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SNL's 5 Best Digital Shorts, er, Pre-Recorded Sketches of the Season

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire May 16, 2014 at 7:0AM

While they're not technically digital shorts anymore since Andy Samberg isn't involved, some of "SNL's" best bits came about thanks to this Saturday's host and his push for innovation.
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NBC Bruce Willis hosting "SNL"

We covered the best and worst live sketches on "Saturday Night Live" -- now it's time for the 21st century material. While they're not technically digital shorts anymore, since Andy Samberg isn't involved, some of "SNL"''s best bits came about thanks to this Saturday's host and his push for innovation. Now, some of the most memorable sketches come in the form of a pre-recorded song, skit, or commercial. This season had its fair share of highlights in that department, and we've gone ahead and ranked the top five. Take a look at the list below along with hilarious videos as well.

1) "New Horror Trailer (host: Edward Norton)

Blame it on our indie film roots, but the spoof trailer for Wes Anderson's first horror film -- narrated by none other than Alec Baldwin -- is far and away the most memorable clip from the 39th season of "SNL." Perfectly titled "The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders," with a spot on impersonation of Owen Wilson by the host Edward Norton, "New Horror Trailer" showcases what the "SNL" writing staff can do when firing on all cylinders and working with top talent. From the framing, to the rotating camera, to the mise en scene (the tent as a panic room gets me every time), "New Horror Trailer" absolutely nails each and every Andersonian trope without skewering the man himself too sharply. It's as much a treat as his real trailers, and that's no easy accomplishment.


2) "One Direction's #1 Fan" (host: Paul Rudd)

Paul Rudd is at his best when he's being a sassy jerk, and boy does he crank both dials up to 11 in this would-be one-note joke on a very adult fan of the popular British boy band. It's hard to imagine another actor being so convincingly playful and sincere within the same moment, such as when "Dan Charles" stares down a young girl who calls him weird long enough to make her break into an (adorable) awkward smile. Combine that moment with the slow zoom on Rudd's utter jubilation while counting down to the band's walk out, and you've got an instant classic "SNL" skit. Disagree? "Oh, oh, oh. You don't know your basic facts."


3) "GIRLS Promo" (host: Tina Fey)

While Tina Fey's persistence on making herself look ugly (well, trying -- rarely does it work with her simple beauty) is getting tiring, she earned one more dressing down with this politely vicious take down of the ripe for parody HBO show, "Girls." If you've seen the series, as most of you have, it's worth watching this sketch once more to note the casual but pointed deconstruction of each character: Jessa's sexual obliviousness; Shoshanna's ridiculous hair; Marnie's imaginary relationship drama; and Hannah's spoiled regression. There's plenty more to enjoy, not the least of which is the reminder of what woman is in charge in this "Girls" world.


4) "Boy Dance Party" (host: Bruce Willis)

My personal favorite of the bunch, "Boy Dance Party" is the standout song of the season. Its club-thumps and pseudo-macho lyrics delivered with a straight-face marks it as a smart parody of gender stereotypes, but also as simply a catchy jam. The breaking point for most viewers seems to be the crotch-focused dance move, with half the people cackling with laughter at a motion accidentally observed in many sports games and the other half disgusted at the crude slow-motion shot. No matter what, Bruce Willis' dance moves should win over anyone on the fence. That spin -- brilliant.


5) "We Did Stop (the Government)" (host: Miley Cyrus)

A beautiful marriage of timing, Miley Cyrus took over hosting duties as her hit single "We Can't Stop" was peaking and the government was shutting down. Perhaps the best thing to come out of either event was this spoof video featuring a sickeningly spray-tanned Taran Killiam as John Boehner and Cyrus as a slutty Michelle Bachman. Only one of those is farcical. 


Special Mention: "The Beygency" (host: Andrew Garfield)

The youths of the Indiewire office (read as a few years younger than I) were insistent this humorous bit made the cut as one of the year's best. Starring Andrew Garfield as a man on the run after not being enthusiastic enough about Beyonce's reign, the video features a few cameos, subtle references to "The Adjustment Bureau," and a truly great shriek from the host. I couldn't in good conscious rank it above any of the top five, but it does deserve special mention. Plus, we can't ignore the new generation -- they are the future. As is Beyonce.


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