The Most Famous Monsters in ‘Saturday Night Live’ History, Ranked by Just How Monstrous They Really Are
A knock at the door pierces the quiet of a New York City apartment. The woman, who is home alone, gets up from the couch and asks who is there. At first, the unthreatening voice claims it’s the plumber, but when the woman says she didn’t call for a plumber, the voice insists it’s delivering a telegram instead. As unconvincing as the ruse is, it works, and the woman opens the door, revealing a hideous monster known as the “Landshark” who quickly devours her.
Initially debuting on the fourth ever episode of Saturday Night Live, the Landshark would appear several more times throughout the show’s first three seasons, claiming many more victims along the way. Not only was the door-to-door aquatic predator among the show’s most popular early recurring bits, it was also arguably SNL’s first monster character, kicking off a tradition that continues today with sketches like Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway/Pennywise hybrid and the killer animatronic Merryville Brothers.
But which SNL monster is the most monstrous of them all? Let’s venture into Lorne Michaels’ house of horrors and count them down…
10) David S. Pumpkins, Played by Tom Hanks
Is David S. Pumpkins a monster? Well, Kenan Thompson’s elevator operator in this famous sketch insists that “the scariest thing, to the mind, is the unknown,” and David S. Pumpkins is certainly one of the most baffling SNL creations. Whether he’s a genuine monster is up for debate, but a Halloween-oriented list of SNL would hardly feel complete without him.
9) Monster Pals, Played by James Franco and Mike O’Brien
The Monster Pals are a couple of beer-drinking creatures who communicate in a series of growls. But although their appearance is genuinely frightening by SNL standards, they’re mostly portrayed as the victims of intense bullying from Seth Rogen. Indeed, the scariest thing about them is that one of them is played by noted sex pest James Franco.
8) Frankenstein, Played by Phil Hartman and Bill Hader
Such was the genius of the late Phil Hartman that he only needed two words to make a memorable character: “Fire, bad!,” which, as Frankenstein, he always uttered before destroying something and charging off the set. Bill Hader also had a pretty memorable take on the monster years later, but it’s Hartman’s grunting goon who belongs in the Sketch Comedy Hall of Fame — even if his monster was more scared than scary.
7) The Devil, Played by Jon Lovitz and Jason Sudeikis
Jon Lovitz and Jason Sudeikis had two very different approaches to the Prince of Darkness. Lovitz’s version was eloquent and smarmy and could be found in places like The People’s Court arguing over the soul of an idiotic hairdresser. Meanwhile, Sudeikis’ devil was a folksy, excitable “Weekend Update” correspondent. I’ll leave it to biblical scholars to decide which is the more faithful take, but both were only mildly threatening.
6) The Landshark, Played by Chevy Chase
Admittedly, the big foam suit of the Landshark was far from frightening. But its body count did hit about a dozen, so its reign of terror shouldn’t be dismissed either.
5) The Merryville Brothers, Played by Taran Killam, Bill Hader, Bruno Mars, Tom Hanks, Justin Timberlake and Jim Carrey
The Merryville Brothers were a set of malfunctioning animatronics on various amusement park rides that would menace park goers. Premiering in 2011, the Merryville Brothers tapped into the uneasiness we’ve all felt around Chuck E. Cheese-type animatronics years before Five Nights at Freddy’s exploited that anxiety on the big screen.
4) The Grouch, Played by David Harbour
A parody of The Joker, The Grouch is a sketch starring David Harbour as a gritty take on Oscar the Grouch. What makes him so high on the list is that Harbour plays the sketch entirely straight, making it both hilarious and unnerving.
3) Toonces the Driving Cat, Played by a Puppet
At first glance, Toonces was an adorable tabby who inexplicably had the ability to drive. But it quickly became apparent that Toonces wasn’t great at driving, and he generally ended up flying over the nearest cliff, killing his passengers in the process. Over the course of 16 sketches, Toonces claimed dozens of lives, quite possibly making him the deadliest monster in the annals of SNL history.
2) Kellywise, Played by Kate McKinnon
Just as SNL’s take on Kellyanne Conway was getting tiresome, the show flipped the script on the character and merged her with Pennywise. The sketch begins with Anderson Cooper (Alex Moffat) walking down a rainy street when he loses the lineup for the next night’s show. The paper floats down into a sewer drain where Kate McKinnon’s Conway is residing. She now calls herself “Kellywise,” and she tries to convince Anderson to put her on his show. Not only is McKinnon genuinely spine-chilling, but the SNL special effects department pulled out all the stops, making the razor-toothed Kellywise far more Pennywise than Kellyanne.
1) Chevy Chase, Played by His Loathsome Self
Could any other monster really have topped the list? Chase was insufferable during his exceptionally short tenure on SNL when he decided he’d become too big for the show and left during its second season. He then spent the next five decades being awful to everyone else he met. There’s no other way to put it: Not even Kellywise would want anything to do with him.