Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th year with live special last night. Over the past four decades, the show has taken on religion. Many of the religious skits were related to Christmas or Hanukkah. More than a few are irreverent (see DJesus Uncrossed). The best are satire in the best sense of the word — poignant and provocative. Here is my own list of SNL’s best takes on religion.
1. TV Funhouse Fun with Real Audio
I wish I could find a quality link to this TV Funhouse video, but it’s not available. This classic cartoon shows Jesus showing up in the background of televangelists hocking their wares or bashing gays. Just as Jesus is about to give up, he sees a TV showing Linus from the Peanuts Christmas special reciting the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke, causing Jesus to start a happy dance to the Peanuts theme song.
2. Louis C.K. monologue
Louis C.K.’s monologue is the best stand-up take on religion since George Carlin’s Ten Commandments routine. Does he believe in Heaven? No. God? Maybe. If so, God is probably a woman.
3. Church lady
From 1986 thru 1990, the Church Lady was a regular feature on SNL. Dana Carvey’s character hosted “Church Chat”, which featured celebrity guests being judged by the blue-haired prude who saw Satan behind everything she didn’t like.
Trivia: What was the church lady’s real name? Enid Strict.
Adam Sandler sings the Chanukah song we all hope to hear at our kids next winter choir concert.
I’m not a Lena Dunham fan, but I dig this take on the biblical movie genre. Dunham stars in Girl (singular), playing a 20-something Eve navigating romance, body image, feminism, and societal norms.
6. Jesus visits Tim Tebow
In 2011, Tim Tebow led the Denver Broncos on a winning streak that featured comebacks that seemed miraculous. Jesus explains to Tebow the reason behind the wins and reveals who the devil is.
7. Three Wise Guys
The cast is reason enough to watch this sketch — Sylvester Stallone, John Goodman, and Robert De Niro are three “wise guys” who talk about the baby Jesus while riding their camels to Bethlehem.
Father Guido showed up in many sketches over the years, including some classic commentaries on Weekend Edition. In this sketch, Father Guido reports on the Pope’s visit to New York.
9. Hanukkah Harry
When Santa Claus is too ill to deliver toys on Christmas, he calls Hanukkah Harry to rescue the holiday. In another sketch, Hanukkah Harry saves Easter, too.
10. Church on Christmas 2014
This year’s Christmas season featured this fun look at Christmas mass. This isn’t irreverent; many will see their own parish in this sketch.
Plus one Jack Handy