I was going to write some long introduction justifying the existence of this article, but there’s no real reason at hand. Sometimes, I just want to spend the day laughing. I bet you do, too. So I got together with the young legend Kate McKinnon and we made you a gift.
(PS: I’m aware there’s no “Kate as Ellen” sketches on this list, even though Ellen DeGeneres is one of Kate McKinnon’s most famous impressions. For some reason Saturday Night Live, which otherwise has a Smithsonian-level catalog of their offerings available on YouTube, only has one single sketch available of Kate as Ellen. And that sketch has a pretty offensive take on an African character, so I refuse to include it. What can I say? The Ellen Mafia continues.)
1. “The Calvin Klein Ad” // Season 40 // 2015
If you’re gonna deep dive Kate McKinnon on YouTube, it’s required that you start here. Those are the rules of lesbian comedy. Kate had already been a regular cast member for a few seasons at this point, but this moment was her true breakout – and she brought the “Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber” joke to the mainstream in a single swoop!
Fun Fact: Kate once revealed the secret to her perfect Justin Bieber impression while on Conan: “It’s looking like a puppy who just piddled and is sort of sorry about it.”
2. Weekend Update: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Not Retiring // Season 42 // 2017
Tina Fey has Sarah Palin. Amy Poehler has 2008’s version of Hillary Clinton. Will Ferrell has George W Bush. Chevy Chase has President Ford. The greats of SNL usually end their tenure with a political impression that’s theirs to claim. Kate McKinnon has Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and 2016’s Hillary Clinton and Kellyanne Conway and approximately half of the Trump Administration. My girl don’t quit.
Kate’s take on Notorious RBG almost always goes viral. It was really hard to pick a single sketch to sum it up, but I went with this one because she mainlines a bunch of powdered Vitamin C to “stay healthy,” which went on to become an infamous GIF in its own right.
Looking for more laughs and interested in Ginsburg’s take on Judge Brett Kavanaugh? Got you covered.
3. First Got Horny 2 U // Season 41 // 2015
Few things give me happiness like an SNL girl group musical number, largely because it allows me to imagine the kind of weekly sketch show I wish already existed on TV – the kind without men. They have a few hits to their name (and if you haven’t seen their take on the small joys of coming home for the holidays – Back Home Ballers – I can’t recommend it enough) but this one is my favorite. Kate’s childhood crush on Taylor Hansen because of his long hair and soft lips NEVER fails to make me laugh out of gay recognition. If you want to laugh at the bluntness of your horny ass tween years, this is for you. (And they are dressed like the Backstreet Boys! C’mon!)
4. Close Encounter // Season 41 // 2015
Kate McKinnon’s chain-smoking Ms. Rafferty is the kind of stroke of genius comedy that’s guaranteed to make all the actors in the scene break character. She’s been abducted by aliens in her past and her stories are… well you have to see it for yourself. It’s a character she’s brought back many times, but I picked this one because really nothing is a good as your first.
And may none of us ever have to know the singular indignity of being left pants-less atop a Long John Silver’s. Amen.
5. Kristen Stewart Opening Monologue // Season 42 //2017
THE BIG DYKE ENERGY OVER THIS ENTIRE SKETCH.
6. RBG Rap // Season 44 // 2018
I tried very hard not to “repeat characters” over this list, but I made two exceptions. One for Hillary Clinton, who’s still coming up later, and one for Justice Ginsburg. The song alone is too good to pass up. WARNING: Only listen if you’re prepared to have “Cuz I Live For Ginsburg/ And I Ride For Ginsburg” stuck in your head on a loop for the rest of the week.
7. Whiskers R We with Kristen Wiig // Season 42 // 2016
Barbara DeDrew (Kate McKinnon) and Furonica (Host Kristen Wiig) show off the cats that are available for adoption during a Thanksgiving giveaway. Whiskers R We is yet another mainstay that’s worth it every time. Listen, lesbians love cats. Facts are facts are facts.
8. Bok Bok // Season 44 // 2019
I really don’t get the whole Momo internet meme that swept last year, but even without the sufficient background I know that Kate captured the goth queer icon perfectly. It’s the death in her hallowed eyes, the way her voice is sublimely creepy as she caresses little children’s faces with chicken tenders.The entire sketch is, pardon my pun, *chef’s kiss.*
9. Susan B. Anthony // Season 42 // 2017
Out here asking the hard hitting questions: What if the homie Susie B. really was that girl who just won’t shut up at the party?
10. Hillary Clinton Election Video Cold Open // Season 40 // 2015
When Kate McKinnon takes her final Saturday Night Live bow, we’re still going to be talking about this one. In her impression of Hillary Clinton, Kate not only found a way to parody the most famous woman in politics, she also never lost track of the grotesque sexist critique that surrounded her by those who wouldn’t trust a woman in power. She married the two and final product is legendary. Even more impressive, her take on Hillary Clinton appropriately shifts and matures over the course of the 2016 election cycle – Here we start at the beginning, with Clinton at her most robotic and absurd in her quest to be our Overlord.
“Buckle Up America, The Clintons Are BACK!” is such a terrifying 2015 Mood.
11. Dyke and Fats // Season 39 // 2014
A pitch-perfect tribute to historic lesbian icons Cagney & Lacey. We’ve seen Dyke & Fats on the show a few times, but few SNL sketches pay off as well as this one does in its final 15 seconds. So promise me you’ll watch all the way to the end, OK?
Fun Fact: Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant share an office in the SNL writers’ room! Roomies! Cuuute!
12. Kellywise // Season 43 // 2017
Fuck it. Kellyanne gives me nightmares anyway. Might as well lean all the way in to the crash.
13. Film Screening // Season 42 // 2017
Oh, Debette Goldry. Dear, sweet, always inappropriate and simultaneously horrifying Debate Goldry. The premise of this reoccurring bit is simple: SNL actresses pretend to be Hollywood actresses on a panel to discuss sexism in Hollywood. Then Kate plays Ms. Debette Goldry, there to remind everyone around her how absolutely tragic it was to be a leading lady during the Silver Screen era of cinema. “You think you had it bad, we had to swallow arsenic pills to lighten our skin!” Hardy-har-har.
It’s the #MeToo equivalent of “When I was your age I had to walk uphill both ways in a foot of snow” – which sounds like it should be tiresome, but somehow it works? I picked this version of the sketch because it features Jennifer Aniston playing herself and I still love Rachel.
14. This Is Not A Feminist Song // Season 41 // 2016
Feminism is complicated. Rather than risking they’d get it wrong, Kate McKinnon and the SNL girl group line up wrote this fake ass “feminist anthem” that you can play during SoulCycle instead. Look, it has soft light lens flairs and pictures of a boardwalk and close up shots of an old woman’s hands! They stand together in a line and hold hands for empowerment! Stop asking them for more! (Features Ariana Grande for maximum gay culture points)
15. Welcome to Hell // Season 43 // 2018
Sure, it’s all sugary and sweet until you have to stab a man with your hand full of keys just to make it home safe at night.
16. Weekend Update: Billie Jean King on the Sochi Olympics // Season 39 // 2013
Tennis legend Billie Jean King stops by to discuss being “the big gay middle finger” at the Sochi Winter Olympics. I had somehow never seen this sketch until doing research for this article, and it is perfect?? How have we never talked about it? How is it not going down in the lesbian hall of fame? I think it might be because at the time of her 2013 appearance, Kate McKinnon had yet to become a gay household name. That is our mistake and we must remedy it. THIS IS THE MOST LESBIAN SKETCH EVER AND IF YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT. IF YOU WATCH ONE THING, WATCH THIS.
17. Election Week Cold Open // Season 42 // 2016
This list isn’t ranked, but I saved the best two sketches for last.
Granted, this sketch isn’t quite funny per se, but damn it is superb. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2017:
In her political autobiography What Happened? Hillary Clinton specifically references this performance, which originally aired the Saturday following her election defeat, as an emotional release. I can personally attest that it reached into the most beaten parts of me at a time when the depths of my darkness felt insurmountable and instead lit a match. It’s a masterfully multi-layered sketch, simultaneously paying homage to Leonard Cohen during the week of his passing, giving deference to Clinton, and seeking to comfort those of us grieving in the audience. Ten months later, I still cannot hear the song without imaging McKinnon, at the piano, in Hillary’s signature pantsuit, telling me to never give up.
It’s now two years later, and that last part is still true. This is what it looks like to be a master of your craft.
18. Themyscira // Season 43 // 2017
Of course you did. This is the gayest shit SNL has ever done. And you’re welcome.