Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top Ten Sketches

An appreciation for sketch comedy is in my blood. My parents were SNL and Monty Python fans in their teenage years. We grew up on Hans and Frans, The Vancome lady, and the Dead Parrot Sketch. In college my best buddies and I started what I think we can safely call Orem, Utah's largest and most popular sketch group ever. Lately I've been thinking about what my favorite sketches ever would be. So I thought I'd do a top ten list. I've rewatched all my favorites in my attempt to come up with a definitive list. Some came so close (The Argument Sketch, Norm MacDonald as the straight man in the Westside Story, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's cold open), and some almost made it because of their impact on me (Sandler, Farley, and Spade deserve mention as the Gap Girls, because without them we never would have come up with the Provo Girls, and Adam Sandler's Canteen Boy almost made it for the sheer outrageousness he and Alec Baldwin got away with). But these are the ten that have that special place in my heart and on my blog. Enjoy!

10. Mad TV: Can I Have your Number?

This sketch was hilarious the first time I saw it all over the internet. The actor's commitment to the role is complete.  Only later did I learn that the main character in this sketch was portrayed by female comedian Nicole Randall Johnson. I think it may have been the first time I realized that one angle to comedy is to fully become someone who drives you crazy, and then exaggerate them a bit.

9. Abbott and Costello
This is one of the great classics. I've seen many an attempt by other performers to replicate this, but there's nothing like the original. Abbott and Costello performed this sketch many times, though rarely the same way. This is considered to be their best recording. The magic for me in this sketch is the precision and control it takes to look like you have no clue what's going on. Everything is tight, but the characters are never in on the fun.

8. Key and Peele: The Auction Block
From the days of Garrett Morris to the portrayal of President Obama, SNL has never quite had a handle (at least maybe until this season) on what to do with the question of race. In many ways this is how Mad TV kept its head above water opposite SNL on Saturday nights. Especially after the addition of Key and Peele, who currently are producing some of he boldest content out there when it comes to questioning racial or sexual inequality through satire on their Comedy Central show. Here they are going after slavery in a way no one else could.

7. Monty Python: The interview from the episode "Man's Crisis of Identity in the Latter Half of the Twentieth Century."
The Pythons were masters of absurdist comedy. But always with a point. After all, isn't life absurd? Here's a sketch from The Flying Circus that succinctly demonstrates how much absurdity we'll put up with because life is insane.

6. Saturday Night Live: Brian Fellow's Safari Time
The last half hour of any ninety-minute episode of Saturday Night Live is generally accepted to be the dumping grounds for sketches that they're not sure about. You usually get some pretty odd or even awful stuff at the end there. In the late nineties, this was what I would stay up late for, though, because that's when Tracy Morgan would get to step out of Tim Meadows' shadow and do his own thing. And it was usually crazy. I can't fully explain why Brian Fellow's Safari Time cracks me up so bad. Maybe it's because of my own love of nature shows, and somehow they found the worst person ever to host one. But you be the judge. (You'll have to click over to Youtube to watch; SNL is picky about sharing and this host won't let me embed).

5. Portlandia: Cacao
Maybe it's the fact that this sketch has such a perfect arc and lands back on its feet with an emotional resolution, or maybe it's just the fact that the coffee shop my boyfriend and I go to is called "Cacao," but this sketch kills me. Really everything Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen do on their groundbreaking show hits close to home, maybe because northern California is so close to Oregon. The first few times seeing Carrie use her voice modulation kinda threw me, but her commitment to the character makes that easy to get over. This one is a little risqué, for those who can't handle it.

4. Mad TV: Bon Qui Qui
All I want in my life is more Angela Johnson. Here she is doing her youtube-famous terrible BK employee, Bon Qui Qui. I can only say that I love this character because I know her.

3. Saturday Night Live: Tech Talk
The best satire should hit close to home. SNL did just that with this sketch that blasts American consumerism with the ultimate comedic perspective on first world problems. This is the kind of sketch I aspire to write. (Again, you have to click)

2. Monty Python: The History of the Joke
This is from the Python's live stage show. These masters of comedy here do what they do best: Mashup highbrow and lowbrow comedy. Here we have a scholarly analysis of one of the cheapest jokes out there: the pie in the face.

1. Saturday Night Live: The Judy Miller Show
My favorite comedian of all time is the luminous, fearless Gilda Radner. Here she is playing a simple concept, alone on stage for five minutes, but her truthfulness, manic energy, and unfettered imagination make her infinitely watchable. I can't imagine how you would tap into something so insane yet universal, and then have the guts to put yourself in front of an audience and just let it all out. She was taken from us too early, but we will always have her wonderful creations captured on film. Click the link!

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