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The Best Saturday Night Live Christmas Sketches

Revisiting SNL's Best Holiday Skits

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Saturday Night Live has been goofing on Christmas since it began in 1975, turning out new classic Christmas sketches (and many not-so-classic) every December. Take a look at this list of the best Christmas and holiday sketches in Saturday Night Live history.

1. "Christmas Eve at the White House" (Season 1/1975)

This sketch from SNL's first season finds Chevy Chase's President Gerald Ford preparing for Christmas in the Oval Office. Though you can see the last gag coming from a mile away, very few people could do physical comedy quite like Chevy Chase. Sketches like this remind me of how obscenely funny he once was.

2. "Consumer Probe" (Season 2/1978)

The great Dan Aykroyd (who along with Jane Curtain is an unsung hero of SNL's earliest years) debuts his Irwin Mainway character, proprietor of horrible and dangerous children's toys (with names like Johnny Switchblade: Adventure Punk, Bag O' Glass and Teddy Chainsaw Bear) being rolled out just in time for the holidays. Few people could do obnoxious sleaze quite like Aykroyd, and guest host Candice Bergen's straight-faced disgust is a funny counterpoint to Aykroyd's schtick.

3. "Lost Ending to 'It's a Wonderful Life'" (Season 12/1986)

A classic from the golden Dana Carvey/Phil Hartman/Jon Lovitz era of Saturday Night Live, the "Lost Ending" sketch sees Carvey's George Bailey and friends mercilessly beating old Mr. Potter (Lovitz) after discovering he was faking his disability. The darkness of the sketch and the way it embraces a kind of anarchy makes it reminiscent of SNL's earliest days in the best possible way. Carvey's very funny Jimmy Stewart impression doesn't hurt, either.

4. "Hanukkah Harry" (Season 15/1989)

Hanukkah Harry on Saturday Night Live
Photo courtesy NBC
Jon Lovitz stars as the titular Harry, the patron saint of Hanukkah called in to save Christmas when Santa Claus falls ill. There's a lot of awkward exposition here, but once Lovitz begins delivering gifts to cast members Mike Meyers and Victoria Jackson, the sketch becomes pure gold. Hanukkah Harry's theme song along is enough to make this one of the best holiday sketches of all time.

5. "Dysfunctional Family Christmas" (Season 16/1990)

Another sketch from the second Golden Age of SNL advertises a new Christmas album for the family that can't stand one another. Songs like "Let's Pretend We Like Each Other (This Christmas)," "Ballad of the Co-Dependent," and my favorite, "Runny Funny Daddy" ("The only words I can understand are 'god' and 'damn' and 'Christmas..."), are all inspired, and the sight of Dana Carvey leading the "Carol of Intimacy" will always make me laugh. The sketch is short and packed to the edges with jokes; later incarnations of SNL could learn a thing or two from this example. A true Christmas classic.

6. "Chanukah Song" (Season 20/1994)

Adam Sandler basically became a star with this song performed on "Weekend Update." Billed as an alternative to the glut of Christmas songs around the holidays, Sandler's song is basically just a list of celebrities who are Jewish. The song quickly became a staple of Sandler's albums and live act (updated three times to include new celebrities) and established him as the "funny acoustic song guy" on Saturday Night Live. Who knew that this goofy guy singing about Jewish celebrities ("David Lee Roth lights the menorah...") would go on to become one of the biggest movie stars in the world?

7. "Delicious Dish" (Season 24/1998)

Schweddy Balls on Saturday Night Live
Photo courtesy NBC
Destined to go down in history as the "Schweddy Balls" sketch, "Delicious Dish" stars Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer as hosts of an extremely low-key NPR talk show. Guest host Alec Baldwin comes on as Pete Schweddy to share a very special holiday recipe. It's an extremely juvenile joke that's pretty easy to telegraph, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't funny -- particularly considering how well everyone stays in character and maintains a straight face. That can't be easy to do when wrapping your mouth around Baldwin's Schweddy Balls.

8. "Seasons Greetings from 'Saturday Night Live'" (Season 26/2000)

Often repeated but never equaled, this first performance of "Seasons Greetings" is a classic for its sheer silliness. Horatio Sanz sings about the joys of Christmas ("I don't care what your Grandma says, Christmas time is here..."), accompanied by Jimmy Fallon on keyboard, Chris Kattan doing a funny back-and-forth dance and Tracy Morgan doing whatever it is that Tracy Morgan does. You could tell it was something special when it first aired -- a fact that was later confirmed when SNL tried to recapture the odd magic several more times without any luck. By the time Sanz was performing the song with the Muppets (because everyone else involved had left the show), the sketch had long since jumped the shark.

9. "Mark Jensen's Family Christmas" (Season 28/2002)

Will Ferrell plays Mark Jensen, hosting his annual Christmas special from Aspen, Colorado. It's all sweaters and singing until a motorized platform won't stop rotating, causing everyone to get very, very ill. It's a simple gross-out joke, but it's the kind of slow-burn into madness that Ferrell is so gifted at. Plus, it's yet another sketch that shows how good SNL can be at sucking all the air out of the holiday spirit.

10. "Dick in a Box" (Season 32/2006)

Saturday Night Live Dick in a Box
Photo courtesy NBC
This now-famous Digital Short stars Andy Samberg and guest host Justin Timberlake in what's both a parody of early-'90s R&B ballads and a new holiday classic all rolled into one. "Dick" quickly skyrocketed from SNL sketch to cultural phenomenon, giving the show some well-deserved heat and Timberlake a lifetime pass as a host. It's a bit dirtier than, say, "Jingle Bells," but it's also slightly funnier.
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