Despite the dozens of iconic characters 'Saturday Night Live' has spawned over its 35 years, the most consistently funny and memorable moments have come from its hallmark spoof ads. After striking comedic gold in its very first season with a sketch about Mel's Char Palace, SNL's writers soon keyed into the parodic potential of America's longstanding obsession with technology, resulting in Dan Aykroyd's seminal Ronco
send-up, the Super Bass-O-Matic '76
. Since then, tech continues to serve as a golden goose for the series, allowing the writers to celebrate -- or stick it to -- an endless variety of ad campaigns, products or social trends. Switched sifted through the three decades of tech-related parody commercials available online, and came up with our top ten list for the ages. (Our caveat: NBC has cracked down so unmercifully that virtually no SNL clips exist anywhere other than on Hulu.com and NBC.com, which means all of them have brief ads. Sorry kids!) Hit up the comments for any winners we missed or ones you'd like to nominate.
10. Woomba, 2004
Short of diapers and taking dumps, SNL's most frequent object of spoofery is the ad world's unbridled passion for cringe-inducing narratives about female "freshness." While we'll admit this spot's
best jokes come mostly from Tina Fey's extensive vocabulary of lady-bit euphemisms, the repurposing of a mini-Roomba (in pink, naturally) is a pretty nice touch. Until it isn't.
9. Me Harmony, 2005
Thankfully, the firehose of e-Harmony ads have faded in recent years, but the distressingly giddy "real life" couples and creepily confident relationship guru Dr. Warren were begging for a beatdown. SNL's simple parody
is equally creepy, but definitively answers any lingering questions we had about which cast members could pull off cross-dressing. (You be the judge.)
8. Mom Translator, 2009
One of the few fake gadgets that we actually long for, the Mom Translator
is more of a mild social satire than a dig at a real product or company. (That said, we have a suggestion should this thing ever go into production: Internet terminology 101.) We especially love the ultra-specific, ultra-contemporary connection between a gossipy fascination with celebrities and a technological solution for anything and everything. Let's hope this inspires a real-world KIRF.
7. Bug-Off, 1995
As pajama-clad kids, we were always baffled by the incessant ads for Raid and pest extermination services. Why were they on TV during Saturday morning cartoons? Is our house really a horror show, infested with deadly, bloodsucking bugs? And what the hell is up with the redundant tag line, "Kills bugs dead"? can you kill bugs alive, or only partly dead? Like a bizarro Orkin man, Will Ferrell's noir-ish salesman
takes the fetishized, hard-boiled sales pitch of those spots to a level beyond the pale. The awesomely ridiculous pale.
6. T-Mobile Fav 5, 2008
One of the few spoof ads performed live instead of being pre-taped, SNL took a postmodern look
at the ostensibly witty but actually mildly disturbing subtext of this original T-Mobile spot
. We laughed when we saw the original ad, too, but SNL makes a pretty compelling point. (Note to self: remember to change MyFav 5.)
5. NCI-phone company, 1993
After the government broke up AT&T's telephone monopoly
in the '80s, a host of smaller companies like Sprint and MCI scrambled to lure customers. MCI was particularly dogged, using mock AT&T commercials and even hiring actors who had previously been in AT&T ads. The heated ad war between the companies, each one claiming to offer the best service (hilariously taken to its logical extreme in this ad), would pay off for MCI, which eventually became the second largest telco in the U.S. Oh, and it also merged with Worldcom, and, in spectacular fashion, became the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history back in 2002. And David Spade? He ended up doing commercials for years for 1-800-COLLECT
-- which was owned by MCI -- right around the time this ad
4. Ernestine, 1976
Ask anyone over the age of 45 about this ad, featuring comic genius Lily Tomlin
, and they'll sit you down to tell you exactly where they were when they first saw it -- likely with the same clarity and emotion as others use to describe the moon landing and Nixon's resignation. Despite its obviously dated scenario (seeing as we don't remember the last time we spoke with a human operator), we still take comfort knowing that the phone company has been royally, gleefully screwing people over for four decades now.
3. Kannon AE-1 Camera, 1983
Expertly walking the razor's edge between bad taste and hilarity, this pitch-perfect send-up
parodies a long-running series of '80s Canon commercials with an identical setup. (Hey, it's not making fun of blind people if an actual blind guy is in it, right?) We're impressed that, while the style of the commercial is dated, the edgy humor still kills today.
2. Royal Deluxe II, 1977
Testimonial ads are as old as advertising itself, and have long been a staple of car advertising, especially back in the '60s and '70s. SNL's absurd, outrageous version
deftly dissected that phenomenon, delivered cuttingly accurate parody, and basically ushered in the age of irony in one fell swoop.
1.Old Glory, 1995
A strong contender for the greatest spoof ad ever made
, this spot is one of the densest and most efficient bits of short comedic storytelling ever put on TV; it's no surprise, then, that it was penned by a young Conan O'Brien. It hilariously nails a powerhouse trifecta: white hairs' irrational fear of modernity; the hard-sell scare tactics of insurance companies; and the dubious practice of tangential celebrity product endorsements. Hell, there's even a play at patriotism for good measure. If only real ads could be this good.