18 Saturday Night Live
Across parts of six decades, SNL has minted stars (John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, and too many others to name), made catchphrases go viral (from “We are two wild and crazy guys!” to “I live in a van, down by the river!” to “More cowbell!!!” to “This place has everything!”), brought down political candidates (people still think Sarah Palin, not Tina Fey-as-Palin, said, “I can see Russia from my house!”), and redefined TV sketch comedy many times over. It’s also been pronounced “Saturday Night Dead” on multiple occasions, and it’s a truth that everyone’s favorite SNL cast is the one from when they were in high school. But even when our expectations outstrip the show’s fundamentally uneven execution — as creator Lorne Michaels (who has run all but a handful of the 47-plus seasons) says, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30” — the very idea of comedy being performed live from Studio 8H still feels intoxicating, no matter the era or ensemble making it.