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SNL Sketch Showdown: More Cowbell vs The Chris Farley Show

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Welcome to the “Saturday Night Live” Sketch Showdown. Every weekday, an IFC writer will determine the winner of a matchup between two classic “SNL” sketches. You can check out the full bracket here.

Farley and Ferrell Go Head to Head

Apart from their chosen professions, Chris Farley and Will Ferrell appear to be polar opposites in every way. Farley, the self-conscious, troubled addict was the archetypal class jester. Ferrell, the confident, happy alpha male played varsity football. One idolized John Belushi and followed him to a similarly tragic end. The other made enemies with Joan Rivers and continues to ride a hugely successful film career. But for all their differences, both of these comedians share a rare passion for anything-goes hijinks. Ferrell is the first to lose his clothes for a laugh, and Farley never thought twice about humiliating himself to be funny. You also get the distinct feeling that both are performing as much for their fellow cast, as they are for the audience. In this matchup the two take on a little role reversal. Farley, a master of physical comedy, stays put and goes for nervous laughs, while the usually deadpan Ferrell plays with some percussive gyrations.

The Matchup

There is indeed a cowbell on Blue Oyster Cult’s, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” a fact that has not gone unnoticed since April 2000 when Will Ferrell clutched one to his hairy chest before banging it into infamy. The polyester-heavy sketch has a lot going for it, not least of which is Christopher Walken’s appearance as the slightly unhinged record producer, Bruce Dickinson, who turns everything he touches into gold (from records to diapers). As the host, it’s Walken’s show — his immense stage presence commanding your attention as he repeatedly lobbies for more cowbell — but Ferrell ends up stealing the scene as soon as he “explores the space” at Dickinson’s request. The sketch rewards multiple viewings too, and not just to bask in Walken’s strange diction. It’s the little things, like watching Ferrell take a comedic opening with his gut, literally. As his hand reactively moves to pull his shirt down over his exposed belly, he catches bandmate Jimmy Fallon’s reaction and leaves it gloriously exposed. Poor Fallon can barely deliver his line.

The genius of “The Chris Farley Show” was two-fold. Farley parodies the kind of vapid entertainment “journalism” which is now ubiquitous in our amateur-dominated media experience, fully a decade before 140 character limits existed, back when people had to insert a disc into their computer just to get online. Perhaps more impressive is the inept host’s parody of himself — the self-conscious, foolish fatty, fumbling the show. The awkward tension he creates is almost too much to bear, and it’s all amplified by a total lack of Farley’s trademark, his physical comedy. Some say the real Chris Farley was just like the guy he’s playing in this skit. Others admit it was how he came off, but that it was a put on, a defense mechanism. Either way, Farley was playing at getting laughs at his own expense, a talent the shy Wisconsin boy had long practiced at. And true to his life, he got us laughing, both at him and with him.

And the winner is:

“More Cowbell.” Pop culture at its most hilarious, this sketch has the enduring qualities of great comedy. People still quote from it every day, and even the phrase more cowbell lives in our language well beyond a little playful irreverence for some 70’s rockers from Long Island. In “The Chris Farley Show” we’re waiting for Farley’s patented physicality and we don’t get it. At the time, this added to the awkward tension that builds throughout and contributed to why it was so “awesome,” but it doesn’t hold up against the test of time. Ferrell’s Gene Frenkle is a fictional character, but his meme is very real. And that cowbell really pulls the track together too.

Did the right sketch win? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.