50 Greatest Sketches of All Time

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Some website I've never heard of has teamed up with the Independent Film Channel (that authoritative repository of sketch comedy) to compile a list of the purported 50 Best Comedy Sketches Evar!. (Hat tip wt). My hatred of Top X _____ of All Time lists is long-standing and well-documented, and being an avid fan of sketch comedy I feel the need to comment.

Monty Python, not surprisingly, is all over the list, and [SPOILER!!!], the number one sketch is the Parrot Sketch, which makes perfect sense. This sketch is one of the purest and best-executed examples of the "Wacky Guy vs. Normal Guy in a Shop, Wherein the Wackiness of Wacky Guy Causes Normal Guy to Become Hilariously Exasperated" motif that formed the basis of so many classic Monty Python sketches (think Travel Agent, Book Shoppe, Fish License) and influenced a great deal of other sketch troupes going forward. Many of my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches, for example, are just Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald acting out Wacky Guy vs. Normal Guy (with Dave almost always the Wacky Guy, which is all the more effective given that Kevin is objectively wackier). One such sketch is "Citizen Kane," which also makes the list. So, I approve of the top prize going to the Parrot.

In Living Color makes a single appearance on the list, and it's a Jim Carrey parody of Vanilla Ice. I know not everything needs to be political, but come on. They dust off In Living Color, a ground-breaking show lampooning black urban stereotypes, and the best they can come up with is the show's one white guy making fun of a white rapper? How about Homey the Clown? The Brothers Brothers? I mean, really.

Upright Citizens Brigade also makes a single appearance, which is an underrepresentation as far as I'm concerned. There were plenty of great UCB sketches, though I recognize the difficulty of teasing them out. One of the brilliant things about that show was the fact that each thirty-minute episode had an overarching plot that the sketches were generally woven into, so some of the jokes are lost without context. Still, they could have tried a little harder. "Poo Stick" would have been good to include.

I still have trouble thinking of Saturday Night Live as anything but terrible, since I stopped watching several years ago when it actually was (at that time it was virtually indistinguishable from the unwatchable MadTV). I realize it's gotten better recently, but I'm still prejudiced against it. Still, the SNL sketches they chose to include are pretty solid, and there's a good mix of the classic 1970s sketches with the newer things. Number fifty is "Cowbell," an inevitable choice for the list. "Cowbell" is one of those things that's funny as a self-contained sketch but has been ruined by popular overreaction to it. I also kind of resent the fact that, since "Cowbell," on-set giggling by the actors has apparently become a legitimate basis for comedy. Today's sketchers, alas, lack the discipline of their predecessors.

I'm glad that the State is well-represented, and that "Porcupine Racetrack" made the cut. I would like to have seen the Unauthorized Biography of Abraham Lincoln, but you can't have everything. The scene where John Wilkes Booth walks in on Abraham Lincoln having sex with Robert E. Lee's wife, leading Lincoln to yell "John Wilkes Booth! I'll kill you for what you've seen here!" is still one of my favorite things I've ever seen on television.

Many of the performers, I must admit, I've either never seen or never heard of. The Catherine Tate Show has a sketch called "The Ginger Refuge," which I know by the title I would absolutely hate. At some point I'm going to write a blog post about how much I hate the word "ginger" and how stupid the new trend of ginger humor is, from the perspective of a redhead like myself.

I think that's all I have to say. Lists are stupid and sketch comedy is rad.

1 Comment

WOW, I love that you just brought years of In Living Color memories back into my life with a single paragraph. How well I remember my fellow white suburban fifth graders running around doing Homey the Clown lines.

My chief memory is being super delighted by the Brothers Brothers, because sometimes my folks let me stay up late to watch the Smothers Brothers, so this was one of the few parodies I actually understood. Hey, they DO like the banjo!

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on April 15, 2008 9:38 AM.

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