8 of the Most ‘80s ‘SNL’ Sketches of the ‘80s

8 of the Most ‘80s ‘SNL’ Sketches of the ‘80s

Whether its sketches are classic, cringey or somewhere in-between, Saturday Night Live often serves as a time capsule, preserving cultural events in comedy amber for years to come. The 1980s were no exception — SNL has a vault full of comedy bits that could have only been written and performed in that Day-Glo-colored decade. Here are eight SNL sketches that will take you right back to the days of Iran/Contra, Princess Diana and Wham!…

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Rappin’ Jimmy B

1980s icon Jesse Jackson nails it here: There was nothing more annoying than Belushi’s recurring character, Rappin’ Jimmy B. “One thing that blows my mind off the track,” rhymed Jackson, “is a white suburban kid trying to act Black.” That one sentence probably earned Jackson some presidential votes in 1984. 

The Stand-Ups

An explosion of comedy clubs in the 1980s coincided with a new stand-up archetype: the “What’s The Deal With …?” Observational Guy. Initially a fresh alternative to comics in checkered sports coats telling mother-in-law jokes, Observational Guy quickly became its own kind of easily imitated, hacky shtick. 

Church Chat with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker

Televangelism dominated in the 1980s, and no one was bigger than the histrionic Jim and Tammy Faye. And every seventh-grade comedian in 1987 did a middle-school version of Carvey’s Church Lady, guaranteed to slay ‘em at the Friday night mixer.

Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder Duet

While Sinatra was hardly in his prime in the 1980s, he still held a weird stranglehold over popular culture (and Joe Piscopo). Young Eddie Murphy was killing with his Stevie Wonder impression, so it made sense for the two of them to parody a treacly ode to racial harmony that could have only existed in the 1980s — Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson’s execrable “Ebony and Ivory.”

1981 Oscar Predictions

When Bill Murray returned to host, he inadvertently used his Oscar picks segment to remind us the 1970s were truly over. By honoring old castmates like Laraine Newman, Jane Curtin and Garret Morris for their performances in mostly failed comedy projects (or in Morris’ case, no projects at all), he let America know that the SNL glory days were officially in the past.  

I Am Not A Bimbo

The term “bimbo” became ubiquitous in the 1980s, mostly due to religious/political sex scandals involving women like Fawn Hall and Jessica Hahn. Weekend Update anchor Dennis Miller and his only-in-the-1980s-hair rightly took Victoria Jackson to task for protesting the term since she based her entire comic persona on it. Jan Hooks had no patience for Jackson's bimbo business: “I just have a particular repulsion to grown women who talk like little girls.”

White Like Me

It said something about Eddie Murphy’s power in the 1980s that he could get away with a truth-to-power sketch like “White Like Me.” Before “white privilege” was a cultural concept, Murphy shined a light on a harsh reality.

President Reagan, Mastermind

Everybody did a Ronald Reagan impression in the 1980s, even comics with virtually no impersonation skills like Johnny Carson. You just slicked your hair back, bobbed your head and said, “Well…” a lot. Leave it to Phil Hartman to find more layers, beginning his impression the way that everyone else did, then revealing the evil mastermind lurking beneath the doddering facade. No one nailed Reagan better.

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