Saturday Night Live’ started 2014 as a show that was rebuilding; it ended the year in a noticeable groove that foreshadows, hopefully, many more great things to come. The following 10 sketches represent the calendar year of 2014—which includes the last half of the 39th season and the first half of this current 40th season. So, with that explanation out of the way, here are the 10 best ‘SNL’ sketches of 2014. Like all lists, you will like some choices and not like others.

10. ‘Puppet Class’

The return of Bill Hader’s Anthony Peter Coleman marks the only recurring sketch in the Top 10. It’s actually a shame that Anthony and his puppet, Tony, were conceived so late into Hader’s run on the show (this version, only the second, appeared when Hader came back to host), because it might have been considered one of his greatest creations. Actually, it doesn’t matter, it’s still one of his best creations. And this time we even get a puppet flashback.

9. ‘Grow-A-Guy’

I almost left ‘Grow-A-Guy’ off of the Top 10 simply because Mike O’Brien has a good amount of representation on this list already, but then I decided that’s a dumb reason to exclude something. First, it’s apparent that O’Brien and James Franco work well together (they have another collaboration on this list). Second, this is at the same time heartbreaking and weird and funny. Also: Beck Bennett plays a bully almost too well.

8. ‘Graveyard Song’

It may have been since Halloween, but I still have “Paul and Phil, Paul and Phil” stuck in my head. This is just great sketch comedy with a lot going on—complicated musical numbers!—that all somehow comes together to tell the story of two nice ghosts (yes, Paul and Phil) that all of the other ghosts seem to hate.

7. ‘39 Cents’

Playing off the “if you give 39 cents you can feed a village” commercials, the people of that village start wondering why the number is so low. “It’s not even a round number!” What starts as a plea for help ends as a passive-aggressive showdown over what actually 39 cents can buy ... and it’s at the same time on point and hilarious.

6. ‘Bad Boys’

‘Bad Boys’ isn’t quite as good as the first entry into this new “ironic ‘90s sitcom” genre, ‘Wing.’ But, ‘Wing’ never technically aired on the live show so, by our rules (it’s probably not actually a real rule), ‘Wing’ is disqualified. Regardless, one of the single funniest moments of the year was when a little kid showed Chris Pratt that he was packing heat. (Also: I laugh every time at the non sequitur scene-change backdrops.)

5. ‘Black Jeopardy’

They key to ‘Black Jeopardy’ is just how confident Pharoah, Zamata, and Thompson act their parts and how everything comes to a halt once Louis C.K. says anything. The game show sketch (‘Jeopardy’ especially) has been a staple on ‘SNL’ for many, many years—to be fair, for the most part they work; this is why they keep happening—but, here, new life was given to that sometimes worn out format.

4. ‘Dragon Babies’

Mike O’Brien started 2014 as a full cast member and over the summer was reassigned to a then-unknown role. That role seems to be to go off on his own and make short films (he even has his own title card now) and, hopefully, O’Brien finds a way to bring back perhaps his greatest creation: Rick Shoulders, a retired Chicago police officer who now does voiceover work in animated films. Rick Shoulders perfectly encapsulates O’Brien’s sense of mixing sincerity and strange.

3. ‘Singing Sisters’

‘Singing Sisters’ is the story of three raccoons who become human for a short amount of time so that they can talk to men who say words like “dame” and eat garbage. All of this is true. This is quite possibly the oddest sketch to air in 2014.

2. ‘High School Theater Show’

Watching this sketch, it feels like something that was rehearsed for months. Timing is the key, but there are so many moving parts, how in the world this was performed live and pulled off perfectly is beyond my capacity for understanding. Speaking of timing, Aidy Bryant saying, “smart,” and Taran Killam saying, “the Internet,” were delivered perfectly in that “pretentious theater show” kind of way.

1. ‘Monster Pals’

Right before making this list, I watched ‘Monster Pals’ in a “perhaps my opinion is a little too high on this one, I’d better make sure” kind of way. Nope, this is great in every way. Rewatching, I love the way O’Brien’s monster growls nonsense, except for Jim’s name—making every sentence sound like, “Gaaaa grwroooaaa goooooaaaa, Jim.” ‘Monster Pals’ is sweet, weird, touching and funny all at once and it’s the best ‘SNL’ sketch of 2014.

Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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