Saturday Night Live is one of the longest running series on network television. It has become an institution in its own right and has been a breeding ground for some of the best comedic talent in the last 40 years. As masters of sketch comedy, the show has developed some absolutely hilarious original characters as well as parodies of real people. Lorne Michaels, the Executive Producer and overall Godfather of SNL has become something of a career starter for many talented people and a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood now. With movies that have been made based upon multiple SNL sketches, the show is an absolute powerhouse of comedy.
The show is so insanely popular (this season has seen a huge spike in popularity) that even the President of the United States can’t help but Tweet out when he has feelings about how he is portrayed. The more he angrily Tweets, the more popular the show gets as viewers tune in to see what they’ll say about the political events of the week. Despite some of the political humor, the show has had some great writing and great sketches with many recurring characters. But in all these years with multiple characters, it’s easy to forget about some absolute gems! For that reason, here are 15 of the best characters that may have fallen through the cracks of your mind!
15. Herb Welch
As one of the many amazing characters played by cast member Bill Hader, Herb is one of his more hilarious ones. So much of what Hader did on the show was brilliant, but took a backseat to Stefon, his hip and quite flamboyant contributor on Weekend Update. But Herb Welch was one of those characters that had audiences rolling. Herb is a television news man way past his prime! He is cranky, forgetful and a little bit prejudiced also. Appearing in a number of sketches as a reporter for WXPD News, Herb is known to cover big stories in a very bare bones kind of way, trying to hand it back to the anchor far too soon. He gets impatient and irritable and will even hit the camera with his microphone.
14. Opera Man
Played by Adam Sandler as a contributor on Weekend Update, Opera Man was one of the more beloved “Update” contributors during the early to mid 1990s. He was always dressed in a tuxedo, including a cape. Sandler would sing his news contributions in an operatic voice with the signature louds, softs and style changes you might hear at the opera. He would make English words sound Italian by adding “-o” to the end of many words. Opera Man’s token ending was to sing very grandly, “Opera Man! Bye, Bye!!” The gag was always hilarious and the jokes within the song were even funnier because you had to pay closer attention to get them from the song itself. Opera Man was a hit at the time and is still hilarious today.
13. The Continental
First appearing in 1990, the sketch “The Continental” became a recurring part of the show anytime Christopher Walken stopped by for a visit. It featured Walken, who despite his best efforts to appear as a suave and attractive ladies man, is actually quite the opposite. The sketch makes him out to be something of a sexual deviant, but does so in a very hilarious way. Each time, it uses the camera as if from the point of view of a woman that Walken is wooing. This perspective makes the whole gag even funnier! The whole sketch was designed as a parody of an actual 1950s CBS show of the same name. Today, “The Continental” is not as often thought of when considering amazing SNL characters, but it is one of the best characters by a guest host in the whole series.
12. Jebidiah Atkinson
Taran Killam is one funny guy and one of his best characters on the show is the time travelling contributor to Weekend Update, Jebidiah Atkinson. The character hails from the 19th century where he is said to be a newspaper reporter and seems to have quite a bad temper. In fact, in each instance where Atkinson is seen, he seems to be a bit grumpier. Another trait of Atkinson is his growing agitation as he reads his note cards. The funniest part of the whole character is when he’s finished ranting about whatever is allegedly on the note card, he screams “NEXT!” The Atkinson character also mixes it up by interacting with the audience angrily as well. He is somewhat more polite to the Weekend Update anchors, but to call it polite is kind of a stretch.
11. Mr. Bill
Mr. Bill is a prime example of how something really funny can kind of spiral into a whole new thing. As a series of short films created by Walter Williams, Mr. Bill became one of the more popular parts of the earliest years of SNL. As claymation, Mr. Bill was a bit like Gumby, but even less sophisticated. It was the simplicity of the shorts mixed with the ridiculous storylines that made Mr. Bill so hilarious. In each episode, poor Mr. Bill would get himself into some kind of problem. Things would always go from bad to worse and Mr. Bill would always find his little clay body torn to pieces. His signature tagline when things started falling to pieces was always “Oh No!” After SNL, Mr. Bill found continued popularity for a number of years and was even featured in some commercials.
Mango is perhaps best known for the line “You can’t-a have-a de Mango!” The character, played by Chris Kattan, appeared on the show a whopping 16 times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Mango is a male exotic dancer that wears an extremely flamboyant attire. What makes him so hilarious is that he is absolutely irresistible to anyone and everyone regardless of gender or sexual preference. Many guest stars fell victim to the ridiculous charms of Mango helping the gag to continue on many times. Once they had fallen hopelessly for Mango, he would deny them with his signature phrase! Mango is clearly not an American and has somewhat broken english. He also feels bad about his irresistible powers sadly saying at the end of the sketch “Oh, to be Mango!”
9. Linda Richman
Mike Myers produced some of the best characters SNL has ever seen! One of the favorites from the 1990s was the character Linda Richman, who was the middle aged female host of Coffee Talk, a presumably low ratings daytime talk show. The gag is that Linda is a stereotypical Jewish lady that has her friends who are also stereotypical Jewish ladies on the show. They talk at length about Barbra Streisand as if she were a god. In one episode, the real Barbra Streisand actually popped-in for a quick cameo (rumor is that it was not planned ahead of time). The greatest part about the character is that Mike Myers actually based the character off of his mother-in-law, who’s name is “Linda Richman.” What a great tribute by a phenomenal actor!
8. Leon Phelps, The Ladies Man
Some of the best SNL sketches have been made into movies. The Ladies Man is one such sketch. Played by long time cast member Tim Meadows (the length of his tenure on the cast became something of a joke in itself on the show,) Leon Phelps is the host of a presumably late night talk show called “The Ladies Man.” This character is probably Meadows’ best known and was even made into its own full length movie. In the sketch, Phelps is an over-the-top, suave player of sorts. He is kind of stuck in the 1970s and has an insane amount of confidence in his ability to attract women. Callers would call the show asking for relationship advice, which he was glad to provide. The advice was always wildly inappropriate and never helpful. When he reached the end of his bottle of Courvoisier, that marked the end of the episode.
7. Goat Boy
Goat Boy was a character played by cast member Jim Breuer in the mid-1990s. The most hilarious part about Goat Boy is how far-fetched the character is and how absolutely invested Breuer was in his delivery. The idea is that Goat Boy is a human/goat hybrid mix that became an MTV host. Goat Boy’s MTV show was titled “Hey, Remember the 80s?” He would always have guests from that decade, but would always switch instantly from human behavior to goat behavior, where he would kick, bray and act in complete goat mannerisms. In just about every episode, he would have to be led off with electric prods. The gag would likely not have been nearly as effective if played by anyone but Jim Breuer, who pulled it off masterfully.
6. The Luvahs
Specifically named Virginia and Roger Clarvin, these characters are played by Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch. They are two middle-aged people that have a seemingly endless sexual appetite for one another. They are seemingly very liberal college professors that have no trouble discussing their intimate relations. In the multiple sketches involving the two, they are always with another couple that seems to be much less willing to share as they are (with the exception of Christopher Walken). They both have very sophisticated accents and language patterns that are hilariously interrupted only at the end of the sketch when Roger has seemingly done something to his back, when he immediately becomes very demanding and sounding much less sophisticated. The sketch was always a big hit because of the amazing chemistry Ferrell and Dratch had in portraying the characters.
Dieter was another of Mike Myers’ genius creations. As the character Dieter, he was a German television talk show host of the show “Sprockets.” It was designed to focus on stereotypical German attitudes of seriousness and order. Dieter would always interview celebrities and show very little interest in them or their projects. Dieter wore all black, with slicked back hair. One of the trademarks of the sketch was always the end when he would announce: “Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!” This was done with more enthusiasm than he had shown before and a group of similarly dressed crew members would dance to the techno theme song of the show. While it was obviously odd, the character was a hit because of the amazing talents of Mike Myers.
4. Stuart Smalley
The only SNL character on this list that was portrayed by a United States Senator, Stuart Smalley was characterized by SNL cast member Al Franken. True, Al Franken has gone on to do some big things in the political world as a United States Senator from Minnesota, but in the world of comedy, he’ll always be the hilarious self-help guru Stuart Smalley. The character was a very effeminate man that was always referencing the various support groups (many fictional) with which he belonged. Smalley had many goofy expressions and the character took a humorous approach to self-help. A movie was even made about the character, but was a box office bomb. At the end of each sketch, Stuart would look in the mirror and say the words that became somewhat iconic: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me!”
3. Toonces the Driving Cat
The Toonces sketches are a little gem that may have also slipped your mind. Debuting in 1989 and running through 1992, Toonces the Driving Cat was a series of sketches with the same ridiculous premise… a driving cat. The gag shows the cat behind the wheel of the car, but he really is a terrible driver. In each sketch, Toonces drives the car over a cliff. Dana Carvey and Victoria Jackson nearly always played the married couple who owned Toonces. At the end of each sketch, they would yell the signature phrase “Toonces, look out” and the car would go off the cliff showing everyone including the cat screaming. A ridiculous concept yes, but the idea took off and was a pretty big hit. There were a total of 15 Toonces the Driving Cat sketches in all, making it a long running series for the character.
2. Barry and Robin Gibb
When the duo of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake team up for the sketch “The Barry Gibb Talk Show” it becomes absolute comedy gold! It showcases the Gibb brothers in their disco era garb hosting a talk show where they start and end the show with a variation on the song “Nights on Broadway.” It always shows Barry speaking in a broken accent with occasional bursts into his high octave range that he uses when singing. He also gets incredibly angry with his guests in random and unpredictable fits during the interviews. Timberlake provides deadpan comments and harmonizes with Fallon when they spontaneously burst into song. The duo make for some hilarious moments that were even better when Barry Gibb himself even came out at the end of one sketch to help sing the theme song!
1. The “Ville” Characters
Speaking of Justin Timberlake… the “ville” characters are some of the funniest sketches you can count on whenever he stops by the show. It features Timberlake dressed as a mascot for some type of storefront. He goes out on the street next to another mascot from a competing store. They then go back and forth in a typical sing/dance-off fashion. Timberlake always upstages the other mascot though, because well, he’s Justin Timberlake! At the end of Timberlake’s song, he always ties in the name of the business he’s representing by singing with hands outstretched “Bring it on in to ___ ville!” So far, there’s been Omeletteville, Homelessville, Plasticville, Liquorville, Veganville and Wrappingville (with Jimmy Fallon.) Who knows what “ville” he’ll represent the next time he stops by the show.
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