The show has always dabbled in dog humor, but the past several seasons have seen a sharp uptick in puppy performers. It’s hard to say why SNL has made this canine pivot — perhaps it’s to add a bit of levity to a world filled with impeachment hearings. So if you need a little break and a quick laugh, here are some of SNL’s best sketches over the years featuring some proud and puckish pooches.
Talk about some well-behaved dogs. In this off-the-wall sketch from Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon and guest host Heather Graham, three tiny pups endure some of the most annoying imaginable sounds. Ferrell slams arrhythmically on a snare drum, Shannon screams at the top of her lungs and Graham shouts in an ear-shatteringly bad British accent. Yet Mister Rocky Balboa, a small pup in a basket, stands on his hind legs on command, a beacon of respectability. The other dogs quietly endure as the trio perform a dog seance.
In this sketch featuring Sam Rockwell, scientists at a gene lab have spent $35 million to make a “dog-head guy because we could.” The result — or what we can see of it — is a golden retriever’s head with two human arms. As visitors to the facility question the creature’s existence, the “dog-head guy” performs tasks such as building with Legos, solving a Rubik’s cube and eating a sandwich.
The best part, as always, is when the dog isn’t playing along. Mostly, they keep this hoodie-wearing golden retriever in line with some sort of food on the table in front of it, but early in the sketch, you can see the dog ducking under the table, with one of his human “hands” pushing his snout back up. During the back half of the sketch, they keep the pup interested by waving a ham sandwich in front of his face. While we laugh, the dog just munches away.
Following the election of Donald Trump, SNL decided to give voice to his supporters in the form of a pug wearing a helmet that translates its thoughts into English. During a presentation of the groundbreaking technology, Scarlett Johansson’s character is shocked to learn that her pug Max supports the president. The sketch is packed with sharp jokes, as Max explains that “one big change is better than business as usual” and that arguments for women’s reproductive health don’t mean much to him since his owner “didn’t afford me a choice” when he was neutered.
The best moment, though, comes in the middle of the sketch, when the confused-looking dog begins pawing at the helmet, eventually knocking it off. We can’t say for sure, but it seems as if Beck Bennett, who voiced the pup, pulled out a little improv at that moment, saying, “Stinkin’ helmet. I can’t believe you put this on me.”
Cecily Strong plays Judge Connie, who presides over the “Dog Court” show, which is exactly what it sounds like. SNL pulled no pooches, filling this sketch with multiple pups. Most of them play around pretty well, as Judge Connie passes down sentences. But the sketch reaches a new level when she’s handed a pug that has zero interest in playing along. For about 40 seconds, Strong struggles to hold on to a small dog doing its best to squirm out of her arms as she recites her lines, crawling all over her and nearly knocking off her glasses.
Yes, this list might suffer from recency bias, but it’s difficult not to fall for Aidy Bryant’s love song to her boyfriend — erm, her Chihuahua. As anyone who has ever been on Twitter or Instagram knows, this is one of those “the truth is often said in jest”-type sketches.
“Hi / I’m Joan / and I currently live alone,” Bryant’s Joan sings over a twinkling melody. We quickly learn her cheating boyfriend left her, but she’s doing just fine because she “found a new guy I like better anyway / He’s hot, oh, he’s hot / He likes my body and my personality a lot.”
The boyfriend? A 12-pound Chihuahua she found and named Doug. Don’t worry, she tells us, they don’t have sex. All she wants is to hear him talk, just once … so he morphs into a man (Harry Styles) in a dog collar, singing about how much he likes when she feeds him ham in a song that’s honestly as catchy as any One Direction tune. C’mon.
SNL succeeds when it is at its most absurd, and “Joan Song” is one of the strongest pieces of evidence supporting this claim.