Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Top 25 Best Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever (Part 2)

Tonight I present part 2 of my top 25 SNL sketches series, including numbers 15-19.

19. Wake Up and Smile
from episode 21.08 - David Alan Grier, Original Air Date 12/09/1995

Starting off tonight's count is a very early Will Ferrell sketch from his first year at SNL, also featuring the underrated Nancy Walls and host David Alan Grier as members of a morning show that must cope with a broken teleprompter. Naturally things devolve fairly quickly into a surreal Lord of the Flies style fight for survival that showcases Will's talent for the insane.

18. Japanese Game Show
from episode 20.08 - Alec Baldwin, Original Air Date 12/10/1994

For number 18 we travel back exactly one year earlier, an odd transitory season with few bright spots. Here is one of the few exceptions that is played brilliantly by Mike Meyers, in one of his final SNL performances, speaking what I'm pretty sure is fairly accurate Japanese throughout the entire sketch. This is also the rare sketch where host Alec Baldwin doesn't steal the show, instead that honor goes to Chris Farley as the perplexed American tourist trying to manage his way through the insane game show that surrounds him.

17. Reagan the Mastermind
from episode 12.06 - Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Martin Short; Original Air Date 12/06/1986

One of SNL's strongest points that I have really yet to touch on in this list is their ability for political satire, no matter who the incumbent is (The classic Lewinsky-era Clinton sketches are an example). This gem comes from another transitory time in SNL's history, and features the late Phil Hartman doing an impeccable President Reagan with a split-personality. The way he manages to transfor between the public Reagan and the evil, scheming, mastermind version is utter brilliance.

16. Samurai Delicatessen
from episode 1.10 - Buck Henry, Original Air Date 01/17/1976

"NBC'S Saturday Night," as the show was known during its first year, had what many consider to be the most ultimately well-rounded cast that the show's ever had, and while it would be a good 9 years before I was born, I can appreciate the talents of the legendary John Belushi and his samurai character. The humor here is much different from the modern show, not particularly refined, but with a much stronger emphasis on absurdity and sight gags, which is pretty much what you'd expect with a sketch called "Samurai Delicatessen."

15. Lazy Sunday
from episode 31.09 - Jack Black, Original Air Date 12/17/2005

Before I started making this list I had no idea that this famous Digital Short and the spelling bee sketch were from the same episode. Either way, the Digital Shorts are probably the most well known feature of the current era of SNL, and it was a hard decision to choose this Short over some of it's brethren (particularly Dick in a Box, and other lesser known ones such as Business Meeting), but ultimately this classic featuring Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell put SNL back on the map after several disappointing post-Will Ferrell seasons. With so many incredible one-liners, it can hardly be argued that "Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious."

Check back later in the week for 10-14...
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Top 25 Best Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever (Part 1)

In thinking about a topic to write about, I've decided to call upon a subject that I have a fairly intimate knowledge of. Over the next couple of days I'll be running down what I feel are the 25 best sketches that have ever been on Saturday Night Live. As a disclaimer, with me being the age that I am I've only seen a few of the episodes from the 70s and 80s, as obviously I wasn't born until 1985 and the old repeats on E! only ranged back to 1989-ish. Obviously I'm probably missing some great obscure sketches from that period but I still feel like I've compiled a list an adequate list. With all that being said, let's begin.

25. Dysfunctional Family Dinner
from episode 23.11 - Sarah Michelle Gellar, Original Air Date 01/17/1998

This first sketch is classic Will Ferrell: the screaming, over-maniacal, egomaniac who spurts off randomly hillarious phrases such as "I drive a Dodge Stratus!" What really makes this sketch is how well Will and fellow cast member Ana Gasteyer (and host Sarah Michelle Gellar) manage to sit there in dead silence as they pick at their food without cracking up. This kind of understated tension is something we don't see from Will very often today (think of how over the top he is in Anchorman or Talladega Nights) but easily helps this sketch into the first spot.

24. Dieter's Dream
from episode 18.16 - Miranda Richardson, Original Air Date 03/20/1993

Mike Myers is known for his outlandish characters and sometimes surreal sense of humor, and never is it more apparent in this classic send-up of avant garde films. Myers' Dieter character first appeared as host of the German show "Sprockets" where he would command guests to dance and touch his pet monkey. Here he puts his character into a brilliant parody of German experimental films, complete with nonsensical imagery and rambling dialogue.

23. Spelling Bee
from episode 31.09 - Jack Black, Original Air Date 12/17/2005

Alright, so here's an obscure little gem featuring Will Forte demonstrating some wicked knowledge of comedic timing. Several of Forte's characters speak in this diminutive, droll voice, but here he ruthlessly pushes it to extremes and takes the audience along with him as they decide on whether or not the spiel is still funny or not. Forte's been on the show for 6 years now and it's a wonder more people don't know about his raw talent.

22. Bambi 2002
from episode 27.19 - Kirsten Dunst, Original Air Date 05/11/2002

Robert Smigel's "TV Funhouse" shorts have always been hit or miss with me, however there is no denying the shear awesomeness that is Bambi 2002. Smigel hits the nail on the head with this brilliant parody of Disney and its constant desire to re sell rehashes of its old classics for a modern audience and a quick buck. The utter randomness of stock footage used in this (scenes from Akira and a Yankees game) only adds to the hilarity.

21. Ed Glosser: Trivial Psychic
from episode 18.04 - Christopher Walken, Original Air Date 10/24/1992

Christopher Walken is well known for being one of SNL's most frequent and funniest hosts (and this isn't his only appearance on this list), however he steals the show as a man who received psychic powers in an accident, yet can only use them to foreshadow trivial matters, like slipping on a wet floor or getting an ice-cream headache. Walken's over the top jolts and facial expressions every time he touches one of his co-workers hands (as well as the cast's incredulous reactions to him) easily rank this sketch as one of Walken and SNL's best.

20. Debbie Downer at Walt Disney World
from episode 29.18 - Lindsay Lohan, Original Air Date 05/01/2004

One of the things that Jimmy Fallon is perhaps best known for during his 6 year tenure on SNL was his tendency to crack up during sketches that weren't all that funny to begin with. The difference with this first Debbie Downer sketch is that not only is the entire premise so absurdly funny, but the entire cast actually breaks character more than Jimmy does. Things eventually get so bad that the cast can barely make it through to the end, with host Lindsay Lohan trying her hardest to force herself to proclaim that Rache Dratch's character is actually ruining her time at Disney World. The unfortunate thing about how legendary this sketch was is that the writers decided to make it recurring, and none of the subsequent iterations of the character manage to come anywhere close to what this one achieved.

I'll take a look at the next 5 in my list in the next week....
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