The Best ‘SNL’ Short Films Not Made By Lonely Island or Please Don’t Destroy

They’re not live from New York, but they’re still hilarious
The Best ‘SNL’ Short Films Not Made By Lonely Island or Please Don’t Destroy

Saturday Night Live changed for good once Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island crew arrived on the scene. Suddenly the show wasn’t quite as live, with the group’s Digital Shorts showing up every week and kicking ass on social media. These days, Please Don’t Destroy has picked up the torch, creating pre-filmed bits that are among the show’s most popular. But just because these guys normalized not-live on SNL doesn’t mean they started it all. Here are five more short films that became instant classics in the days before YouTube was invented…

Don’t Look Back in Anger

It’s impossible not to shudder watching this Tom Schiller film featuring an elderly John Belushi dancing on the graves of his cleaner-living castmates. “They all thought I’d be the first to go,” rasps ancient Belushi. “I was one of those live-fast, die-young, real-good-looking-corpse types, you know. But I guess they were wrong.” Unfortunately, “they” had it right all along.

Change Bank

Bob Odenkirk knew SNL could be uneven (to say the least), “but greatness was to be had, and I noticed when it was,” he wrote in his memoir Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama. Greatness, in Odenkirk’s mind, was Jim Downey’s “First CityWide Change Bank” commercial parodies. “Those simple pieces made me rethink where to look for comedy material. Jim had made comedy from the sober, serious tone of these bank commercials. Later, ‘Rich Guys Negative Ads,’ at Mr. Show, and ‘Manson,’ at The Ben Stiller Show, are two pieces that I owe to this lesson learned.”

Open Heart Surgery

Albert Brooks was SNL’s original filmmaker in residence until he pissed off Lorne Michaels by turning in a film that was 13 minutes long — or about three times as long as the two men had agreed upon. You can watch the funny, albeit long, bit about Brooks performing open-heart surgery on Peacock, a film that only aired because host Rob Reiner (a childhood friend of Brooks) insisted on it. After nine shows, Michaels and Brooks agreed to part ways, which was a very good thing for Brooks’ feature film career.

Mr. Bill

During its first season, SNL asked viewers to send in home movies, and the most popular entry by far was Mr. Bill, an 8-millimeter film that was assembled in one night for less than 20 bucks. The easily misshapen Mr. Bill returned in Season Two, came back twice in Season Three and then got a contract for regular appearances in Seasons Four and Five. The bit was hilarious at first but delivered diminishing returns due to repeating the same basic plot over and over — Mr. Bill being destroyed by Play-Doh enemy Sluggo and the malevolent Mr. Hands. 

Synchronized Swimming


Harry Shearer gets indignant about all kinds of things, including substandard Olympic events like synchronized swimming. “I was just fulminating about the outrage of these people, you know, getting the same medals as real athletes,” Shearer says in SNL oral history Live From New York. “And Chris (Guest) and Marty (Short) and I were, I guess, in my office, and I don’t know whose idea it was to do the sketch, but we just started writing it. Dick (Ebersol) said, ‘You know, by the time we go on the air in mid-September, nobody will remember the Olympics,’ and I said, ‘We’ll make ‘em remember.’”

Looks like they did. On the show’s 40th anniversary, Entertainment Weekly readers voted it one of the 10 best sketches in the show’s history.


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