This year marks Saturday Night Live’s 40th year on the air, and we’re reflecting on its place in American comedy. Though Saturday Night Live has always served as a safe place for new and different ideas in comedy (and performance in general—when it started, it was a variety show), it hasn’t always been kind to its women. Though the cast has always contained female players, women were shut out of seriously iconic roles—we’re talking Land Shark, Wayne and Garth, Wild-and-Crazy-Guys iconic—for the first, like, two decades.
Still, SNL, like all comedy, exists to reflect the cultural climate, and as the public dialogue about women’s rights has gotten louder, there's been a deluge of lady-centric content in the last decade or so—content that celebrates its female creatives in a way that goes well beyond “We have women in the cast, ergo, feminism.” Though it still has a ways to go, SNL at 40 is host to writers and performers who tackle feminist issues and crush long-held stereotypes—especially that one about women not being funny. In celebration of the show’s anniversary, we decided to take a look back at some of our favorite feminist moments from the show’s history. Here’s to 40 more years of hilarious women.
The Natalie Portman Rap
Natalie Portman shatters her girl-next-door image in two minutes.
Molly Shannon Debuts As Mary Katherine Gallagher
When she arrived in 1995, Molly Shannon was the weirdest, boldest, grossest performer the show had seen in years. The most outlandish of her recurring characters was undoubtedly Catholic schoolgirl Mary Katherine Gallagher, who would regularly flash her granny panties, fling herself into piles of stuff, and stick her hands under her armpits and sniff ‘em.
Molly was a bit of an acquired taste at first, but her off-the-wall presence made you question why funny women make us so uncomfortable.
Aidy And Kate Are . . . Dyke And Fats
Earlier this month in Glamour, Aidy Bryant said that this sketch was the result of her and fellow cast member Kate McKinnon embracing some of their most prominent features...features that the rest of the world, in general, consider kinda negative. Own it, ladies.
Will Forte Says “Good Job Women”
Does anyone remember this? This was a silly Weekend Update gag delivered by ‘00s King of Silly Gags, Will Forte. In it, he performs a (terrible) song, "Good Job Women," in honor of Women's History Month, all the while inadvertently exposing the half-assedness of a lot of WHM programs. “Enjoy the month of March, cause that’s all you get!”
Leslie Jones, Relationship Expert
Cast newcomer Leslie Jones defends a woman who climbed down a man's chimney, and shuts down the convention of calling women “crazy” in the process.
While her debut didn't go over too well with a lot of fans and critics, her subsequent appearances as WU’s resident "relationship expert" have offered some incredibly sharp cultural commentary, delivered through comedy (and a lot of shouting).
“Anything For My Hungry Guys!”
Just last weekend, SNL aired a pitch-perfect send-up of so many Super Bowl ads: men crowded around the TV, woman huddled over the stove.
(May we remind you that nearly half of the audience for televised football events is female.)
Just . . . just watch.
Jane Curtin Pulls Back The Curtain On Behind-The-Scenes Sexism
When Oprah gathered performers from SNL's past and present for a 2011 episode, Jane Curtin got real about the sexist atmosphere that permeated the early days of the show. And Chevy Chase got a little butthurt about it.
(Sorry about the crappy video.)
Amy Poehler Makes Her Presence Known
In her 2011 autobiography Bossypants, Tina Fey shared this snippet of backstage life at SNL in the 2000s, which quickly went viral:
"Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can't remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and 'unladylike.' Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said: 'Stop that! It's not cute! I don't like it.' Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. 'I don't fucking care if you like it.'"
Amy's outburst is so famous now that you can get it on a T-shirt.
The infamous "Colonel Angus" sketch, generally considered to be the filthiest, most boundary-pushing segment ever to air . . . was written by none other than smart-girl-with-glasses Tina Fey.
Gilda. Just Gilda.
If you're looking for lady sketch-comedy pioneers, Gilda Radner's where it all started. Completely and totally unafraid to offer herself up to the comedy Gods as weird, silly, and most of all, ugly, Gilda took your notions of ladylike behavior and stuffed them into that giant wig.
Tina And Amy Take The Desk
'Twas almost 11 years ago that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were assigned to the Weekend Update desk and ushered in what is widely regarded as the best years in the segment's history. Wanna know why?
Alright, Ravishers, let us know—what’d we miss? (we had a real hard time with the '80s and '90s TBH. Help us out!)