10 Funniest SNL Moments Where the Actors Broke Character, Ranked

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With nearly 50 years and over 1,000 episodes under its belt, Saturday Night Live has, naturally, not always gone according to plan. That’s part of the fun sometimes, considering it’s live theater. And oddly enough, breaking character works for SNL just as often as it proves to be a distraction. This is as applicable to the week’s host as it is the cast that surrounds them.

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Of course, some breaks are more effective than others. What follows are the Saturday Night Live sketches with breaks that actually benefit the sketch. Sometimes this means a middling sketch becomes great, or even a boring sketch is entirely saved. From Lindsay Lohan and Keegan-Michael Key to Chance the Rapper and Sean Hayes, these are the funniest host breaks in SNL history.

10 Keegan-Michael Key — “The Muppet Show”

Both Keegan-Michael Key and SNL pro Kenan Thompson start breaking fairly early on in the sketch comedy’s take on “The Muppet Show.” Specifically, because of the perpetually cantankerous duo Statler and Waldorf. And it becomes so much for Thompson he even needs to remove himself from the shot.

When and Why Do They Break?

Every time the show starts to go on, the two old man Muppets interrupt, which leads to Key and Thompson’s security officers coming out to tell them to quiet down and be respectful. They won’t, so Key repeats “You are more than welcome to leave. You are more… than welcome… to leave!” And, when that fails, things get physical up on the auditorium balcony, and once Key starts beating Waldorf senseless the viewer can see Thompson shielding himself behind a curtain so the audience doesn’t see him laugh.

9 Chance the Rapper — “Judge Barry”

Chance the Rapper immediately proved himself to be an absolute natural on Saturday Night Live. And, while there are other contenders, his best sketch is “Judge Barry.” More impressively, he is what truly makes it work, including his breaks.

When and Why Does He Break?

Chance breaks a couple of times. As more and more bizarre defendants (and plaintiffs) are ushered into the courtroom, it becomes increasingly obvious he’s struggling, e.g. via covering his mouth a few times. But, then, Jason Momoa walks in basically wearing a full leopard print suit… Chance didn’t stand a chance.

8 Drew Barrymore (and Jimmy Fallon) — “The Love-ahs at the Hot Tub”

Will Ferrell has outright admitted the point of the “Love-ahs” sketches was to make Jimmy Fallon laugh. Never was this done better, perhaps save for “More Cowbell,” than in “The Love-ahs at the hot tub,” which featured guest host Drew Barrymore. And, of the three “Love-ahs” sketches (with the first featuring Katie Holmes and the third featuring Winona Ryder), Barrymore’s was bar none the best.

When and Why Do They Break?

The sketch opens on Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch’s dramatically-speaking Roger and Virginia in a hot tub with Fallon’s Dave. After they discuss a session of love making to a very TMI extent, they’re shocked to see their (equally dramatically-speaking) friend Barbara Hernandez enter. From there, with Ferrell’s pronunciation of Hernandez, Fallon’s laughing the whole time, to the point Ferrell has to go “Dave. Dave. Dave!” It’s priceless. All four actors break at various points, with Ferrell and Barrymore who manage to keep their cool the most.

7 Sean Hayes — “Jeffrey’s”

There were three Jeffrey’s sketches, and all three of them focused on snooty sales clerks chastising customers’ clothing choices. The best of the three was the first, with Will & Grace‘s Sean Hayes hosting for, to date, the first and only time. He’s solid in “Jeffrey’s,” delivering burns that break Fallon, especially once Horatio Sanz enters. In fact, then Sanz makes both Fallon and Hayes break with his seemingly improvised comeback.

Is That All?

Once Will Ferrell rides in on his motor scooter decked out in gaudy clothing, the audience (as well as both Hayes and Fallon) immediately start laughing. But, the sketch’s apex is when Ferrell’s character gets a call. As soon as he pulls out the world’s smallest phone and holds it to his face, it’s impossible not to laugh.

6 Pedro Pascal — “Lisa from Temecula”

When Pedro Pascal made his SNL hosting debut in February 2023, it didn’t take long for fans (and even those who don’t typically tune in for the sketch comedy show) to clamor for more. And, eight months after hosting, Pascal cameod in the episode hosted by Bad Bunny. During his hosting debut, Pascal keeps it together more often than not, e.g. through “Fancam Assembly” and the pre-taped “HBO Mario Kart Trailer.” “Protective Mom” gave him some trouble, but it was nothing compared to the result of Ego Nwodim’s efforts in “Lisa from Temecula.”

RELATED: Saturday Night Live Lets Pedro Pascal Unleash a Comedic Coup

What Makes The Break (and the Sketch) Such a Blast?

The sketch follows a group of friends as they celebrate one member, Shayna’s, birthday. And joining them is her younger sister from Temecula, Lisa, who has a way of mentioning how Pascal’s Paul “won’t be getting the butt” basically, no matter what he says. But it isn’t until Lisa starts cutting into her extra well-done steak like she’s Leatherface that Pascal breaks, and it’s infectious. In fact, by the end of the sketch, everyone’s broken, including Nwodim herself.

5 Lindsay Lohan — “Debbie Downer: Disney World”

One of the funniest sketches from ’90s SNL, and purely by accident, “Debbie Downer: Disney World” is a classic. No one can play a sad sack like Rachel Dratch, and this sketch is the apex of her ability. Taking place in a restaurant right in the middle of Disney World, Debbie keeps ruining her friends’ good time with stories of Roy (of Siegried and Roy) getting attacked by his own tiger.

Ultimate Boring Sketch Save by a Break?

Fallon is, of course, the first to break. And he does so with Debbie’s first depressing interruption. This causes host Lindsay Lohan to break, which then continues the snowball effect. The only actually funny part of the episode is Debbie’s depressing sidebars, and they’d be somewhat funny even if people didn’t break. But they did, and it’s magic.

4 Larry David — “New Wife”

In “New Wife,” Larry David plays a man who drops a bomb on his coworkers: He got married over the weekend. And that new wife is a vapid, rude oddball whose career is basically just “appearances” on the “gay circuit.” In other words, she’s opened his mind on how to have a truly bizarre life.

RELATED: 10 Seasons With the Funniest SNL Cast Lineups

What Made Larry Break?

David has most of the dialogue in this sketch. And every last word of that dialogue is ludicrous. By the time Cecily Strong (playing the titular new wife) starts counting to four in Mandarin mid-song, the Seinfeld co-creator is starting a crack. Then, by the time he starts going on about his new wife’s 3:30 A.M. show, he can barely get through the rest of the sketch.

3 Bill Hader — “Girlfriends Game Night”

Easily one of the funniest SNL performers to have started in the 2000s, Bill Hader is a legend of the sketch comedy show. And, frankly, he’s the only one who can make breaking work. There’s something charming about the way he turns his head from the camera, whereas Fallon would always just laugh right in the shot, consistently taking the viewer out of the sketch.

Why Was This Hader’s Best Break Yet?

Hader does the head turn here in “Girlfriends Game Night,” but it’s extra special because he’s in a gray wig, an electric wheelchair, and he has Cecily Strong in his lap. It’s more or less a simulation of sex, but what can be shown on NBC is so restrictive, so both performers were basically forbidden from even squirming. That becomes incredibly difficult once Hader backs his wheelchair into Melissa Villaseñor… a few times.

2 Ryan Gosling — “Another Close Encounter”

Many SNL fans’ pick for the best sketch of the 2010s, “Another Close Encounter” has a trio of American citizens who have just gone through an alien abduction. Or, rather, a second one. This includes Kate McKinnon’s Colleen Rafferty, whose experience was (again) far different from her peers’.

Why Was the Second Break So Much Funnier?

Ryan Gosling (who twice played one of the trio) broke during the first “Close Encounter,” without a doubt, but that break doesn’t hold a candle to the hilarity of his second one. Why? Because he’s heaving with slightly subdued giggles as Ms. Rafferty squeezes his butt cheeks and shoves her face between them (really, it’s just his Barbie co-star McKinnon doing it, and for a second the pretense of them playing characters is somewhat dropped at the moment).

1 Christina Applegate — “Matt Foley: Van Down by the River”

There’s a certain subset of SNL fans who look at two sketches as the gold standard: “More Cowbell” and “Matt Foley: Van Down by the River.” The latter has Chris Farley iconically playing the title character, and he really gives the troubled motivational speaker his all. Farley’s buddy, David Spade, struggles throughout the entire sketch, and who can blame him? The same goes for host Christina Applegate.

Why Is Her Break the Best?

Consummate professonal that she is, Applegate does her best to keep a straight face. But, after his third or fourth “I live in a van down by the river!” the cracks begin to show. Then, when he belly flops through a coffee table, full laughter ensues.

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