Saturday Night Live isn't important because it's a weekly funny show. It's important because it's the only weekly funny show that can help us remember what the heck happened this year. That's largely due to Weekend Update and Seth Myers' beautiful, boyish smirk. But other things too! Like cold opens during the election season.
So, in the interest of The Atlantic Wire's Year in Review, we've compiled a look at the last year of our lives through the very-skewed lens of the 30 Rock sound stage.
Thing That Happened: The Iowa Caucus
The very first cold open of 2012 featured two things that aren't really all the relevant anymore: Andy Samberg and Rick Santorum. Samberg left the show in between seasons and Santorum became a Republican primary afterthought. But the comedian donned Santorum's trademark sweater vest to kick off the new year and talk, at length (stress: at length), about campaigning for the Iowa caucus, because it was an election year. We've embedded the best part here.
And Michelle Bachman appeared later in the same episode to personally concede from the Republican race.
(Bonus) Thing That Happened: The U.N. Appointed Nicolas Cage to do Something
You know how sometimes the U.N. appoints a celebrity the ambassador of something? Yeah, at the beginning of the year they made Nic Cage the something something about drugs, which is hilarious for anyone who has seen Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, and because Nic Cage.
Thing That Happened: Ricky Gervais Offended Everyone at the Golden Globes (Again)
Ricky Gervais was very controversial again this year, no? No.
Thing That Happened: Kim Jong-Un
Kim Jong-Un became the new leader of North Korea, but that doesn't mean his friends were going to talk about him being a dick behind his back.
Thing That Happened: Lana Del Ray
Lana Del Ray isn't really relevant anymore, sure. (Almost on the same level as Kreayshawn, but let's not jinx it.) But you may remember at the start of the year when she totally bombed, sounded terrible, had a real Ashley Simpson moment on Saturday Night Live. IT became newsworthy just for how terrible it was. So, naturally, SNL addressed it a few weeks later by having Kristen Wiig impersonate the singer for an appearance and apology on Weekend Update.
Thing That Happend: Linsanity (And Racism)
In retrospect, this was one of our favorite sketches of the year. Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, Bill Hader and Taran Killam break out every possible Jeremy Li pun, racist or otherwise, in the face of the controversy over that one ESPN.com "Chink in the Armor" headline.
Thing That Happened: The War on Women
No, this isn't a sketch from three or four years ago. Amy Poehler made a guest appearance on Maya Rudolph's return to the show (this time as a host) and appeared on Weekend Update to give the best possible run down of the stupid, stupid, stupid "war on women" and the debate over contraception in the health care mandate.
(Bonus) Thing That Happened: Amy Poehler read the headlines on Weekend Update
Seth Meyers is the only person who reads headlines on Weekend Update anymore -- unless Amy is in town.
Thing That Happened: Snooki Baby
Snooki had a baby but no one cares about Jersey Shore (except Richard, and me) anymore and the show is over but she still probably won't go away.
Thing That Happened: Trayvon
Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in Florida. It was really bad. This sketch is pretty awful, for the most part, but stick around for host Josh Brolin's impression of now-former Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen.
Thing That Happened: Kristen Wiig Left SNL
Kristen Wiig left the show at the peak of her popularity, essentially. She dominated the previous year by being the biggest performer on the show and starring in the runaway comedy of the year, Bridesmaids. If you'll excuse us, we need a tissue and a moment.
(Bonus) Thing That Happened: Andy Samberg Left, Too
Andy Samberg left, too, but at least his big departure sketch is way funnier and not sad.
Thing That Happened: Summer Break
Saturday Night Live is a television show that does not air in the summer time, so for the sake of this year in review piece we're considering the summer as a thing that did not really happen. You imagined it.
Thing That Happened: Ryan Lochte
The world's most (or least, depending on who you ask) loveable bro Ryan Lochte became a household name during the Olympics. Lochte went back to being relatively anonymous about two months after the Olympics.
Thing That Happened: Clint Eastwood's RNC Speech
Clint Eastwood had a conversation with a chair for way too long during the Republican National Convention and it was awkward and awesome, but this came about two weeks later so it was ultimately just beating a dead horse.
Thing That Happened: The 47 Percent Video
Yep. That still happened.
Thing That Happened: Michael Strahan Replaced Regis Philbin
Yep. That still happened. (We kid. Strahan's actually won us over a little. He's really happy to be doing something, anything, and for that we can't fault the guy.)
Thing That Happened: Louis C.K. Hosted
Sometimes things within the show's universe are deemed newsworthy in and of themselves. The biggest comedian in the world hosted the biggest comedy show in television on the eve of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. It was important. This sketch was deemed an instant classic.
Thing That Happened: Hurricane Sandy (And Lydia Callis) (And Chris Christie)
Seriously, this episode will go down as one of the best. It's one of the only ones from this season that could stand up to repeat viewing. There's so much to unpack in this one sketch. Our love affair with Lydia Callis, our love affair with Chris Christie, addressing New York after the hurricane.
Thing That Happened: The Presidential Debates
This was our favorite of all the debate sketches, and even then it still goes long. It's not great, but it was something.
Thing That Happened: Mitt Romney Lost
Fin. Or not?!
Thing That Happened: The Fiscal Cliff
This is still happening, if you want to be specific. It took an entire election cycle, but Pharoah finally figured out what works and what doesn't with his Obama impression on time for this sketch with Bill Hader playing John Boehner. Points to Gryffindor for this one.
And that's it, folks. All in all, they didn't do half bad.