Throughout voting, one particular sketch received the most nominations for "worst Saturday Night Live sketch of all time", and by a significant margin. While these polls are subjective with a high representation of those who know their history, I think it's safe to say that we've found the absolute worst thing the show's put on the air.
The worst Saturday Night Live Sketch of all time is "Commie Hunting Season".
Most bad sketches on Saturday Night Live are just unfunny or boring. This sketch is cringe-inducing at best and chilling at worst; easily the worst three minutes in the show's 39-year history.
"Commie Hunting Season" (also known as "Open Season On Commies" in William G. Clotworthy's book) was written in 1980 as a response to the November 17 acquittal of six people for their roles in the Greensboro Massacre, where five protest marchers were killed by supporters of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party. The Klansmen are mentioned in passing in the sketch, though instead of pointed satire, this sketch is an exercise in nastiness and shock value, most evident in an exchange between Joe Piscopo and Charles Rocket's characters:
Jim Bob (Joe Piscopo): Are they easy to spot, Uncle Lester?
Lester (Charles Rocket): Well, sometimes they is and sometimes they ain't. If they's demonstratin' like Commies tend to do, it's like shootin' fish in a barrel!
Jim Bob: Well, what if they ain't demonstratin'?
Lester: Well, Hell, Jim Bob, alls you got to do is just shoot yourself a Jew or [n-word]. Chances are better than even you'd be shootin' a Commie anywho.
What follows is a very uncomfortable five seconds of silence, which feel longer. Whether it was because host Malcolm McDowell (playing the governor) missed his cue or, god forbid, they expected that line to get a laugh, in those five seconds one can feel whatever goodwill there was towards this new (at the time) incarnation of the show evaporate.
The sketch doesn't end there, nor are its faults limited to aforementioned dialogue. Rocket, Piscopo, McDowell and Gilbert Gottfried seem to be all acting in different scenes, as one voter explains: "There are at least three styles of acting going on here: farce (Piscopo), attempted gritty realism (Rocket), and not giving a shit (McDowell)." The punchline to the sketch, with Jim Bob accidentally shooting the governor, features a far-too-realistic gunshot. The whole thing is poorly lit and staged, with many of the players obscured by shadow, making this sketch unpleasant to even look at.
This sketch is bad enough without the knowledge of what it's supposed to satirize. Knowing the background of the sketch makes it that much worse.
You can watch Commie Hunting Season on Yahoo Screen and see for yourself.