Saturday Night Live has been a constant source of topical sketch comedy for decades. Much of the show’s humor stems from impersonations, but SNL has also created a long list of memorable recurring characters.
The first were the Killer Bees. SNL’s debut episode included a sketch titled “Bee Hospital,” in which cast members wearing bee costumes nervously stood around a labor and delivery ward, pondering whether their child would be a worker, drone or queen.
The sketch garnered virtually no laughs from the audience. In fact, it was such a bomb that NBC executives sent a memo to SNL creator Lorne Michaels. “The only note we got from the network on the first show was, ‘Cut the bees,’” Michaels said in Live From New York, “and so I made sure to put them in the next show.”
The Killer Bees would become Saturday Night Live’s first recurring characters, partly out of defiance and partly out of desperation. SNL had no budget for costumes or props in the early days. So, the bar was set pretty low early on: You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who argues that the bee sketches were funny.
They nevertheless set a template that would be copied endlessly, as you’ll see in our list of the Top 30 Saturday Night Live Characters. Impersonations were not considered, and a character had to appear more than once to be eligible. The Killer Bees didn’t make the cut, of course, but their legacy lives on through a couple of characters who rank pretty high.
30 Best ‘Saturday Night Live’ Characters
Much of the show’s humor stems from impersonations, but ‘Saturday Night Live’ has also created a long list of memorable recurring characters.
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