Live From New York: 12 Times SNL Visited A Theme Park!
This past week, the classic NBC Sketch Comedy show Saturday Night Live made waves in the theme park community by spoofing a high school trip to Worlds of Fun. A group of teens, played by SNL Cast Members Kyle Mooney, Ego Nwodim, Mikey Day and Heidi Gardner (a Kansas City native who allegedly had a hand in the sketch’s writing), along with SNL host Nick Jonas, were getting ready to ride the park’s log flume, Viking Voyager.
We could describe it, but it makes far more sense if you just watch the video below. (Spoiler Alert: Aren’t prizes supposed to be left in a locker or with a non-rider?)
I’m a huge fan of Kyle Mooney’s delivery in the above sketch, but it got me thinking. In the 46 seasons of Saturday Night Live, the Worlds of Fun sketch isn’t the first time that an “amusement park” has been broadcast “Live, from New York,” and there have been more than a few times where SNL has visited Disney, Universal, or even a more “generic” version of a theme park.
Here’s a few of our favorite times that SNL spoofed some of your favorite amusment parks or carnivals!
Debbie Downer: Disney World
SNL Season 29, Host: Lindsay Lohan
In this 2004 sketch, Rachel Dratch’s recurring character Debbie Downer makes her first appearance and travels on a family vacation to Walt Disney World. Known for her seemingly random factoids that are sure to dampen any mood, in this sketch, Debbie Downer talked about Mad Cow Disease, Train Explosions and Heat Stroke, as well as her favorite ride, The Hall of Presidents, while the vacationing family enjoys plates of Mickey waffles. As an added bonus, it’s always fun to see when SNL cast members “break” during a sketch. Not only did that episode’s host Lindsay Lohan crack, but the entire sketch, including Dratch and SNL Veterans Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, Jimmy Fallon, and Horatio Sanz were constantly laughing as well.
The Merryville Brothers
SNL Seasons: 36 (x2) and 38.
Hosts: Jim Carrey, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars
Another recurring sketch on SNL featured the Merryville brothers in a carnival dark ride gone awry. SNL players Taran Killiam and Bill Hader were joined by hosts Carrey, Timberlake and Mars, playing a trio of animatronics who seemingly came to life as the ride broke down. From murderous intentions to stealing a date, the Merryville Brothers and their various iterations – Trolley Ride, Tunnel of Love, and the Haunted Castle always seem to have mischief on the mind. The carnival maintenance worker, played by Bobby Moynihan, is little to no help when the ride breaks down. In the season 38 iteration of the Merryville Brothers (Haunted Castle, featuring Bruno Mars), there is a fourth Merryville brother, played by Tom Hanks.
Universal Studios Tram Tour
SNL Season: 46, Host: Dan Levy
Another recent theme park-focused sketch from earlier this season (are there secret theme park nerds in the SNL writer’s room?) features Dan Levy as “Tour Guide in Training” Thoby (pronounced with a TH) joined by Tour Guide Jeremey (Mikey Day), Tram Driver Dana (Ego Nwodim), and a Universal super-fan, played by (actual Universal pitchman) Kenan Thompson. Thoby, fueled by coffee takes the tour “off the rails” with some unscripted (and very NSFW) anecdotes centered around classic Universal film properties, much to the chagrin of a member of the Suncoast Youth Christian Fellowship, also on the tour (played by SNL Featured player Andrew Dismukes.) This sketch also created a faux controversy among theme park fans, because the official SNL Twitter account misidentified the Universal Park featured in the sketch. The branding was spot on though!
Touchdown at the Carnival
SNL Season: 30, Host: Tom Brady
In this sketch, Brady, joined by Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph and Rob Riggle attend a carnival, with hopes of eating funnel cakes and riding rides. When it’s mentioned that Dratch and Riggle’s characters have a baby on the way, the focus turns to a football toss, featuring a carnival barker played by Will Forte. As Riggle pays $5, throws one football and wins Dratch a bear, Rudolph eggs Brady on to attempt to win her one as well. Unfortunately, for the NFL Quarterback, he’s unable to hit the mark, getting increasingly frustrated. Forte’s continued calling of “Not a Touchdown” gets increasingly more frustrating to Brady as Dratch wins her own bear, Rudolph wins a bear, and an elderly woman, played by Amy Poelher, throws, hits the target and turns down the prize. Eventually, Brady gets his prize, but it’s not a bear.
100 Floors of Frights
SNL Season: 42, Host: Tom Hanks
While not a “true” amusement or theme park attraction, it’s clear to see that 100 floors of frights takes a least a little bit of inspiration from Disney’s Tower of Terror attractions, especially with “Hellevator Operator” Mark’s (played by Kenan Thompson) costume. There’s no IP in this haunted elevator attraction, though classic ride tropes – dead bride from Haunted Mansion, head on a platter from Curse of DarKastle) are are present. Multiple floors of the haunted elevator are inhabited by David S. Pumpkins (Hanks) and his band of dancing skeletons (Mikey Day & Bobby Moynihan), and it’s probably best explained by watching the video instead of reading our write up. Any questions?
Jurassic Park with Gemma
SNL Season: 42, Host: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Cecily Strong’s recurring character, the British pop singer Gemma makes a second appearance as Dwayne Johnson’s girlfriend in this sketch that takes place on the Jurassic Park River Adventure. The soft-spoken Gene (played by Kenan Thompson) and his wife (Vanessa Bayer) are joined by the fast-talking Johnson and Gemma, who don’t allow the demure couple to get a word in edgewise. Johnson’s dialogue, full of innuendo is often met with confusion from Bayer and sheepishness from Thompson. However, it wouldn’t be a true water ride without a few splashes, right?
SNL Season: 43, Host: Chadwick Boseman
A girl’s trip to Disneyland features Aidy Bryant as Disney-loving cast member Cathy, guiding Cecily Strong, Melissa Villaseñor and Leslie Jones through an encounter with the Magic Mirror to determine which Disney princess is “inside” of them. Villaseñor got matched with Elsa, because according to Strong, she was so independent and a total ice queen. Strong got Rapunzel, because she was adventurous, a little crazy, and way too into her hair. When Jones stepped to the mirror, she was met, not by a Disney princess, but by the late Chadwick Boseman, playing R. Kelly. However, true to her cast member form, Bryant refuses to acknowledge R. Kelly in the mirror, noting instead that she thinks “it’s a character from Mulan.”
SNL Season: 20, Host: George Clooney
“George Clooney and Chris Farley go to SeaWorld” could have been its own movie that I would have paid good money to go see. In the sketch, playing on the classic “handsome friend/ugly friend” trope, the late Farley plays the obnoxious, unattractive friend trying to get the attention of an attractive woman who is at Sea Park to see “Mandy the Jumping Whale.” Seated in the “Splash Zone” of Seat 2, Farley falls victim to more than one instance of bad luck in the sketch, while Clooney finds $100, wins dinner for 2 at “Georgio’s Trattoria,” and finds a stash of gold coins. Farley on the other hand, well, let’s just say he’s a master of reacting. Watch the video and tell us you didn’t laugh.
John Smith at Disney
SNL Season: 40, Host: Blake Shelton (Sketch Cut for Time)
This sketch didn’t make air, but Beck Bennett’s Gaston goes on break as a character performer, only to be replaced by Shelton’s version of John Smith. Character attendant Taran Killiam (dressed as a plaid) tries to lure park guests to the photo op, noting that Elsa from Frozen has a wait of three hours, and Ariel from The Little Mermaid has a wait of only an hour and a half. Killiam’s continued excitement for Jaaahn Smith is only matched by Shelton’s demeanor, saying things like “Hey! Did you know Pocahontas taught me about nature?” While other minor characters from Disney, including “Main Dumbo Crow” and “Broom from Fantasia” command waits of at least 10 minutes, Shelton introduces a malfunctioning Meeko the raccoon, meets “Going Away to College Andy” from Toy Story 3.
Bonus Update: On April 17, 2022, SNL once again returned to the theme park well of ideas with a sketch bringing the Six Flags icon Mr. Six out of retirement in a sketch called “Six Flags”:
What’s your favorite SNL Theme Park moment? Let us know in the comments below!