The Best ‘Saturday Night Live’ Promos
Back during the first three decades of Saturday Night Live, promos for upcoming shows were more or less by-the-seat-of-their-pants afterthoughts. Sure, the show would film a brief “don’t forget to watch!” message with the host, but they were 10-second affairs, brief straight-to-camera host bits that barely qualified as comedy.
But since the 2000s, the show has taken a different tack — and you can credit the interwebz for the extra content. NBC affiliates would rather sell airtime to local car dealers than run extended spots for Saturday night’s show. Thankfully, YouTube has no such time-slot scarcity. Here then are some of the best promos the show has produced in the 2000s and beyond (with one classic exception)…
Will Ferrell (2018)
When Ferrell returned for another hosting gig, superfan Leslie Jones got in touch with her inner cowbell. Her Harry Caray is pretty good, actually.
Zach Galifianakis (2013)
SNL went to town on this series of promos featuring Galifianakis and best guy pal Jason Sudeikis. (Thanks, Greek Name Spell-Check.) The show didn’t spend a ton on production, but they did let the guys just straight-up riff. It feels like an episode of Between Two Ferns, albeit with a kinder, gentler Galifianakis.
Justin Bieber (2013)
In the category of best unintentional humor, it’s hard to beat Bieber sleepwalking through these promos with Sudeikis. The kid was going through a phase when “pronouncing the ends of words” was uncool. Has there ever been a more serious case of effort imbalance?
Aubrey Plaza (2023)
If Mulholland Drive was an SNL promo, it would be this doozy with Plaza and Chloe Fineman. It’s erotic horror in three acts, with Fineman showing off her celeb impersonation skills, followed by Plaza’s unhinged versions of the same, climaxing with Plaza and Fineman giving into their forbidden love. Shout-out to the janitor who watched it all go down.
Forest Whitaker (2006)
Still stuck in 10-second land, SNL trotted out Bronx Beat hosts Betty and Jodi for a couple of quick-hitting promos with future Oscar winner Whitaker. Smart move — we already love the characters, so wind them up and let ‘em get stupid.
Kristen Wiig (2013)
Consider this the Garth and Kat of SNL promos — depending on how you feel about Wiig and Fred Armisen improvising nonsense, these bits are either brilliant or meandering. We’ll err on the side of brilliant for at least the first one, with Armisen making up new Wiig recurring characters such as Jump-Roping Rhonda and Annabelle Johnson the Mean Veterinarian. Wiig returns the favor, forcing Armisen to become Eugene the Stupid Soldier. Hey, SNL has done worse.
Jenna Ortega (2023)
Please Don’t Destroy understood two important things about Ortega’s viral Wednesday dance: 1) It was the hottest thing on social media; and 2) the only way to do a Wednesday dance sketch was to comment on what a tired trope it had already become. The promo turned out to be the perfect vehicle — one minute of this was hilarious; four minutes would have been an eye-rolling facepalm. “Wednesday Addams? More like Thursday Jones” indeed.
Charles Barkley (1993)
Just going to let this one speak for itself.