The lifespan of recurring SNL sketches goes like this: It airs once. It goes viral. Then SNL does the sketch twenty more times until people forget why they liked it in the first place.
“The Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy,” a send-up of the worst stand-up comedy has to offer, was different. It aired once. It did not go viral. They didn’t even bother to put the sketch on YouTube until two years later. But the show did it again. And a third time. While never a massive hit, the sketch – which has the best SNL cast members of the 2010s performing the silliest characters you could ever pitch at 2:00 a.m. – deserves praise as one of the funniest 10-to-1 sketches in the show’s 43-year history.
Taking into account their inanity, originality, source comedians, and overall ability to elicit belly laughs, we’ve have gone ahead and ranked all 33 “Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy” from worst to first. Chiming in with behind-the-scenes stories on select rankings is Slappy Pappy himself, Bobby Moynihan, who co-wrote all three sketches with Jake Szymanski, who also directed, and Christine Nangle.
33. Dave “This Could Be My Penis” Grohl
Frequent SNL musical guest and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl’s contribution to “The Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy” was a bit like his music: solid, dependable, and not groundbreaking in the least. Armed with a chest full of props that would make Carrot Top jealous, Grohl’s character was a little disappointing given the Foo’s string of goofy music videos in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Moynihan: He was around that week to perform with Mick Jagger and we just happened to have all these props lying around. I do still have a cue card from that day that says “This could be my penis … This could be my penis … This could be my penis …” signed by Dave Grohl. He was kind enough to draw a penis on it. He seems like the kind of guy who’s up for anything.
32. Adam “Hawk Attack” Levine
The tattooed and uber-suave Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine seems like the kind of guy who’s easy to hate. But I think he’s more self-aware than people give him credit. Maybe that’s why Adam “Hawk Attack” Levine comes so low in my rankings. I just hate to see his perfect coif and rugged, yet perfectly moisturized face be ruined by a hawk attack.
Moynihan: Oh my God! I’m so surprised. I would’ve had him so much higher. Adam “Hawk Attack” Levine was entirely my creation.
31. Chip “So Yeah, I’m Single!” Fenney
Andy Samberg would shine in later editions of “The Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy,” but his take for volume 1 was a bit of a flop. Despite being dressed like late ‘70s Robin Williams, Chip is not a spoof on Robin’s improvisationally manic stand-up. Instead, he’s just a guy whose act is about his dating failures. The desperately single comedian is a trope that’s ripe for parody, but it would be done better by other catchphrase comedians who rank higher on this list.
30. Barry the Plumbing Gentleman
Maybe the least inspired of all the “Kings of Catchphrase” comedians, Barry the Plumbing Gentleman was saved by the criminally underrated Taran Killam’s take on Larry the Cable Guy … if Larry the Cable Guy was a plumber who, for some unknown reason, owned a bait shop instead of a plumbing business.
Moynihan: What was his catchphrase, again? “Not in my bait shop!” That was just something Taran would say around the office and we wanted to find a way to get it into the show. That was a recurring thing in the making of these sketches.
29. Pat “Carry the Two” Baer
28. Mike “Insert Joke Here” Henry
27. Jorge “That Ain’t A/This Is A” Miguel
Fred Armisen is the king of hyper-specific oddball characters, but neither of these three made much of an impact on me. However, it’s a testament to how ludicrously funny Armisen is that he can still make me laugh solely on his wig choices.
Moynihan: These are all based on comedian friends of ours. The names, at least. I want to give a shout-out to my friends, Pat Baer and Mike Henry, the inspirations for the names behind these characters. Jorge Miguel? That’s just George Michael in Spanish. Fred had free rein. He would just come in and put a costume on. We didn’t necessarily give him a catchphrase. He would just come up with one on his own.
26. Chris “Who Said That” Bruss
The moment when a waitress drops off the check are open mics for dads who traffic in dad jokes. Jason Sudeikis’s character Chris “Who Said That?” Bruss is what happens when that dad becomes a touring comedian.
25. Pete “Airhorn” Schultz
In the years since the first “Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy” sketch aired, comedians making air horn sounds with their mouth has entered the pantheon of stand-up hackery. But when Zach Galifianakis debuted this character who uses an actual air horn, the outlandish premise didn’t seem too far removed from avant-garde bits Galifianakis would do in his real-life stand-up act. Schulz drops a few rankings, however, for being too similar to Aziz Ansari’s Funny People character “RAAAAANDY,” a fake stand-up whose act heavily relies on his DJ dropping the air horn sound effect.
Moynihan: Zach had a really busy week as host and these pre-tapes take a long time. So we wanted to come up with something that would be really easy for him to do.
24. Triangle Sally
Kristen Wiig can make even the simplest premise funny. For example, her recurring SNL character Triangle Sally, who popped up in several sketches over the years to play a single note on the triangle and recede into the background. For Kristen’s SNL swan song, as Moynihan reveals, she was given the opportunity to retire the fan favorite with style.
Moynihan: Triangle Sally was a recurring character who appeared in lots of sketches over the years. This was Kristen’s final episode, so we wanted to send her off by finally giving Triangle Sally an actual line: “I’m Triangle fuckin’ Sally, man!”
23. The Squeefy Brothers
The Sklar Brothers don’t get enough credit for their stand-up act. It’s difficult enough to sustain a career for 25 years, let alone one where identical twins eschew a half century of comedy rules to create a duo act with no straight man-funny man dynamic. Unlike some of the other “Kings of Catchphrase” comedians based off real people, you can tell this spoof was out of respect, as Moynihan explains.
Moynihan: Yes, this was out of love. With this for the Sklar Brothers and later on in the sketches, like with Sarah Silverman, these were all homages for comics we respected.
22. Shania “In These Shoes?” Tunt
Some of the best creations in these sketches are comedians who could actually pass as the real deal. With the always incredible Kristen Wiig channeling heavy Whitney Cummings vibes as Shania “In These Shoes?” Tunt, it’s not a stretch to imagine this catchphrase comedian kicking boorish male hecklers out of The Comedy Store.
21. Bonnie “My Vagina” Carolina
Like The Squeefy Brothers, Bonnie “My Vagina” Carolina is a tribute to the early comedic sensibility of Sarah Silverman. But it also works as a satirical barb aimed at the hated straw-woman of misogynist comedy fans: the female comedian who won’t stop talking about her vagina. Or more accurately, the one who brings it up at a 1-to-10 ratio compared to her male peers talking about their dicks.
20. Reverse Gallagher
It’s not the funniest parody of Gallagher – that goes to Dave Chappelle’s Black Gallagher – but Andy Samberg does a nice bit of physical comedy with this alternate-universe Gallagher despite, as Moynihan explains, him not having faith in the prop.
Moynihan: We had to get props to somehow make a sledgehammer that explodes and a watermelon that didn’t. When you see Andy Samberg say, “I can’t believe that worked!”, that’s his actual reaction!
19. Gavin “What If It Had Boobs” Speiller
The lovechild of Demetri Martin and a frat boy. If that lovechild had boobs.
18. Coby “You Might Be Watching Boston Legal” Bird
If we’re talking real-life catchphrase comedians, Jeff Foxworthy has to be the most successful of all time. He found an untapped market that wasn’t as niche as gatekeepers thought, a loyal audience desperate for relatable comedy, and one hell of a catchphrase-slash-joke structure. That being said, I think Jeff would still doing open mics if, instead of Southern culture, he based his act on differentiating Star Trek and the long-forgotten spin-off of The Practice.
Moynihan: This just came from Jay Pharoah not knowing what Boston Legal was.
17. Dana “What Else? What Else?” Bramson
Like Bonnie “My Vagina” Carolina, Dana “What Else?” Branson is simultaneously a tribute to a legend (Janeane Garofalo) and commentary on the comedy scene. Generations of alt-comedy audiences are now so accustomed to comedians looking down at their notebook that an actual practiced transition can often seem false. The bad kind of false, not the “worked on this segue for 18 months” false.
16. Denny “A Bit Weird Innit?” Cumberbatch
Ever since Americans elected a literal fascist as commander-in-chief, the “Americans do things differently” style of comedy has had a bit of resurgence from foreign comics. But well before Jim Jefferies was cashing big Netflix and Viacom checks to tell us how messed up things are in the States, Mick Jagger was killing it as Dennis “A Bit Weird Innit?” Cumberbatch. No piece of American culture is safe around Cumberbatch, especially not the way we pronounce “schedule.”
Moynihan: Mick Jagger was very down. He gave us his time and really just played around. He even had a couple jokes that he threw in. He was the best. I remember that of all the hosts we had on doing the sketch, he was the most down. Like, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll do it.”
15. Dr. Velociraptor
Jay Pharoah was used in his six-year SNL stint primarily for the same reason he came onto the radar of Lorne Michaels: his celebrity impressions, including those of comedians like Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. But in his three “Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy” appearances, Pharoah avoided recognizable stars and instead gave us the sketches’ most demented characters. As you’ll soon see, Dr. Velociraptor wasn’t even close to his craziest comedian.
Moynihan: Jay used come into my office at 2:00 a.m. as a velociraptor. It would always half bother me and half make me laugh a great deal. During the shoot, we happened to have a doctor’s costume, and I think we just had Jay put it on. So it was conceived right there. Just another instance of finding a way to get things that made us laugh in the office on the air.
14. Addi “News Flash” Sweeney
Abbi “News Flash” Sweeney only coming in at #14 is a little like Wilt Chamberlain coming off the bench on an All-Time Lakers team: He’s competing with Shaq and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for that starting spot at center! But that doesn’t take anything away from the performance of Vanessa Bayer, who ramps up the wide-eyed energy she regularly gave on SNL to a manic state of someone literally thinking she’s a baby onstage.
Moynihan: Wow! I would’ve had her higher. Vanessa is the best. This was based off of Rita Rudner, who would perform comedy in a ball gown.
13. Dirk “Jack-Knife” Caine
After guest host Charlie Day’s spot on the “Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy,” Jason Sudeikis could no longer hold claim to the best Dane Cook impression on SNL. Unlike the tributes to comedy legends elsewhere on this list, this one is less of a playful punch to the shoulder and more of a sharp jab to the liver. From incorporating syllables as a punchline to using a heavily-marketed hand salute – remember the Su Fi? – as a catchphrase, Day will give you mid-2000s comedy PTSD.
Moynihan: That was straight-up all Charlie Day. We thought “Jack Knife!” was the perfect catchphrase. But it was all Charlie Day.
12. Black Stewie Griffin
You’ll either uproariously laugh at the mere image of Jay Pharoah as “Black Stewie Griffin” or you’ll be confused as to how this made it on air. There’s no in-between. However, there’s no debate when it comes to the makeup. You will have nightmares.
Moynihan: Black Stewie Griffin was the #1 most terrifying makeup we did in the sketches. We used the “Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy” to get Jay’s weird impressions on. It was a little hard for Jay on the show because he was boxed into doing all these impressions. But he’s a really good actor.
11. Doug “Long Drag From a Cigarette, Then Say OK” Rice
Sudeikis nails Denis Leary’s faux badass onstage persona that the Massachusetts comic reserves these days for Ford F-150 commercials. Unfortunately, there’s a missed opportunity to have a Bill Hicks catchphrase comedian to mirror Doug Rice and for that reason, he just misses the top ten.
10. Boston Powers
9. Dr. Wicked Evil
If you haven’t seen the original Austin Powers in awhile, it hasn’t aged as problematically as you might think. There’s even a scene where Austin explicitly refuses to have sex because his love interest is too drunk to give consent. Boston Powers, on the other hand, is about as problematic as Austin Powers gets: the swinging-sixties special agent as a drunk Bostonian who gets horny for baseball. In volume 3 of the sketch, we’re introduced to his arch nemesis, also played by Seth Meyers. Can you guess what makes Dr. Wicked Evil a bad person in the eyes of a devout Red Sox fan?
Moynihan: Seth hadn’t been in a sketch since he started doing Weekend Update, and I just missed Seth being in sketches because he’s so funny and such a good improviser. He’s the reason I’m on the show. So I just thought, “I’m going to write Seth into this and see if he’ll do it. And what does he like…” Well, he likes the Boston Red Sox.
8. Rick “Get Out of Here Before I Suck Your Cock” Tipenski
From the Billy Goat Tavern to Da Bears, Chicago references used to dominate SNL sketches. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I postulate that these Windy City cultural cues waned as performers from Los Angeles and New York’s UCB Theaters replaced The Second City as the show’s main pool for sketch talent. So it was a delight to hear that pleasantly abrasive Chi-Town accent return to the show in the form of Bill Hader’s Rick “Get Out of Here Before I Suck Your Cock” Tipenski. Tipenski is your average blue-collar working-class stiff who loves the Cubbies and has one year left driving the L before he can collect his pension. He also just happens to be a proud openly gay man who will threaten to suck your cock if you give him any crap. It gets better, indeed.
Moynihan: And if you mess with him, he’ll suck your cock. That was 100% Hader.
7. Black Joker
The best of Pharaoh’s distinctly insane characters is Black Joker. Pharoah plays it straight, like a stand-up on Halloween who doesn’t have time to dress in between his set and the party he’s going to right after. Heath Ledger’s Joker had plenty of catchphrases, but there were none needed here due to Pharoah’s ridiculously funny stage presence.
Moynihan: We actually have ten minutes of him doing stand-up as Black Joker. He’s just doing a perfect Heath Ledger. The video is somewhere. It’s terrifying.
6. Goran “Funky Boy” Bogdan
Paul Brittain’s not-so-subtle tribute to Yakov Smirnoff ranks so high for a reason that I’m a little ashamed to admit: If he were a real comedian, I would pay to watch his set. Brittain’s Croatian import is just that convincing when complaining about American women and the location of restrooms within a Sonic Drive-In.
Moynihan: I can’t believe he isn’t in the top 5. He’s one of the “Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy”! Funky Boy, that was all Paul’s creation.
5. Dave “Beef Jelly” Winfield
Upon first watch, you might think that a comedian ending all of his punchlines with “Beef Jelly!” is a little outlandish. If that’s the case, please take a moment to watch the stand-up comedy of Alonzo “Hamburger” Jones. Whether he was performing in front of Def Jam comedy audiences or engaged in a “Yo Mama” insult battle, Jones would end – and sometimes begin – all of his jokes with “HAAAAAAM-burger.” Some might call it more of a verbal tic than a catchphrase. But for disciples of catchphrase comedy, it’s scripture.
Moynihan: Beef Jelly is easily my #1. He was named after Dave Winfield the baseball player. You’ll notice that he loves to talk about dookie and eating dookie. John Mulaney was the one who came up with the idea to always have him talking about dookie. The real Alonzo “Hamburger” Jones showed up to SNL with his daughter one time and wore almost the identical outfit that Kenan had on.
4. Fur Coat Rhonda
In all three sketches, Abby Elliott’s Fur Coat Rhonda is the only catchphrase comedian whose audience members yell back her catchphrase (“Of course I can afford it … I’m Fur Coat Rhonda!”). But it’s not hilarious just because it’s fans repeating back a punchline. It’s the type of rabid devotion you see at MAGA rallies whenever President Trump starts a “Lock Her Up” chant. Of course she’s in the top five … she’s Fur Coat Rhonda!
Moynihan: This was based on nothing. It was simply, “What if Abby Elliott was a stand-up comic?” Well, she would be Fur Coat Rhonda. The audience in the crowd loves Fur Coat Rhonda. She’s a rock star.
3. Reen “Uh, Houston?” Gordon
Reen “Uh, Houston?” Gordon only has one appearance in these sketches, but she made the most of it with perhaps the funniest catchphrase of all 33 characters. Seated next to a harp bigger than she, Nasim Pedrad utters this single joke: “So you’re rich and you got a super-sized ding dong? Uh, Houston? We got a husband!” and punctuates it by playing the sound you hear when sitcom characters enter a dream sequence. It’s simple, it’s funny, and it works. And I don’t doubt that a real-life catchphrase comedian once used it when Apollo 13 was in America’s cultural consciousness.
Moynihan: That’s a surprising choice for #3 but Nasim was amazing. This is the one with the harp, right? This character was based off Judy Tenuta, who would do her act with an accordion and [exaggerated New York accent] tawk like this and end all of her punchlines by playing the accordion.
2. Slappy Pappy
Like Dave “Beef Jelly” Winfield, Slappy Pappy seems too absurd to be based in reality. But Bobby Moynihan’s character is a mix of in-his-prime Sinbad and real-life catchphrase comedian Shucky Ducky, who would end his jokes with “Shucky ducky quack quack!” In all three sketches, Slappy Pappy struts onstage with the confidence of a mid-’90s Def Jam comedian who’s equally frustrated with McDonald’s breakfast hours and regular encounters with Dracula and Frankenstein. In another time – the halcyon days of the early 2000s – Lorne Michaels might’ve blessed us with a Slappy Pappy movie. But for now, we just have to imagine a big-screen romp where Slappy Pappy tracks down the Frankenstein who took his woman.
Moynihan: I used to perform improv with Charlie Sanders and Eugene Cordero at UCB, and Charlie had this old VHS tape where bits of a Sinbad stand-up special was taped over the movie. And word-for-word, my line “If a Dracula is chasing you, turn around and trip the bitch!” is taken from that special. Not the word “bitch” because Sinbad doesn’t swear. But the rest was entirely improvised by me.
1. White Bernie Mac
The late, great Bernie Mac used to say in his routine “I been black a long time. I tell it like it is.” From his stand-up to his underrated sitcom to his scene-stealing film roles, Bernie Mac never shied away from putting his POV as a black man in America front and center. Maybe that’s why Jason Sudeikis in whiteface doing a spot-on Bernie Mac impression is so viscerally funny to me. There’s no deeper meaning into it. It’s just White Bernie Mac. It’s five seconds that triggers whatever it is inside my brain that causes guttural laughter. And it’s only fitting that one of “The Original Kings of Comedy” is also the #1 Original King of Catchphrase Comedy.
Moynihan: I am so happy with the placement. On my list, I’d rank him at #2. White Bernie Mac was a character Jason would do around the office. And we thought, again, “How do we get White Bernie Mac on the air?” These sketches were always so hard to get on the show. Two made it to air and one was only shown online. We actually wrote a fourth “Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy,” but it only made it to a table read. I am so mad we didn’t shoot more footage of us all backstage when we were in character. We could’ve made a documentary like the real The Original Kings of Comedy.