instagraham crackers. Can you put some quinoa in my spin class, please?

Look, I loved when Cecily was at the desk with Seth, but I’m also glad she’s not on the desk anymore so she can do this character. Everything coming out of her mouth is ridiculous and perfect.

Oh, how I love Garth and Kat. Fred and Kristen make a great team as it is, but when you put them in substitute teacher outfits and make them sing songs, it’s even better. On top of that, there’s not only the element of improv on Fred’s behalf, but like double improv with Kristen just copying every word of improv Fred’s saying. It’s a masterclass in Yes, and.

Taran Killam plays a newspaper movie critic from the 1800s and he hates everything. And he’s not afraid to say it. And the audience is also not afraid to let him know when they don’t like a joke. The best part might be when Seth laughs when one of the jokes gets absolutely no response from the crowd.

Glengarry Glen Christmas (2005)

Alec Baldwin is obviously brilliant every episode he’s done (16, the record for most times hosting), and per this list, he’s a staple in class holiday sketches, too. This one is a Christmas spoof on his popular role in Glengarry Glen Christmas, but this time, he’s taking over Santa’s factory and having a talk with the elves. I had seen this version before the original, which I suggest you watch here, but I still thought it was hilarious. After having seen the scene in the movie it was based on, it’s even more hilarious and spot on. Rachel, Fred, Amy, and Seth (who wrote the sketch!) are all perfect in this scene, and so is Alec, who accidentally makes a perfect slip-up in the middle.

Christmas for the Jews (2005)

One of the best ‘modern’ Christmas songs IMO is Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). It’s not the holidays until you hear this song, which is why she was the perfect choice to sing this tune for Saturday TV Funhouse. Christmas for the Jews tells a tale of how Jews revel in the fact all the Gentiles are inside celebrating Christmas, and they are free to ‘go see King Kong without a line’ or ‘Eat in a Chinese restaurant and drink some sweet wine’. Darlene’s legit-ness is what makes this song so good and another ‘modern day’ Christmas classic.

Dick in a Box (2006)

There was a period of time when I was in college that I wasn’t able to watch SNL as religiously as I had been before, which was sad for me, but also, it meant I had a some semblance of a social life? (LOL) I was at my friend’s apartment when she asked if I had seen Dick in a Box yet, and I hadn’t. We immediately watched it online (because this was when the whole YouTube/viral thing was just becoming a thing), and I basically died. Like Christmas for the Jews, Dick in a Box is actually a great song, lyrics aside. Lyrics included, still a great song. Speaking of lyrics, don’t mind the Spanish subtitles. Or do, it’s take D in a B to a whole new level.

Santa’s My Boyfriend (2006)

Just like Dick in a Box, I may know all the words (and maybe some harmonies) to this cold open from the SNL queens, including Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. You think at first it’s going to be a cute song about Santa and Christmas, but alas, this is SNL.

The Kissing Family: Holiday Affection (2010)

Like a bad car wreck, the Vogelcheck family is something that you should drive right past and not pay attention to, but you just can’t look away. Paul Rudd is the best at this sketch, because he just goes for it. I mean, anyone who agrees to do this sketch has to go for it, but he just goes.for.it. And so does Hader. Bless. {watch video here}

Jimmy Fallon’s Monologue (2011)

When Jimmy Fallon walked on stage as a host for the Christmas show in 2011, it was the first time he had been in Studio 8H since he left in 2004. I made no plans the night he hosted, and watched this episode ‘live’ west coast time in my bedroom, standing next to my TV 90% of the time because I was just SO EXCITED. And it all started with his monologue, because as soon as he hit his mark, you could tell it was a big moment for him. And just like Jimmy, he just wanted the monologue to be Fun with a capital F. I have a feeling he came up with the idea to just have the entire cast sing and dance with him at the end and if you’re not watching this without a big smile on your face, you’re a big ol’ grinch. By altering the lyrics to Darlene Love’s hit song, this cold open embodied exactly what’s at the heart of the holidays – ‘It’ so good to be home’. {Watch video here}

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Shia LaBeouf: Pulling a Joaquin Phoenix or Amanda Bynes?

Last week, we were reminded that Shia LaBeouf may have lost his damn mind. In case you hadn’t heard, Louis Stevens attended Thursday’s performance of Cabaret on Broadway, but he wasn’t able to see how it ended since he was escorted out of the theater by police, arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Earlier in the day, he was spotted chasing down a homeless man (more on that later), and this was just in a day’s work. This past year, he’s been doing a lot of crazy things, so one must ask – is this real or all for show?

Two cases we can look at are the Joaquin Phoenix complex and the Amanda Bynes complex.

Joaquin Phoenix

In late 2008, Joaquin announced he was retiring from acting in order to focus on his music career, which, okay a lot of actors do. But JP wanted to become a rapper. Like a legit hip-hop star. He started appearing in public with the long hair and scruffy beard, as seen above, and had a series of super odd appearances, including the infamous David Letterman interview in 2009.

In 2010, the film I’m Still Here by actor/director Casey Affleck (and JP’s brother-in-law) debuted at the Venice Film Festival. It wasn’t until after the movie was released that Casey revealed that JP had gone through two years of this performance art as an uber Joaquin Phoenix and it was all for the sake of the movie. That’s right kids, JP hadn’t actually lost his mind.

Amanda Bynes

Amanda’s fall from fame began around 2012, when she was arrested and charged for a DUI. That same year, she was charged for two alleged hit and run incidents, which were later dismissed after reaching a settlement with the victims. Her license was suspended, but was caught and cited for driving on it and had her car impounded.

In 2013, she was arrested for criminal possession of marijuana, attempted tampering with evidence, and reckless endangerment after she threw a bong out the window of her 36th floor apartment in Manhattan (which she insisted was a vase).  That summer in California, Bynes allegedly started a small fire in the driveway of some person’s house and was hospitalized and put under a 3 day mental health evaluation hold. She was later transferred to a “specialized treatment in a private facility” outside of Los Angeles and in December, she was released to her parents, who were granted a temporary conservatorship over her.

She now takes classes at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA (aka the same school Lauren Conrad went to).

Alright, with this information, let’s take a look at a timeline of Shia LaBeouf’s troubles over the past year, and try to determine if he’s more of a Phoenix or Bynes…

February 2013: LaBeouf’s Broadway Beef with Baldwin

Shia was due to star alongside Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge in the play Orphans, making his Broadway debut. However shortly into rehearsals and weeks before previews were to begin, the producers announced that Shia was leaving the show “due to creative differences”, but rumors swirled that Shia had a dramatic bust-up with Alec, thus leading to his firing.

Ben Foster ultimately replaced him, but Shia didn’t go down with a fight. That same day, he posted his audition for the show on his Twitter (the vid has since been taken down). Two days later, he returned with a screenshot of an email from the show’s director, who wrote, “I’m too old for disagreeable situations. You’re one hell of a great actor. Alec is who he is. You are who you are. You two are incompatible. I should have known it.”

In the e-mail between Shia and Alec, Shia seemingly apologizes, Alec accepts, and Shia wishes him good luck on the show.

Shia even posted an e-mail from Tom Sturridge saying what an honor it was to work with him in the brief time they had together. Shia continued talking about theatre/the craft on Twitter:

the theater belongs not to the great but to the brash. acting is not for gentlemen, or bureaucratic-academics. what they do is antiart. actors used to be buried with a stake through the heart. those peoples performances so troubled on-lookers that they feared their ghosts. those actors moved the audience not such that they were admitted to graduate school, or recieved a complimentary review. but such that the audience feared for their soul. now that seems to me something to aim for. invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school.

What’s interesting about this is that Shia’s “apology” is eerily similar to that from an Esquire article from 2009 by Tom Chiarella called “What is a Man”.  Take note of this.

December 2013: Plagiarism Accusations

Shia debuted his first project as a director online with a short film on HowardCantour.com. Except the only problem was that his directing debut was exactly the same as author Daniel Clowes’ 2007 graphic novella called “Justin M. Damiano”. Like same dialogue, visuals – everything was the same.

But Shia, thinking another apology would clear it all up, yet again took to Twitter and said:

Oh yeah, he plagiarized the apology AGAIN – but decided Yahoo! Answers was the way to go this time? Legit copied and pasted some rando talking about plagiarism.

Later in December, it was revealed that comic books Shia wrote in 2012 were ALSO a rip off from text from authors Charles Bukowski and a French writer named Benoit Duteurtre, and his mea culpa on Twitter came in the form of this:

^^ Tiger Woods’ apology for cheating^^

^^ Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara about the execution of the Vietnam War, as written in his memoir. ^^

Not to mention his apologies in the form of Kanye, Shepard Fairey and Mark Zuckerberg.

January 2014: Sky High Apologies

In addition to his Twitter “apology”, Shia made a grander gesture to the graphic novelist by hiring a skywriter over Los Angeles to write “I am sorry Daniel Clowes”

February 2014: I Am Not Famous Anymore

Shia attends the Berlin Film Festival for his new film Nymphomaniac (which is weird enough on its own). During the press conference, a reporter asked him about all the sex scenes in the movie and Shia oddly quoted a famous French soccer player Eric Cantona, and said, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” then just up and left.

Later that night, he returned to promote the film on the red carpet – but wore this accessory that hasn’t exactly become a trend since.

A few days later, back in Los Angeles, Shia opened up his own art exhibit called #IAMSORRY, which again, was extremely similar to artist Marina Abramovic’s famous 2010 installation/documentary “The Artist is Present” at the MoMa in New York, where she sat at a table and visitors could sit across from her and just stare at each other.

In Shia’s version, visitors entered the space and were asked to pick an item off a table, including a “leather whip, a pair of pliers, a vase of daisies, an Optimus Prime Transformer toy, a bowl of Hershey’s kisses, a bowl of folded slips of paper containing tweets about LaBeouf, a large bottle of Jack Daniels, a small bottle of Brut cologne, a pink ukulele, and the graphic novel The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes,” according to Buzzfeed.

In the next room was Shia, sitting at a table, weawring a tux and paper bag over his head just like the one at the Berlin Film Festival. The visitor would then sit across from him and according to most reports, he would just sit there, but some lucky folks were able to get him to take the bag off or get a handshake.

True story: this art exhibit was not that far from my office, and I drove past it but was too scared/didn’t want to wait in line to go in! I’m not good with eye contact anyways.

Photo Feb 14, 9 18 23 PM

June 2014

It had been a while since Shia had caused a stir – mainly because he was off filming a movie with Brad Pitt in Europe, and Mrs. Jolie was probs setting him straight over there. But then we were all reminded last week that Shia Shenans is alive and well.

Before his Cabaret incident, Shia began loading up on margaritas while watching the World Cup at a bar in NYC late Thursday afternoon. By 5pm, he was outside another bar, chatting people up and taking pix/videos with people on the sidewalk.

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Ma nigga ma nigga #ShiaLabeouf

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And then… Shia allegedly chased down a homeless man in Times Square for a bag of McDonald’s… you can view the bizzare video here.

As if that activity wasn’t enough for one day, Shia went to see Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming in Cabaret, which takes place at the Studio 54 theater. Because it’s supposed to feel like a – cabaret – the set up isn’t like a traditional theater, and the actors, including MC Alan Cumming, go through the audience during their performance. According to eyewitnesses, Shia was smoking a joint and slapping Alan on the ass as he walked by. He also apparently was yelling lewd things to the Kit Kat Girls on stage, and during Michelle’s solo, he was dropping bottles and falling out of his chair.

Once the police had him in custody, he was yelling a bunch of “Fuck yous!” and calling them the F word, screaming, “This is fucking bullshit. Do you know my life? Do you know who the fuck I am? Do you know who I am?” Oh lawd.

Shia spent the night in jail and on Friday, he came before a judge and was officially charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and harassment.

♦  ♦  ♦

So, here we are, folks. On a scale of Joaquin Phoenix to Amanda Bynes, just how crazy has Shia become? While we can just make assumptions as mere bystanders, my best guess is that it’s leaning more towards a Joaquin than anything. The fact that he keeps using plagiarized apologies, that he seemed completely normal to fans on the street last week – it all seems more calculated than mere insanity. But who knows, he fooled me when he played a mentally challenged kid in the classic DCOM Tru Confessions. What do I know? Actually – here’s what I do know. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a secret documentary or he clearly needs professional help:

Get it together, Holes.