Saturday Night Live: 15 Monologues That Are Actually Funny
Saturday Night Live has a monologue problem. In their defense, it can be hard to write a five minute stand-up segment for athletes, actors, and politicians without a funny bone in their body, but still. The overflowing repetition of unoriginal musical numbers, cameos and cast member interruptions leaves many of the monologues feeling stale and not worth revisiting. Here are 15 monologues that actually showcase the hosts talents, and give the stage to someone who knows how to handle it.
Steve Martin’s 1979 monologue is absolutely one of the best the show has ever seen and his appearances on the show catapulted his career into the stratosphere, for good reason.
Shortly after her success in her role on Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy hosted one of the funniest episodes of SNL, period. McCarthy opened the show with a song and dance number with friend Kristen Wiig, the only catch is, they promise they’re about to dance, but they never really seem to get there.
For many, Zach Galifinakis’s opening monologues on SNL were an introduction to his standup after being introduced to him through The Hangover. Galifinakis pulls out all the stops on his second hosting spot with one-liners, a sketch pad, and an Annie costume.
The best monologues are usually given by accomplished stand-up comedians, for obvious reasons. Few are better examples than the incomparable monologue from John Mulaney on his first hosting gig for the show in 2018 before any of us knew he would be the best recurring host in years.
Chris Rock’s 1996 return to SNL featured one of the funniest monologues to date. Airing during an election year, Rock covers politics, sexual harassment, and the difference between white malls and black malls. “There ain’t nothin’ in the black mall but sneakers and baby clothes.”
Billy Crystal’s electric comedy style is showcased nowhere better than his 1984 stand-up monologue on SNL. Crystal talks about his time as the class comedian in school and his journey with puberty.
The apex of Marty Short’s unstoppable on-stage likeability. Short ends the monologue with an impressive song showcasing a list of SNL hosts with the speed and agility of a cheetah on Adderall. Watch it here.
Robin William’s 1988 host monologue was like any other Williams performance, in that its like being slapped with 1,000 jokes per minute. Williams doesn’t allow you to catch your breath in this monologue about life during the AIDS crisis.
Lily Tomlin’s 1983 monologue takes us back to a time when openings were gimmick free, no musicals, no flashbacks, no cameos, just comedian and audience. Tomlin, quite literally, gives a poetic tribute to all of her worries, ending with a full beat poem that she almost had all the way memorized. “I’m worried about what’s happening to the American dream. I’m worried that it's being made in Japan cheaper and more efficiently.”
Steve Carell’s 2008 host spot is like getting a full dose of Michael Scott all over again. Carell starts to lose his cool when the six Redbulls, sour patch kids, and circus peanuts all hit his bloodstream at the same time. “It feels like all of my organs are fighting one another right now.”
Will Ferrell’s 2019 monologue seems like it could have been amazing if the poor guy wasn’t so distracted by Ryan Reynolds in the audience. Ferrell gets so nervous his whole pre-planned monologue goes out the window.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bill Burr hosted SNL and gave us all a delightfully blunt and harsh monologue about cancel culture and mask-wearing, in the way only Bill Burr can do.
Larry David gives an opening monologue sopping wet with Larry David-isms. David talks about his transition from a schmuck to a prick and explains how excited he is to not be hosting the show once it’s over.
Norm Macdonald returned to the SNL stage just a year and a half later from being fired from the cast. Macdonald approaches the monologue with a mission; To point out the hypocrisy of firing someone for not being funny, then asking them to host.
“Then it occurred to me; I haven’t gotten funnier. The show has gotten really bad!”
Nothing puts everyone in the holiday spirit like watching Paul Simon sing “Still Crazy After All These Years” in a giant turkey costume in 1976. “You know, when the Turkey concept was first brought up I said there was a very good chance I’m gonna end up looking stupid.”
For exclusive ComedyNerd content and more, subscribe to our spiffy newsletter:
Top Image: Broadway Video