50 Greatest Comedy Sketches  

 

It didn't take long after the rise of TV commercials in the mid-twentieth century for comedians to take note of just how ridiculous most of those commercials were. Doctors selling cigarettes, housewives defending their laundry detergent as if any other detergent (the menacing "Brand X") were a threat to the American way of life — boob-tube marketing was a bottomless pit of material, and was bound to be soaked up by the sketch-comedy boom that followed shortly thereafter.

Parodies of such ads began popping up in the early '70s on shows like Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. But it was Saturday Night Live's 1975 debut that ripped the genre wide open. Madison Avenue's glib, cheeseball patter became fodder for regulars like Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner, and some of their successors — most notably straight-man kingpin Phil Hartman — built an entire career on it. As advertising grew more sophisticated, so did the satires that chased it. In today's irony-saturated comedy landscape, it's difficult to find a sketch show that doesn't do fake ads in one form or another.

In this feature, we've assembled fifty of the best. Unfortunately, many of SNL's most infamous are no longer available online, due to NBC's copyright-enforcing blitz a while back. But we did manage to unearth a surprising number of classics still lurking in the corners of the internet, along with plenty of timeless bits from Chappelle's Show, MADtv, In Living Color and SCTV. This list is an assemblage of our own personal favorites, and we encourage you to take us to task in the feedback section over what we missed. And now, without further ado, a word from our sponsors.


50. "Annuale," SNL, 2008


Most women we know find the idea of a once-a-season menstrual cycle creepier than Joe Francis coming at them with a camera. Unlike boob jobs, waxing and diet pills, that shit just doesn't seem natural, and the Annuale sketch shows that even a big-pharma, pink-tinged ad campaign can't dispel that. Plus: Kristen Wiig moves one step closer to goddess-hood by making out with a dog. Take that, Vanity Fair. — NA


49. "Levitol," MADtv, 2006


The "ask your doctor if *blank* is right for you" genre has been sent up a thousand times, but a few stand out, this one for its initial realism and subsequent devolution into madness. The weird doctor-patient power dynamic hasn't been made any more comfortable by the raft of TV ads encouraging us to ask about particular medicines, a fact that this parody nails perfectly. And there's just something about those gardening gloves — are we wrong in thinking this wouldn't work without them? — WD

48. "Fashion Tampons," In Living Color, 1991


In Living Color was never known for its commercial parodies, but they had a few classics, one of them being "Fashion Tampons." "Stylish, comfortable and fun," they go with any outfit. The idea of tampon companies claiming their own tampon is far, far superior to all the others is the joke here — as is an entire dress contructed of small tubes of cotton, with earrings to match. — WD

47. "Woomba," SNL, 2004


One pleasing development over the last decade has been the increasing pop-culture visibility of vaginas. (It's hard to imagine Victoria Jackson endorsing "the little pink robot that cleans your noony.") For our money, the sketch starts to lose focus once it plays up the "vagina-cleaning robot runs amuck" premise — it would be more satirically on-point to have Fey and company acting incongruously unfazed. Still, the concept is gold. — PS


46. "Xerox Assjet," SNL, 1997


This list might feel supersaturated with SNL nostalgia, but the truth is that their commercial parodies have often been their strongest work, showing restraint without losing their topical appeal. Yes, people using copy machines to make pictures of their asses is funny. But what makes "Xerox Assjet" funnier than an actual photocopied ass is the authenticity of Will Ferrell's smooth businessman and a non-plussed Tim Meadows expressing his disapproval of subpar ass copies. — JC

45. "Coin Slot Cream," SNL, 2006


There's a cream for every crevice of your body, and the idea that the one designed for under your eyes is radically different than the one designed for the rest of your face is ridiculous. But that doesn't stop the marketers from telling us as much, as Lindsay Lohan rightly points out while selling cream designed specifically for the northern ridge of your butt crack. — WD


44. "Tylenol BM," SNL, 2005


Alec Baldwin, comedic genius, can do no wrong. (We bet he could even make screaming obscenities into his daughter's voicemail simply hilarious.) Watching Baldwin's businessman sell Tylenol BM — with his cheerful morning-after grin, despite his wife screaming, "Did you shit the bed?" — almost makes me want to buy the fake product. If any pharmaceutical companies get their advertising claws in Baldwin, we're screwed. — NA


43. "Colonel Belmont's Old-Fashioned Horse Glue," SNL, 2000


This sticky, adhesive sketch pillories commercials that appeal to the Restoration Hardware crowd — yuppies who fetishize authenticity, DIY projects and rustic settings. "When it comes time to fix that refrigerator magnet, or put together a little house of popsicle sticks, you don't want some cheap, synthetic glue. You want pure mutilated horse paste." It's easy to believe such a line was lifted directly from Martha Stewart Living. — NA

42. "HiberNol," SNL, 1993


Over-the-counter medicines like NyQuil basically promise to induce a coma so you can remain unconscious while your cold runs its course — it's a popular product in our culture of discomfort avoidance. If we could just expand that remedy so it covers the entire flu season, half of America would probably opt to slumber from November to April, living off our ample body fat. It's no riddle why they cast Chris Farley for this one. — WD


41. "Excedrin Racial Tension Headache," SNL, 2004

This whole bit is basically one long buildup to the final line, which we will not give away here. Queen Latifa is grand as the frustrated office worker whose coworkers call her Denise, "which is stressful, because my name is Linda." Few comedians handle racial jokes with deft, and Latifa employs just the right mix of discomfort and sass in this sketch. — WD

 

Commentarium (79 Comments)

May 06 08 - 12:35am
RJB

How could you have forgotten one of the best commercial parodies of all time which beats out at least half of the ones on your list?! Check out THE CLUCKIN CHICKEN which aired on Saturday Night Live....

http://www.all4humor.com/videos/funny-commercials/cluckin-chicken.html

May 05 08 - 1:10pm
yf

you forgot SNL's Adobe, the car made of clay bit. The funniest ever.

May 05 08 - 1:45pm
HBD

Missed the SNL parody about the bank that had to settle for www.Clownpenis.fart because they thought the Internet wouldn't be big.

May 05 08 - 1:54pm
BB

Spatula City! Spatula City! http://youtube.com/watch?v=2XbCWmY0eqY

May 05 08 - 4:29pm
VM

A.M. Ale

May 05 08 - 4:33pm
tb

No Mr. Show?

Bag Hutch

"Promise 1, I am not a lawyer"

"Cockrings, cockrings, cockrings"

May 05 08 - 4:36pm
PF

Wu-Tang FINANCIAL???

May 05 08 - 4:55pm
NF

That cookie dough sport is definitely not the SNL original...

May 05 08 - 5:52pm
BM

One SCTV spot, and about 40 SNL? Boo, your article sucks. What about the Judds "Smoky Oaky Barbecue"-scented douche? Boo, your research sucks.

May 05 08 - 6:44pm
SH

How amazing that no other nation on Earth has managed to produce one ad parody worthy of inclusion in the top fifty of all time. You Americans are truly magnificent! Congratulations!

May 05 08 - 7:04pm
ms

Big thumbs down for completely leaving out the "Prescott Pharmaceuticals" segments from "The Colbert Report".

May 05 08 - 7:30pm
KM

Great List with only one missing.

'Log' from Ren & Stimpy.

May 05 08 - 7:44pm
MS

Good list! But one I would've added is the "MeHarmony Dating Service" on SNL a few years ago -- a parody of that stupid eHarmony with the '29 scientific categories of compatibility' or whatever. The SNL version had all the clients' "true loves" being just opposite-gender clones of themselves.

May 05 08 - 7:45pm
BAH!

I'm sure this list would be great if more than 1/2 the clips could be watched outside of the US.

May 05 08 - 9:09pm
BEP

Um - No Bathroom Monkey? But it keeps your bathroom monkey-clean AND monkey-fresh?

May 05 08 - 10:00pm
EU

What about the Mr.Show Mayosturd and Mustardayonaise commercials? They went back and forth the whole episode.

May 05 08 - 11:26pm
FBR

Three words, from South Park: Cherokee Hair Tampons [http://youtube.com/watch?v=1jfuPang3RM]

May 06 08 - 1:00am
JC

You forgot the SNL parody where they have scary looking mannequins holding a knife or chainsaw in the air, posed like it's about to attack someone. The idea is you put it next to your bed at night so when a REAL robber comes in, or looks in the window and sees it, they run away because someone is already there.

May 06 08 - 1:02am
JC

AM Ale? Would be number 1.

May 06 08 - 2:53am
BDP

MADtv had some MUCH better than at least 10 of those SNL ones. "Thanks Spishak!" The Wonder Rake 5000. Antonia Perfume. And many others, even just from the first season!! And LOG is a good one too!!

May 06 08 - 10:36am
jh

I guess you were only including live-action parodies; I'd definitely have to submit Ren & Stimpy's "Log", and Jib Jab's "Progenitorivox".

May 07 08 - 12:35am
jd

"Brown" from MadTV. I can't even look at a UPS ad anymore.

May 07 08 - 12:49am
DC

Hey there.

I'm a huge, long-time fan of Nerve and your recent video lists are really fun.

But as a Canadian it is incredibly irritating to be barred from viewing so many of the videos because you've linked to crappy video services like hulu or else to sites like NBC who will not stream outside of the U.S. Please seek out better sources to link to so I don't have to go searching on my own.

May 06 08 - 1:24pm
JDW

#51 - Rocks - A spot for rocks supposedly for Palestinian children, showing excited kids interspersed with stock news footage of Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli police. The ad aired during Robert Smigel's brilliant "Saddam and Osama" action cartoon spoof.

May 06 08 - 1:56pm
MAB

I remember thinking that "AM Ale" was really funny, so I was bummed when I didn't see it on here. I Haven't seen it in a while though.

May 06 08 - 2:29pm
ds

What? No Stevie Wonder? Everytime I see Stevie Wonder playing tennis and taking pictures of everything but the tennis player, I laugh. "It's so simple, even Stevie Wonder can use it." I know, I know, laughing at a blind man is not very politically correct. (But it was funny.)

May 06 08 - 2:41pm
TPJ

No "Action Cats"? This list sucks without "Action Cats."

May 06 08 - 2:58pm
TMP

Good, but missing my all time favorite, QUARRY

May 06 08 - 4:37pm
KL

Jay Mohr as Christopher Walken for Skittles?? Or the Quaddafi Look??

May 06 08 - 6:45pm
RN

So what I'm getting from this is that you guys watch a lot of SNL.
Please - it's a good show, but 40 of the 50 best ad parodies of ALL TIME?
No Mr.Show? Kids in the Hall? Monty Python????
I thought your "50 best sketches" list was pretty SNL heavy, but this is just ridiculous. Just call it the "top 50 SNL ad parodies" next time, okay?

May 07 08 - 10:25am
ns

i saw something on a SNL special that showed why Belushi broke down in the H & L Brock ad...Chevy Chase is crawling on the floor towards him messing with his feet.

May 07 08 - 10:45am
EWN

What about Jamitin the ED remedy from the Simpsons.

The best line "Sorry Jimmy. Your Grandma and I are going to have old people sex."

May 07 08 - 2:19pm
SG

Where is BIG RED?

That's certainly one of the top 50.

Jun 18 12 - 5:25am
Donnette

Thank you; thank you; thank you. I've been searching online for some of my favorites (like the Grimaldi Christmas Collection) but I couldn't think of the name of this one; I could only remember that it sprayed catsup. Now I can see it again. Yippee!

May 07 08 - 3:40pm
ahm

Re #21, "Tracy Morgan re-appropriating racial stereotypes while cross-dressing and swatting at cartoon Disney-esque songbirds": Tracy doesn't cross-dress in this bit--that's castmate Tim Meadows as Aunt Jemima.

May 07 08 - 4:30pm
JAK

This countdown has clearly never heard of Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job, an alternative sketch show that excels at parodying quirky television cliches. In just two seasons, the show has developed several fake commercials deserving of a top 20 spot on this countdown. With sketches like "Candy Tails" (pony tails dipped in candy sauce), it is impossible for Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job to be left off future countdowns of this sort.

May 07 08 - 5:05pm
HCK

Where's the Cluckin' Chicken?

May 07 08 - 5:09pm
KS

Not a bad list, but a little too much SNL, and you missed a couple lesser-known ones ... the short-lived Ben Stiller show had some particularly brilliant commercial parodies such as What Is Sexy?, Tony Bobbins, and the sublimely ridiculous Tito Gallegos: The Pig-Latin Lover, and South Park's Wild Wacky Action Bike is the perfect spoof of idiotic kids' toys.

You also completely missed out on some of the on-point parodies created by Mr. Show, including the McHutchence-Greely bit (a great send-up of US political advertising campaigns), Coupon: The Movie, Mustardayonnaise, Van Hammersly, The Cock-Ring Warehouse, The House of the Future, and the Underground Tape Railroad..

May 07 08 - 6:38pm
SG

Thank you so much for putting this together!
I will send to all my friends (which, admittedly, aren't many)

May 07 08 - 8:22pm
RDF

How could you have missed the SNL ad for "Homocil", where Will Ferrell and Tracey Morgan are conflicted Dads dealing with less than manly male children?

May 07 08 - 10:13pm
MM

Excellent list, but where are Quarry ("Better tasting, cause it's mined") and Shimmer ("It's a floor wax! It's a dessert topping!")??? Those are still two of the best ever IMHO.

I am impressed at how well you guys did your homework. There's a lot great stuff covering 40 years. Well done!

Peace!
GB!

May 07 08 - 11:21pm
RAR

Criminal ommission: the SNL spoof of courier services..."When it absolutely, positively, had to be there two weeks ago". One of my all time faves.

May 07 08 - 11:24pm
RY

I'd propose SNL's Sleepy Boy Auto Alarm Eradicator, as well as The Web--stops criminals before they leave their own house!

May 10 08 - 12:41am

you forgot the mad tv NInja home security systems its one of the best ones

May 09 08 - 1:25pm
LS

You're missing a sleeper... The Cool Essence Spring Mist Shampoo commercial from "Mad TV" is not only hilarious but utterly brilliant if not a little weird. Alex Borstein uses the shampoo at work and has an orgasmic experience. But Debra Wilson and other coworkers are not impressed. They're scared for her. Alex starts feeling guilty for using the shampoo. Then the shampoo becomes abusive towards her and the whole commercial turns into a bad abused wife TV movie from Lifetime or something. Please check it out.

May 09 08 - 11:18pm
GNHH

The "Homocil" ad should have been on here for sure, but the big on eyou missed was SNL's "Bathroom Monkey." No matter how often I see it, the monkey writing "Monkey Hate Clean" with the lipstick gets to me. The all time best, e3ven better than "Oops I Crapped My Pants."

May 10 08 - 12:26pm
JB

Loved it, but I really hoped to see "Litter Critters," the SNL sketch where kids make toy figures out of used clumping cat litter. I also thought SNL's "Huggies Thong" diapers (so babies could lose that bulky diaper look) was really satirical.

May 10 08 - 2:23pm
TaB

I have no idea why you stacked this with SNL and almost completely ignored the brilliant commercial parodies from SCTV. How could you have ignored "Poochare all meat dog food"? Shame.

May 10 08 - 6:59pm
TW

Thanks for this compilation, but you missed a really notable one out (I kept going forward, thinking it'd be in the Top 10): the Cracklin' Oat Flakes one starring Will Ferrell:

http://video.aol.com/partner/hulu/saturday-night-live-cracklin-oat-flake...

Well-edited, doesn't drag on, and packs such a wallow with extra meaning if you ever did raving. :)

May 10 08 - 9:23pm
sr

SNL's spoof of the credit card commercial where Rosanne played the "helpful" phone rep.

SNL's series of ads with the head of the investment banking firm giving advice on everything including secret santas.

Ren and Stimpy's Log. My 8 year old watches it until I make him stop.

May 10 08 - 10:45pm
AGT

No Spishak (MADTV) commercials? For shame.

May 11 08 - 6:55am
BA

what happened to nigga please cereal?

May 11 08 - 1:07pm
RS

No John Madden's Popcorn Popper?!?

May 12 08 - 12:53pm
ACE

the real cookie dough commercial (#34) can be found at http://www.brightcove.tv/title.jsp?title=1240510647&channel=1214627974

May 12 08 - 6:53pm
RE

You forgot the SNL skit about the thong diapers--a great send-up of MILFs--the same type of character Amy Poehler plays so well in Mean Girls.

May 12 08 - 7:19pm
tk

I can't believe you left out the budwiser parody with Robin Williams and Joe Piscapo. I still laugh when I think of it.

May 12 08 - 7:40pm
SB

No mention of Wilson Countersink Flanges and Dorry Flanges = autofail.

May 13 08 - 6:37pm
JC

How could you leave out the South Park spoof commercials for Alabama Man, Wild Wacky Action Bike, and Cherokee Hair Tampons?!?

May 14 08 - 5:07am
SES

How could you guys miss this one?

http://youtube.com/watch?v=WqSESiUqUa8

(the "Viagro" ad from This Hour Has 22 Minutes)

May 14 08 - 3:49pm
TM

What happened to "Pussy Whip" from SNL? Is it cat food or a dessert topping? It's both!

Nov 01 11 - 11:57pm
GavinMacQueen

@TM. LOL, You got two of the SNL commercials mixed together. The pussy whip one goes, "This news broadcast was brought to you by... "Pussy Whip" ...the adult cat food dessert topping" The dessert topping one was about, don't quote me, but I believe it was "Ready Wax" is a floor wax, or is it a dessert topping....it's both.

May 14 08 - 10:01pm
PS

Although the parodies you mention are funny. You're title should've read, "The 50 Greatest Commercial Parodies of All Time, from Saturday Night Live, and a few from some other TV shows". SCTV did so many brilliant commercial parodies, that you probably didn't know existed... especially the earlier years. Maybe my perspective is that of someone older and more rh['h9rhnrs etb55jy4a3qty05jji09setgdpyisgqwwOTUWFGU'PG

May 15 08 - 4:57am
bj

very good - a real find of treasure - am recommending to friends

May 15 08 - 9:28pm
GE

Hey! Why weren't the Mike Myers' send ups of the Jonathan Pryce Infiniti Ads not included!!!!!!!

May 25 08 - 11:38am
cmc

The concept of a commercial parody list is commendable, but to do so without ONE Spishak commercial from MadTV is either blatantly biased or simply lazy.

From the "nuclear Christmas lights" to the "Excuses-Excuses-Excuses-Excuses call out from work generator" to the Easy Bake oven for kids using real gas, these are instant classics.

I'm sorry, but I can't see this list as complete or acceptable.

Jun 09 08 - 2:17pm
mp

Regarding #34 "Cookie Dough Sport," SNL, 1997:

That's not an SNL sketch. It's a fan-made remake of an SNL sketch, as you can see from the shoddy audio narration and the visible lack of any SNL actors in it.

Jun 09 08 - 3:29pm
HR

I can't believe you left out one of the best ever: Gilda's Harvey's Bristol Cream parody on SNL, "Harley's Bristol Cream"!

Jun 09 08 - 8:47pm
KY

This is a great idea but it seems someone from SNL or NBC thought so too, most of the clips have been removed from youtude and the others you can only watch in the USA, what a freakin bummer!!

Jun 14 08 - 12:26am
AB

my all time fave is missing -- the commercial for the car with the smooth ride -- SNL -- such a smooth ride they can do a circumcision in it... and do.

Jun 16 08 - 3:55pm
ACR

You guys should do a profile on what happened to the cast members of "In Living Color," a "Where Are They Now?" kind of piece. I'd be very curious...

Alex

Jun 17 08 - 8:13pm
ACR

"Pest control can be sadistic. What goes on inside those diabolical little black roach traps? Probably something similar to what happens in this commercial. Mixing the extreme violence of children's cartoons with people's total disregard for insects as a legitimate life form, "Bug-Off" shows us just how cruel we can be when Disney-grade imagination meets chemical science.

Jul 23 08 - 5:38pm
ADS

You forgot the many commercial parodies from "Kentucky Fried Movie". Inexcusable.

Sep 10 08 - 12:44pm
mbc

Shirt in a Can dammit! Classic Tim Meadows!
"you have a job interview and are enjoying a hearty blueberry cobbler when... DAMMIT!"
"It burns! That's how you know it's a shirt."

Nov 30 08 - 8:33pm
KAR

The YouTube video for #46, Xerox AssJet, is no longer available.

Jan 18 09 - 2:14pm
LHD

Could anyone tell me the name of the actor in the SNL ads with the head of the investment banking firm who gave such weird advice?

Jun 09 10 - 2:11pm
Rhinosaur

Panty Smile, from the British news satire show, The Day Toda, from 1994. Beats most of 'em on this list!

Jun 09 10 - 2:12pm
Rhinosaur

The Day Today*

Aug 24 11 - 4:51am
rtyecript

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Jul 26 12 - 10:38am
NRA

Two that I think should be on this list: MAD TV's "Brown Covers Your Ass" (parody of UPS' "What Can Brown Do For You?"), and SNL's "The Phone Company" from 1976 with Lily Tomlin. Remember: "We don't care. We don't have to."