Who Is SNL’s Most Accomplished Breaker? An Investigation

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Depending on your own sense of humor, the idea of a comedian “breaking character” during a performance decidedly falls into two camps: It humanizes them in an endearing way, perhaps even increasing the hilarity of what’s going on, or it makes them seem unprofessional if they can’t even execute their one damn job properly. (Call it the Jimmy Fallon Paradox, if you will.) SNL is, unsurprisingly, a great case study for this. Because every so often — at least once an episode, crunching the numbers from this season — one of the show’s players will break in a sketch either by flat-out laughing or concealing their body to muffle the lolz, which is subsequently beamed across millions of screens in the States and beyond. No pressure, right?

Vulture isn’t here to tell you if breaking is good or bad, but what we are here to share is that, after SNL’s mid-season finale this week, we looked back and combed through the show’s nine episodes thus far, identifying every instance where it cropped up. Seven players fit the bill for what we’d consider to be within the breaking spectrum — that aforementioned visible laughter, or trying to obstruct it — some of whom did it with much more regularity than others. Ranked for convenience, here’s who let their giggle flags fly.

7. Kyle Mooney

We don’t know if it was the concept of Vermont, the increasing lunacy of a neo-Confederate meeting, or Beck Bennett’s horrendous facial hair that got Mooney to crack a smile, so we’re not going to claim we have answers. Just try not to get hypnotized by his plaid shirt.

6. Cecily Strong

Seven words that would also likely make us lose it in a Long Island accent: Pug in a sexy Marilyn Monroe wig. She’s fresh from walking and barking on a sewer grate, jeez.

This mise-en-scène features Bennett and Mooney in tighty-whities, Liev Schreiber rockin’ a daddy mustache, and Vulture’s staff saving multiple screenshots of Schreiber’s daddy mustache. Strong is less horny and more horrified.

5. Kenan Thompson

If anyone can make us laugh, or make himself laugh, at Bill Cosby’s jail-cell experience, you can bet it would be Kenan Thompson. Also, cute turtle.

Funny enough, the two times Thompson broke this season were when he was acting alongside host — and his pal — Seth Meyers. Maybe it’s the wig, maybe it’s the way Meyers pronounced “Gucci shoes” as googity shoez, but those shoes and Meyers are his friends!

4. Kate McKinnon

McKinnon spent a whopping four-and-half minutes monologuing, mermaid style, on a drivers-ed classroom floor, eventually getting tripped up by the word help. She was teaching too fast. You remember how fast it was? She forgot she was wearing Heelys.

When the grandparents from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory start banging in their very small, very communal bed, we’d also protect ourselves from the emotional trauma with a common household object.

3. Aidy Bryant

McKinnon’s “paranormal occurrence” sketches are infamous for making everyone involved break at some point, and Bryant’s researcher character fell victim to two of the five sketches. Here, it came after McKinnon’s extended reenactment of “upper-decking” that “bitch’s toilet.” (It’s dropping a deuce in the toilet tank instead of the bowl. Obviously.)

Remember when Strong couldn’t keep it together around Bennett and Mooney’s half-naked bodies and Schreiber’s daddy mustache? Yeah, Bryant also finds the duo’s soaking-wet teen violence very amusing.

2. Pete Davidson

In Davidson’s defense, if Adam Driver spent one hour in a makeup chair transforming into a cantankerous octogenarian oil baron who yelled things like “Crush your enemies!” and “Look at me, boy!” at our faces, we would also react appropriately. Feel this, boy. Understand this pain, boy.

He ain’t done. Did we mention the oil baron was born seven months too early when incubation was still in its infancy, so he was placed in a cast-oven pot inside of a pizza oven until he was ripe enough to walk? His bones never hardened, but his spirit did! A moment of silence for the crow, please.

[Takes hit.] Cool narcotics kazoo, bro. Laura Ingraham is way jealous.

Hey, ladies. Dante Raven, a very single magician, is very interested in dating you. He’ll even snort a billiard ball for seduction purposes.

1. Leslie Jones

Conveniently enough, like Davidson, Kenan Thompson is one of those very eligible magician bachelors who (barely) perfected the art of sleight of hand. He also perfected the art of the very creepy stare, which hypnotizes Jones into a giggle fit within seconds. At least his nails are nicely manicured.

Sometimes baby showers make people emotional, and sometimes they catch people off guard when an unhinged guest requests the baby be removed from the premises. Jones fits in the latter camp.

This poor babysitter has to accompany Jonah Hill’s precocious 6-year-old to a Benihana, where all he wants to do is shout classic Bob Marley songs into her ear and advise a newly engaged couple to break free while they still can. He’s kidding; he’s 6!

Cue another Marley rendition and another double entendre. He’s still kidding; he’s still six!

It’s a battle of the Weezer Purist versus the Ride-or-Die Weezer Stan, with Jones and Matt Damon spiraling into an abyss of sonic insanity when they can’t agree on how good those Cali rockers actually are. If you don’t like the band, then frankly, drink Damon’s blood and burn in hell. Or at least allow Jones to slap some sense into your face a few times.

Who Is SNL’s Most Accomplished Breaker? An Investigation