Maybe it's the occasional marathon Vh1 plays on the weekends these days but for some reason I've been thinking about Saturday Night Live recently. It's an incredible show if only for its longevity, breadth of talent and access to just about everybody (can you imagine Presidential Candidates appearing on Mr. Show?). There are dozens of famous sketches but not unlike my post yesterday, today I'm going for a subaltern approach. Now despite the title, you've probably seen some of these before but regardless these are six of my favourite SNL sketches of all time. Let the ludicricity commence:
#6/5: "Googly Eyes Gardner" / "Meet the Family"
I couldn't decide which of these Christopher Walken Skits I liked better, so what the hell, here's both. Walken is the perfect kind of host, he's game for anything and throws his full talent behind whatever insane thing he's doing. He's also a mostly dramatic actor with incredible natural comic timing and SNL gives him the chance to fully employ it. That said, it's tough to find a bad Walken sketch from "The Continental" to "Colonel Angus" he's got a lot of good ones. "Walken Family Reunion" is incredible though, basically a display of every single cast member's Walken impression but also full of perfectly weird Walken-esque quotes ("I hate ghosts. They're spooky and I don't respond well to spooky behavior"). "Googly Eye Gardener" just comes out of no where, it's Walken alone at his best, a level of extreme weird channeled through a matter-of-fact attitude and skewed common sense. It's so unrelentingly goofy. There is some semblance of rationality in his thought process but it's so damn weird.
#4: "The Joe Pesci Show"
There are a lot of good variations of this, basically Jim Breuer plays an insane pastiche of Joe Pesci's famous persona as a talk show host with silent Robert De Niro as his sidekick. It's mostly used as a showcase for some excellent celebrity impersonations and a lot of meta. Alec Baldwin demonstrates a ridiculously good DeNiro in this one. There's also this incarnation that features Jim Carrey as Jimmy Stewart, then Mark McKinney as Jim Carrey, which of course progresses to Jim Carrey doing Jimmy Stewart doing Jim Carrey and Mark McKinney doing Jim Carrey doing Jimmy Stewart. Jim Carrey is another host that gives everything to SNL, relishing a chance to do some sketch comedy like his roots. But the best version is the one embedded above in which Breuer and Colin Quinn are interrupted by the actual Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro. The irony of the skits are that while Pesci takes insult to being called something like a "crazy character," his actions after being offended prove the offender correct. When the real Pesci shows up, tho he is calm and asserted, he proves to be equally violent to his cartoony counterpart which maintains the typical skits' cadence while rejuvenating the premise. Also funny.
#3: "The Diner"
I could not find a video of this anywhere but here is a transcript of the sketch. This is one of the strangest SNL skits I've ever seen, I'm not even sure what the joke is, but the dialogue is real crisp and the characters are incredibly fleshed out in just a few minutes. Basically Jan Hooks plays a Diner waitress with weird tension between a cowboy who drifts in (Alec Baldwin). There is some great goofiness from Phil Hartman and Kevin Nealon playing some redneck regulars, but the greatness here lies in the mysterious dynamic between Jan and Alec. Whether or not they have a past or just immediately find each other halfway between irresistible and intolerable we never find out. It plays like a mini-soap opera though with no real punchline or easily accessible premise, which is incredibly ambitious for SNL, especially for the early 90s, a time period in its history dominated by overly silly character-based sketches. Baldwin's the perfect host for this kind of sketch, like Jim Carrey and Chris Walken, he's so game for showing a bit of weirdness and poking fun of himself. He makes it work.
#2: "Stevie Nicks' Fajita Roundup"
I don't know why this is so good. Maybe it's Lucy Lawless' perfect Stevie Nicks impression or just the Fleetwood Mac songs that fit so well when given a Mexican Food Theme. Burritos and Nachos are pretty funny foods to sing about, and Fleetwood Mac really fits that need for a band that was kind of good but mostly sucked. It's the kind of sketch that Lucy needed to carry and her timing and pacing shines through. Also the songs are pretty catchy. I still hum "Burrito Dreams" when Mac comes on the radio.
#1: "The Iron Chef"
There's hardly another SNL sketch where every single character is funny. This just knocks it out. Despite having almost the entire cast within the sketch, Will Ferrell is no where and it still holds together very well. Everything is awesome. What's more important is that the characters don't get in each others way. Everyone has their great line then it keeps moving. Nothing is too crowded. Charlie Sheen excels as the American Bachelor Chef, the right combination of sleazy surfer and earnest stoner. The satire of weird Japanese Culture is spot-on with misplaced celebrities, awkward American adoration and of course the terribly dubbed speech. From Shark Heads Rice with Eel Farts to the Famous Murderer and the Triumph of The American Bachelor Chef, this is close to perfect. The best line though goes to Rachel Dratch as the Fortune Teller - "I am a fortune teller, and I predict these Shark Heads will go in my belly!" That line is so incredibly stupid, it's great.
So those are my favourites. There are so many more from this show, the legend lives on. Happy watching, folks.