Each week, I will be posting a list of 25 sketches from each 5 year block of the show's history (five sketches per season), a description of the sketch, and what about it that's worth checking out.
Womanhood (Susan Lucci / Hothouse Flowers, 10/06/1990)
What it's about: 12-year old Missy (Victoria Jackson) gets her first period, which her mother (Susan Lucci) is more than happy to share with the world.
Why it's worth checking out: The passive-aggressive cruelty of Lucci's character makes this a subtly nasty sketch. Victoria Jackson is also put to good use selling her character's mortification; you can see a lifetime of future psychological complexes flashing before her eyes in her reaction to being told she isn't going to be any happier than she is right now.
Attack of the Colossal Killer Lincoln (George Steinbrenner / The Time, 10/20/1990)
What it's about: A budget impasse awakens the statue at the Lincoln Memorial (Phil Hartman), who destroys Washington D.C. kaiju-style.
Why it's worth checking out: A fun way to deal with the month's big political story, with Phil Hartman channeling his Frankenstein character in his depiction of the evil statue (particularly his growls and whimper), and George Steinbrenner's stiff delivery somehow making lines about beards shooting missiles and Lincoln only caring about biting the heads off people even funnier.
Mouse Trap Seminar (Patrick Swayze / Mariah Carey, 10/27/1990)
What it's about: Stupid people who don't understand why you shouldn't take cheese from a mousetrap attend a night school class on how the rodent-control devices work.
Why it's worth checking out: Idiots being unable to grasp a simple concept has been a rich premise for SNL to mine over the years, and this is probably the finest example, particularly when the instructor (Kevin Nealon) has to tell the student (Dana Carvey) trying to grab at a projected image that it was just "movie cheese".
First Impressions (Sting, 01/19/1991)
What it's about: Jeff (Sting) and Wendy (Victoria Jackson) flash back to meeting his parents (Phil Hartman and Julia Sweeney); dummies replace the actors in the present-day scenes when they can't make the switch.
Why it's worth checking out: A strange scene that was cut out of the repeat version of the show; the flashbacks with Jackson trying to juggle Ming vases and wearing a plate full of mashed potatoes as a hat are random enough, but the sight of Jackson and Sting's lines being recited by creepy-looking puppets is one of the most bizarre things the show has ever presented.
In Conclusion Theatre (Catherine O'Hara / R.E.M., 04/13/1991)
What it's about: The last scene of a very strange play, "Inherit the Pride of the Wind".
Why it's worth checking out: This Jack Handey piece (featuring a cameo by one-time regular Randy Quaid) pulls together some very random lessons about running away to Borneo, popping out your eyeball, and acting high and mighy, and leaves more questions than it answers: What exactly did Todd (Kevin Nealon) set out to become?
Club Banana (Christian Slater / Bonnie Raitt, 10/26/1991)
What it's about: All the men at a nightclub non-consensually engage a woman (voice of Julia Sweeney) in dancing.
Why it's worth checking out: An interesting use of a first-person perspective, similar to Christopher Walken's Continental sketches, but with the male cast aggressively accosting the main character with their dance moves to Deee-Lite's "Groove Is In The Heart", to the point where Adam Sandler (in drag) and Al Franken hide in wait in the ladies' room. Whatever you read into this sketch regarding predatory male behavior, it's one of those sketches where part of the interesting aspect comes from seeing how the different cast members are integrated into the main premise.
Turrell Daily Star (Hammer, 12/07/1991)
What it's about: On December 7, 1941, smaller stories are prioritized over the Pearl Harbor attack in a small-town newspaper, much to a reporter's (Phil Hartman) frustration.
Why it's worth checking out: Anyone who has lived in a small town news market more concerned with inconsequential but more locally relevant content (I used to live in a city with four-page spreads of women having tea in the local paper, and the nearest daily having front page articles about how the mall is a great place to shop) will appreciate this one, but what really makes this is a great high-strung performance from Hartman.
Lenin's Body (Rob Morrow / Nirvana, 01/11/1992)
What it's about: Doug (Rob Morrow) thinks the body of Vladimir Lenin (Mike Myers) is his ticket to making money.
Why it's worth checking out: Great premise aside, this has some funny physical work from Myers pretending to be dead, and some good jokes coming from Lenin not being a great draw at the grocery store (customers were upset that it wasn't John Lennon, he smells bad) and Doug's success at letting the movie studios use him for stunts (and taping his arm back on if necessary).
Boss and Janitor (Susan Dey / C+C Music Factory, 02/08/1992)
What it's about: A janitor (Mike Myers) and an executive (Dana Carvey) muse on the peculiarities of fate as they keep switching occupations.
Why it's worth checking out: A week before Wayne's World opened in theatres, Myers and Carvey starred in this overlooked sketch where even you know what's going to happen, part of the fun is seeing what explanation is contrived for each role-reversal.
Monster Spray (Mary Stuart Masterson / En Vogue, 03/21/1992)
What it's about: The makers of Monster Spray exploit childhood fears into a moneymaking venture.
Why it's worth checking out: One of the many great examples of Phil Hartman as pitchman, selling a high-priced product claiming to be the only one to guarantee children protection from imaginary creatures that lurk in the dark. The "without Monster Spray" dramatization makes this sketch, though.
Sunday Morning Videos (Tim Robbins / Sinead O'Connor, 10/03/1992)
What it's about: Pastor Owen Venable (Tim Robbins) has some thoughts for young people in search of "great sex".
Why it's worth checking out: Robbins goes all-in playing the big-haired preacher who recommends seeking out gymnasts and ballet dancers, but punches the show's host (Rob Schneider) for suggesting the best sex is "with the Lord". A tight sketch with good escalation that doesn't belabor the point.
After the Party (Catherine O'Hara, 10,000 Maniacs, 10/31/1992)
What it's about: A woman (Catherine O'Hara) in a Marilyn Monroe costume wakes up with a hangover next to a stranger in a JFK mask (Kevin Nealon).
Why it's worth checking out: This is one of those realistic sketches that had become much rarer on the show by this point, and while there are a few jokes here and there (Nealon being relieved to still have his spleen and mistaking O'Hara for Madonna), this really captures a regretful morning-after well. According to this article, O'Hara actually wrote this sketch, and the ending of her character sliding down the door and sobbing (which is trimmed out of the rerun) was a result of Dave Wilson not knowing the sketch had ended.
An Insane Idiot and his Collection of Descending-Size Deer Heads (Harvey Keitel / Madonna, 01/16/1993)
What it's about: A man (Harvey Keitel) shows off his deer trophies from largest to smallest.
Why it's worth checking out: Another Jack Handey sketch, with one performer, a simple idea (Keitel's collection growing more questionably considered deer as the head size shrinks) and a memorable punchline (the title of the sketch).
The Rain People (Miranda Richardson / Soul Asylum, 03/20/1993)
What it's about: Self-absorbed actor Ryan Fletcher (Phil Hartman) repeatedly screws up his co-star's (Miranda Richardson) attempts to complete a draining emotional scene.
Why it's worth checking out: This is a long sketch, but it has what has to be one of Phil Hartman's most fully-realized characters, and it's a testament to his performing ability that he could get so much mileage from the line "fobody's nault". By the time he blithely steals his co-star's traumatic memory while giving his Oscar acceptance speech, it only seems natural that he did.
Tales of Irony (Jason Alexander / Peter Gabriel, 04/10/1993)
What it's about: The three vignettes in an anthology series fail to contain any ironic content whatsoever.
Why it's worth checking out: Jason Alexander's slow burn as the host, who comically over-stresses the word "irony" in his introductions (I love his awkward descriptions of what irony actually does), only to be caught nonplussed after each segment ends.
The Relapse Guy (Shannen Doherty / Cypress Hill, 10/02/1993)
What it's about: Scott (Chris Farley) comes out of rehab vowing that he's changed his ways, only to fall off the wagon a few months later
Why it's worth checking out: In the wake of Chris Farley's addictions and subsequent death, this is a little ghoulish to watch, but Al Franken's sketch aired during Farley's longest stint of sobriety, and while the punchline to each of the three acts is Farley falling down, Phil Hartman and Mike Myers both get some good performances in (the latter getting a funny bit of physical business with his character's barely-functional right arm).
Planet of the Apes (Charlton Heston / Paul Westerberg, 12/04/1993)
What it's about: Charlton Heston falls asleep in his dressing room until 3978, where the studio has been taken over by apes.
Why it's worth checking out: A fun format break of the sort that the show doesn't do anymore, complete with the joke extending through the opening montage (with ape-masked people recreating the footage of both the cast and the New Yorkers on the street), and the monologue (where the show was still leaning on its' "writers as audience members asking questions" crutch).
Hell (Patrick Stewart / Salt-N-Pepa, 02/05/1994)
What it's about: Satan (Patrick Stewart) isn't so intimidating after he chokes on a grape.
Why it's worth checking out: Patrick Stewart's show has a lot of great moments, but I particularly like seeing his formerly powerful Satan being reduced to ineffectual threats (particularly the one with "until the cows come home") and frustration once his minions start making fun of him.
Bike Messenger (Martin Lawrence / Crash Test Dummies, 02/19/1994)
What it's about: Pompous and poetic bike messenger (Mike Myers) romanticizes his work and interacts with various people he passes on the street.
Why it's worth checking out: Mike Myers assumes a role originally written for Alec Baldwin the previous week; as much as he fits the eccentricity of his character, the real fun comes from Norm Macdonald as a pedestrian calling the sketch's physical logic into question.
60 Minutes (Heather Locklear / Janet Jackson, 05/14/1994)
What it's about: Crotchety Andy Rooney (Norm Macdonald) doesn't care for people much.
Why it's worth checking out: As little as Norm Macdonald cared for appearing in sketches outside of Weekend Update, he was one of the show's best performers at playing cranky old men, and who was crankier than Andy Rooney? Macdonald outdoes Joe Piscopo and Phil Hartman's characterizations here by nailing the CBS News misanthrope's self-indulgent and pointless weekly 60 Minutes segment to the point where it's a minute of him pointing out where his letters came from.
The Young and the Youthful (Alec Baldwin / Beastie Boys, 12/10/1994)
What it's about: A soap opera spoof where handsome industrialist Pierce Talbott (Alec Baldwin) is replaced with his developmentally-delayed evil twin Petey (Alec Baldwin), who colludes with his rival Stefano Demitrius (Michael McKean).
Why it's worth checking out: The fun with soap opera conventions aside (including strategically placed sheets in the bedroom scenes), Baldwin gives one of his best performances as the evil impostor with the intellect of a three-year-old and fixation on chocolate pudding, which the other characters can't seem to detect right away. In a way, Petey Talbott is a dry run for Baldwin's Donald Trump impression.
Broken English (David Hyde Pierce / Live, 01/21/1995)
What it's about: Jersey kids (David Spade and Adam Sandler) prank a foreigner (David Hyde Pierce) by prompting him with nonsense words when his English fails him.
Why it's worth checking out: Another simple economical blackout sketch with a strong punchline; this has the feel of something that would have been performed on the stage.
The Mack Reardon Story (George Clooney / The Cranberries, 02/25/1995)
What it's about: A documentary about country singer Mack Reardon's (George Clooney) career-killing early 80's albums.
Why it's worth checking out: There's a more well-known sketch from this show that seems like a more obvious choice (Tales of Fraud and Malfeasance in Railroad Hiring Practices), but I've always liked this sketch because Clooney's charm sells a lot of his character's haplessness through ill-advised career moves (trying to cash in on the Boy George trend), bad luck (a printer's error changing the name of his album to I'm Black!), and ineptitude (shooting himself in the lung).
Denver Airport (John Goodman / The Tragically Hip, 03/25/1995)
What it's about: Airport representative (Chris Elliott) asks travelers if they are interested in using a penis-measuring device at the airport; Chris Elliott announces he's leaving the show to invent one, but gets shot a la Lee Harvey Oswald.
Why it's worth checking out: Despite being a poor fit for SNL, Elliott did manage to have some of his weird sensibility poke through here and there; this is most true in this 10-to-1 sketch with a ridiculous premise given gravitas by his breaking character at the end and added randomness as his less-than-one-year tenure being extended ten times, and "A Horse With No Name" playing during the freeze frame after he gets shot.
His Muse Friday (Courteney Cox / Dave Matthews Band, 04/15/1995)
What it's about: A parody of fast-talking screwball films where poetry magazine editor Bill Blake (Michael McKean) gets a tip on a hot unpublished Ezra Pound from his ex Edie Sitwell (Courteney Cox).
Why it's worth checking out: McKean was another poor fit for that era of SNL, feeling at times like the deliberate big-name substitute for the departed Phil Hartman, but despite his style not fitting in with the louder comedy of Farley, Sandler and Spade, he managed to contribute a handful of intelligent pieces like this one, which name-checks poets (McKean and Cox's characters are named after two) and quotes various lines of poetry, all within the snappy style of a Howard Hawks movie's dialogue.