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Going Back to School with ‘Saturday Night Live’

September 1st, 2016 by Liz Brown

‘Tis the season for the perfect cheer.

Yes, it’s time for algebra, book reports, and awkward gym class moments once again, but back to school doesn’t have to be all bad. If you’re feeling low about being at the start of another school season, maybe you can take heart knowing that school days have provided the inspiration for some of the greatest recurring “Saturday Night Live” sketches in the show’s 41 year history. “SNL’s” rich history of school-based comedy is a reminder that we’ve all suffered the pain of feeling like a doofus in the hallowed halls of an educational institution at least once in our lives. Back to school season doesn’t have to be a drag. Celebrate with a tribute to our five favorite recurring school sketches:

Spartan Cheerleaders

Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri redefined what it meant to go rogue when they debuted their Spartan Cheerleaders sketch back in 1995. Their borderline terrifying enthusiasm combined with their “unique” choreography made for one of the most iconic recurring character sketches of all time. Craig and Arianna quickly became the most popular kids in late night comedy, even if they did have to eat their lunches stuffed inside their own lockers until graduation.

Principal Frye

Attention teachers and students: the first time we saw Jay Pharaoh perform a Principal Frye sketch, it was so right on that we started sweating just like we were back in detention for pantsing our chemistry lab partner. Frye is the ultimate personification of the failed authoritarian who gets absolutely no respect from his faculty, staff, or kids he’s charged with disciplining. It’s enough to make a guy want to breathe heavily into a microphone with reckless abandon.

Mary Katherine Gallagher

Oh wow, we’re getting near the end of our list and that makes us nervous. And when we get nervous we stick our fingers under our armpits and we smell them…like THIS. It’s not ladylike. It’s gross. And so is our favorite Catholic School gal with questionable hygiene, superstar Mary Katherine Gallagher. She proved that girls in little plaid skirts don’t have to be adorable or charming in any way. They can be as disturbing as any character in a Lifetime Made-for-TV movie starring Meredith Baxter-Birney. Hallelujah.

Boston Teens

Rachel Dratch and Jimmy Fallon did a wicked good job portraying Sully and Denise aka “Zazu”—Boston area high school students who loved to scream at each other right before passionately making out. Their politically incorrect proclamations of “love” for each other and their diehard support of the Boston Red Sox make them some of our favorite teen characters of all times. We especially love the sketch when they go to the fall formal together. That was one seriously huge ball. (Tommy, please tell us you got that.)


Altadena Middle School Chorus Teachers

Will Ferrell hit another high note with another school-themed sketch when he and Ana Gastayer paired up as husband and wife chorus teachers Marty Culp and Bobbi Mohan-Culp from Altadena Middle School. The duo performed popular music hits in the dorkiest way possible and united a nation by proving that yes, high school music teachers are all the same. Everywhere. Exactly the same. Also, please don’t call them “J Holes.”