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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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Holiday Extra Special

Make The Holidays ’80s Again

Enjoy the holiday cheer Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Whatever happened to the kind of crazy-yet-cozy holiday specials that blanketed the early winter airwaves of the 1980s? Unceremoniously killed by infectious ’90s jadedness? Slow fade out at the hands of early-onset millennial ennui? Whatever the reason, nixing the tradition was a huge mistake.

A huge mistake that we’re about to fix.

Announcing IFC’s Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special, starring Tony Hale. It’s a celeb-studded extravaganza in the glorious tradition of yesteryear featuring Bridget Everett, Jo Firestone, Nick Thune, Jen Kirkman, house band The Dap-Kings, and many more. And it’s at Joe’s Pub, everyone’s favorite home away from home in the Big Apple.

The yuletide cheer explodes Wednesday December 21 at 10P. But if you were born after 1989 and have no idea what void this spectacular special is going to fill, sample from this vintage selection of holiday hits:

Andy Williams and The NBC Kids Search For Santa

The quintessential holiday special. Get snuggly and turn off your brain. You won’t need it.

A Muppet Family Christmas

The Fraggles. The Muppets. The Sesame Street gang. Fate. The Jim Henson multiverse merges in this warm and fuzzy Holiday gathering.

Julie Andrews: The Sound Of Christmas

To this day a foolproof antidote to holiday cynicism. It’s cheesy, but a good cheese. In this case an Alpine Gruyère.

Star Wars Holiday Special

Okay, busted. This one was released in 1978. Still totally ’80s though. And yes that’s Bea Arthur.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

Pass the eggnog, and make sure it’s loaded. This special is everything you’d expect it to be and much, much more.

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special premieres Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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It Ain't Over Yet

A Guide to Coping with the End of Comedy Bang! Bang!

Watch the final episodes tonight at 11 and 11:30P on IFC.

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After five seasons and 110 halved-hour episodes, Scott Aukerman’s hipster comedy opus, Comedy Bang! Bang!, has come to an end. Fridays at 11 and 11:30P will never be the same. We know it can be hard for fans to adjust after the series finale of their favorite TV show. That’s why we’ve prepared this step-by-step guide to managing your grief.

Step One: Cry it out

It’s just natural. We’re sad too.
Scott crying GIF

Step Two: Read the CB!B! IMDB Trivia Page

The show is over and it feels like you’ve lost a friend. But how well did you really know this friend? Head over to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s IMDB page to find out some things you may not have known…like that it’s “based on a Civil War battle of the same name” or that “Reggie Watts was actually born with the name Theodore Leopold The Third.”

Step Three: Listen to the podcast

One fascinating piece of CB!B! trivia that you might not learn from IMDB is that there’s a podcast that shares the same name as the TV show. It’s even hosted by Scott Aukerman! It’s not exactly like watching the TV show on a Friday night, but that’s only because each episode is released Monday morning. If you close your eyes, the podcast is just like watching the show with your eyes closed!

Step Four: Watch brand new CB!B! clips?!

The best way to cope with the end of Comedy Bang! Bang! is to completely ignore that it’s over — because it’s not. In an unprecedented move, IFC is opening up the bonus CB!B! content vault. There are four brand new, never-before-seen sketches featuring Scott Aukerman, Kid Cudi, and “Weird Al” Yankovic ready for you to view on the IFC App. There’s also one right here, below this paragraph! Watch all four b-b-bonus clips and feel better.

Binge the entire final season, plus exclusive sketches, right now on the IFC app.

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Everybody Sweats Now

The Four-Day Sweatsgiving Weekend On IFC

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This long holiday weekend is your time to gobble gobble gobble and give heartfelt thanks—thanks for the comfort and forgiveness of sweatpants. Because when it comes right down to it, there’s nothing more wholesome and American than stuffing yourself stupid and spending endless hours in front of the TV in your softest of softests.

So get the sweats, grab the remote and join IFC for four perfect days of entertainment.

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It all starts with a 24-hour T-day marathon of Rocky Horror Picture Show, then continues Friday with an all-day binge of Stan Against Evil.

By Saturday, the couch will have molded to your shape. Which is good, because you’ll be nestled in for back-to-back Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Finally, come Sunday it’s time to put the sweat back in your sweatpants with The Shining, The Exorcist, The Chronicles of Riddick, Terminator 2, and Blade: Trinity. They totally count as cardio.

As if you need more convincing, here’s Martha Wash and the IFC&C Music Factory to hammer the point home.

The Sweatsgiving Weekend starts Thursday on IFC

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