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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.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…