Movies & TV / Columns

The Funniest Saturday Night Live Characters of All-Time

September 16, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
The Church Lady SNL

Tom Hanks debuted “David S. Pumpkins” last year on Saturday Night Live and he became an instant hit with audiences and on YouTube. The odd persona was so popular that retailers rushed out Halloween costumes based on his pumpkins suit and they were sold out just as fast as they were put on the shelf.

This past week Hanks teased the return of Pumpkins, showing a page of a script and captioning it with his catchphrase, “Any questions?”

Which got me to thinking about the many notable and entertaining characters that SNL has debuted over the years. Yes, the show has gone through bumps and endured Saturday Night Dead headlines but even at its worst, it’s produced a number of hilarious and popular characters.

But who are the funniest among them all?

I’m more interested in original characters and not someone based on a real life person. Also, don’t confuse a funny skit for a funny character. While Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek is a classic, I’m hold him off of consideration. Same with Will’s Gene Frenkle. The skit was hilarious thanks to the group effort of adding “more cowbell” to the mix. Ditto for films like the Hidden Camera Commercial about unaired hidden camera footage for Colombian decaffeinated coffee crystals. Chris Farley is priceless but not eligible for nomination.

Honestly, I thought make a short list would be a breeze and it wasn’t until I sat down and started listing characters off the top of my head did I realize the span of hilarious roles SNL has produced over the years.

While I’m more interested to see which names pop up most in the comments, I wanted to throw some of my favorites out there. SNL has had a number of great hosts and among the top has to be Christopher Walken. His Continental has been top notch with just enough uncomfortable innuendos and awkward laughs to keep me invested to the end of the skit. His not-so-well-known Googly Eyes Gardener is one that’s rarely mentioned but still funny.

Perhaps the first character that I remember and talking about was Father Guido Sarducci. I was too young to really “get” the character and I was more drawn to the ridiculousness of his set up. A Vatican newspaper rock critic and gossip columnist who wore cool glasses and was always smoking. Most of all, I think it was because my dad would crack up at him, which made me follow suit.

Not surprisingly, a number of classic SNL characters have stayed that way because they age well. From Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson to Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Rosannadanna, funny is funny, no matter what year it is. Just find a clip of Velvet Jones or The Nerds (Lisa Loopner and Todd Di La Muca) or The Festrunk Brothers or The Samurai or Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute or Theodoric of York…you get the picture.

Sadly, two of my most favorite actors on the show are no longer with us. Chris Farley and Phil Hartman. Farley’s very presence was enough to make you laugh and sometimes I watch his appearance on David Letterman to remember how funny he was. His Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker is a sure thing and only he could have made the Chippendales Dancer skit fly. Hartman was called “the Glue” because he could hold any skit together but two of my favorite characters from him were the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer and the Anal Retentive Chef.

Then you have all the hilarious duos from over the years. The Spartan Cheerleaders, Wayne and Garth, The “Love-ahs” Roger and Virginia Klarvin, and the “Delicious Dish” hosts. And how could I forget Hans and Franz?

You have the classic characters who are always remembered fondly like Stefon, Debbie Downer, The Church Lady, and Mary Katherine Gallagher. Then you have the ones you sort of forgot but as soon as you hear the name you go, “Oh yeah!” Characters like the Master Thespian, Dieter, and Phillip the Hyper-Hypo. Then I have ones who I think only I found funny like Operaman, Nat X, Brian Fellows, and Jebidiah Atkinson.

I’m still not sure about Pat but I’m not the only one who found The Falconer hilarious, right?

Who do you think is the funniest SNL character of all time?