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'Saturday Night Live's' 5 best skits

By Todd Leopold, CNN
updated 9:31 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Justin Timberlake may have won an Emmy for
Justin Timberlake may have won an Emmy for "D**k in a Box," but he didn't make this list. Sorry, Justin.
  • "Saturday Night Live" celebrates 40th season Saturday
  • Show has produced many top-notch sketches over the years
  • Here are picks for five best

(CNN) -- "Saturday Night Live" will begin its 40th season Saturday, and in its first 39 years it's produced at least 39 hilarious sketches.

You're probably playing them in your mind right now: the Nerds, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, some Stefon bit with Bill Hader. Maybe even the Vomitorium. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

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But some are just better than others, right?

Now, a few caveats:

I'm old. I celebrated my 104th birthday last week, and I remember when electricity was transmitted by horse-drawn train car. So if these choices skew older, that's one reason. Prefer more contemporary sketches? Add your opinion in the comments -- or, better yet, head on over to iReport and write up your own thoughts.

Memory is selective. It's not that I don't appreciate "D**k in a Box," Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal as Frankie and Willie or "The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise," but the shock and hilarity of some sketches are just stronger than others. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Comedy is subjective. It makes you laugh or it doesn't. These made me laugh -- and also, sometimes, gasp.

So here's one guy's opinion of "SNL's" five best sketches (short films included). And sorry to disappoint you, but "More Cowbell" isn't among them:

"The Final Days" (first season, 1976)

The Watergate saga was still part of the everyday news cycle when this skit, based on the Bob Woodward-Carl Bernstein best-seller, made its appearance. Dan Aykroyd was at his Nixonesque best as the 37th president, a paranoid figure taking his anger out on Henry Kissinger (John Belushi) and the paintings of presidents on the White House walls. The truly scary thing is that Al Franken and Tom Davis, who wrote the skit, didn't have to change that much from the book.

"White Like Me" (season 10, 1984)

Eddie Murphy, who had risen to stardom as an "SNL" cast member, returned as host for a December 1984 episode. In this short film, he went undercover to "experience America as a white man." He finds that we do, truly, live in two distinct countries. His stiff-legged walk alone is worth watching.

"President Reagan, Mastermind" (season 12, 1986)

To his critics, Ronald Reagan was an infuriatingly disengaged president -- but, as "SNL" producer Lorne Michaels has observed, he was a hard president to criticize because he was so sunny and optimistic. Finally, Jim Downey and Franken came up with this sketch, with a cutting Phil Hartman as Reagan. Who knew he could speak Arabic?

"Schmitt's Gay" (season 17, 1991)

Beer commercials have long followed the same formula: Surround male schlubs with good-looking women in impossible scenarios. "Schmitt's Gay" was a fake ad that turned the formula around, with Adam Sandler and Chris Farley as two guys who crack open some beers -- and are immediately surrounded by hot men. You'll never watch a beer ad the same way again.

"Tom Brokaw Pre-tapes" (season 22, 1996)

Tom Brokaw is going on vacation, and his producer wants to make sure every option is covered -- which includes the obituary of Gerald Ford (who was very much alive at the time). But you can never be too prepared when it comes to possibilities. What if the president is eaten by wolves?