1. John Mulaney (Episode 18)
2. Bill Hader (Episode 16)
3. Donald Glover (Episode 19)
Interesting bit of information Glover reveals in his monologue: he auditioned for SNL, twice. It's further revealed later in the show though, that Glover's slick comedic skills and quick mind would have been relegated to elevating lesser sketches, and probably would have inhibited the freedom that has allowed him success in all forms of entertainment. However, his episode still showcases what Lorne Michaels missed out on, as Glover inhabits his characters with a zeal and lends his wry cleverness to much of the more political material. So much of Glover's persona involves his almost untouchable confidence, his aloof brilliance, but on SNL, he takes many of the sketches up into the rarefied air with him.
The "'80's Music Video" sketch showcases both Glover's comedic and musical talent, while the "A Kanye Place" tackles, with Kanye West's (most recent) infamous rant with grace and sly wit. The final sketch "Prison Job," is an excellent bit, allowing for each performer to shine while subtly addressing dark racial themes. All of this and Glover still manages to give an electrifying performance as the music guest under the name of Childish Gambino, singing new songs "Saturday" and "This is America," the latter having a video that instantly became an iconic work of art and social commentary.
Glover's just as good as a musical performer, and, almost jarringly, reminds us that his talent hasn't even reached its peak yet. In the end, Glover's ability to be both silly and stylish, both sketch comedian and singer, that has us starstruck.
4. Tiffany Haddish (Episode 5)
Haddish earned her spot on that stage, overcoming a difficult upbringing to become the first black female stand-up comedian to ever host SNL. She takes on the job with relish, addressing her background with both grace and humor in a typically brilliant monologue.
She starts off strong, with "Tournament Fighter" showing how effortlessly she can steal a spotlight, and "The Last Black Unicorn" further proves just how joyous Haddish can be, and how bright her comedic glow is even on such a hallowed stage. It should be mentioned that the Weekend Update this episode was perhaps the best this season, with the jokes landing every time and Jost and Che truly inhabiting their distinct styles. Cecily Strong's Claire from HR character is also a great watch, with some of the best one-liner the show's had to offer in recent memory.
Overall, though, it's when Haddish infectious enthusiasm and radiant spirit are allowed to come through that the episode really gets good, so when Haddish is inevitably invited to return, let's hope we'll get to see her perform, unrestricted, as the shining star she is.
5. Kumail Nanjiani (Episode 3)
If you haven't seen "The Big Sick," or any of this man's work, let me tell you: he's good. His monologue will tell you that right away- it's funny, effusive, and effortlessly charming, much like the man himself. His dry sense of humor gets to shine in sketches like "Hotel Check-In," while Nanjiani's likeability as a comedian and as a human being comes through in "The Bank Breakers."
The best bit of the night is a strangely touching pre-taped short called "Customer Service" that further proves how truly funny SNL can be when it veers into non-traditionalist humor, especially with a host as genuine as Nanjiani. Kate McKinnon further proves herself to be this generation's comedic icon in this episode with her horrifying but hilarious Kellywise, an IT-like version of Kellyanne Conway character in a sketch with the wonderful Beck Bennett. It's slimy but sharp, will probably remain in the national psyche for both it's hilarity and haunting nature.
"Film Panel," while not the strongest sketch, was an important one in that it legitimately addressed a relevant issue in show business in earnest, for once but still has room for laughter. On Weekend Update, the always incredible Cecily Strong delivers a knockout performance as Ivana Trump, speaking incoherently as she eats a Ferrero Rocher, with Colin Jost in stitches the last few minutes.
Overall, though, it's Nanjiani's hosting that truly brings this episode to the next level, with his generosity as a performer and innate skills as comedian enhancing every aspect of this particular episode.