The significance and quality of Saturday Night Live seems to ebb and flow with each season, dependent on cast, writers, and hosts. But in recent years, the august sketch show has still managed to surprise with a few queer tricks up its 40-plus-year-old sleeve. And those tricks aren’t for kids.
Rather, those tricks have largely come courtesy of a crop of queer writers, including the show’s first openly gay head writer, Chris Kelly (co-creator of The Other Two), as well as noted quill-bearing kweens Julio Torres and Bowen Yang.
The recent sketch “The Actress,” featuring Emma Stone as a thespian wholly committed to her non-part as the cheated-upon woman in a gay porn, is the latest in a series of sketches that subvert your expectations for this hallowed television institution and embody a hilarious queer sensibility missing from its first four decades.
Below, a sampling of the best queer schtick SNL has had to offer.
The lesbian counterpart to Logo’s own Fire Island took a knowing jab at the original reality show, transporting the same formula down to the neighboring beach with a group of sapphic sisters and their far less debaucherous times. But hey, when there are five miracles of home water birth asleep by nine every night, there’s bound to be less speedo-dropping and more shero-propping.
“Liza Minnelli Tries to Turn Off a Lamp”
The first thought I had watching Kristen Wiig as a 1982 Liza Minnelli trying to “Fosse neck” a lamp off as Jonah Hill channels Harry Carry by way of Louis B. Meyer was, How in Gay Hell did this ever get made? It’s three-and-a-half minutes of sheer lunacy and while it’s not inherently queer, there’s something so specifically and endearingly gay about this sketch—like a little baby gay lost in a chest of wigs and sequins—that lets it kick-ball-change its way into the pantheon of SNL’s most wonderfully oddball moments. And you can tell that to Debbie Reynolds!
“Dyke and Fats”
Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant star as ’70s lady-cops—the names Les Dykawitz and Chubbina Fatzarelli deserve a technical Emmy, a Peabody, a Dave & Busters gift card… something for god’s sake—but don’t you dare try and call them by their politically incorrect nicknames: Those are their words! Sadly, there was only one other Dyke and Fats, featuring John Cena in a very fuckable ’70s pornstache, but here’s hoping for a true trilogy before McKinnon and Bryant inevitably leave to take over the world.
Three words: Emma. Goddamn. Stone. After this sketch I was ready to giver her another Oscar. Written by Torres and Yang, this sketch was a slow burn, but it is so effortlessly self-contained and so brilliantly executed that the payoff is more than worth it. Stone makes the most of those hugely emotive saucer eyes of hers, delving deep into the “character” she names “Deidre,” with nothing more to go on than a spare Ugg boot and a pair of “Happy 2017” glasses. What unfolds leads to a question that all of us must ask at one point in our lives: How did lube…get on me?
After announcing that she was “super gay” in her monologue, Kristen Stewart got behind the wheel and drove her point all the way home in this clever commercial parody. By focusing on the put-upon, nameless wife tasked with feeding the testosterone-addled men of a pizza bites ad, this sketch lays the groundwork for the similarly-themed “The Actress.” While Stewart delivers some of her finest acting as the seductive Sabine, serving up a little Totinos is the Warmest Colour for your nerves, the sketch truly belongs to Vanessa Bayer and the way she keeps saying “hungry guys” as if she’s dying a little bit more inside each time, until Sabine releases her from the prison of background players.
There are few universal things these days, things that bring together people of all and any walks of life. RuPaul’s Drag Race may be one of those things. You may not agree with certain choices (#NotMyAllStar), but when it comes to the show, everyone can and will be entertainted. Which is why it’s so fun to watch a bunch of stereotypically macho car mechanics begrudgingly opine the merits of Trinity’s tuck and the definition of serving fish in this delightful sketch. Once they all admit their love for the show, shit gets—what?!—sickening. Chris Pine would obviously make a fishy queen—shout-out to that ass, too—but professed Drag Race superfan and season 11 judge Bobby Moynihan should’ve snatched all the crowns and the [insert car term here] in that garage. Now twirl!
“Wells for Boys”
What can I say about “Wells for Boys”? It caught me completely off guard and spoke to my very queer core. “Some kids like to play…some just wait for adulthood,” might as well be the motto of every precocious queer kid, going forward. SNL MVP Emma Stone returns to our list as the understanding mom to a sensitive boy who is not above yelling at a child about how “EVERYTHING IS FOR YOU AND THIS ONE THING IS FOR HIM!” This sketch is so precise in its faggotry—”Don’t just get him a Barbie…that’s just part of it”—that it has come to embody the gold standard of queer SNL sketches. See also: My Little Step Children for when you’re feeling extra spiteful.