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SNL Sketch Showdown: Samurai Delicatessen vs. James Brown Hot Tub Party

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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.

Belushi vs. Murphy

This one is a tough call, although it would be a much different story if it wasn’t for “James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party’s” improbable, last second, against all odds, miracle comeback victory against the heavily favored media-skewering genius of “Buckwheat Is Dead” that defied all expectations. But that’s why they play the games.

The Matchup

On one hand, you’ve got the raw power of John Belushi, perhaps the best in the game in his prime, wielding a motherscratchin’ katana. There’s just an element of madness that puts you on the edge of your seat when the hands-down most dangerous member of the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players is swinging a sword around – and the fact that he’s good enough to slice a tomato in mid-air adds a little something to that mystique. Then there’s just the amusing notion of an ancient Japanese warrior of honor serving sandwiches to schmucks in New York – therein lies the central joke, of course, especially with Buck Henry seeing absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about it. Hell, Henry’s nattering on about football while the Samurai Futaba prepares his order could be an added bit of commentary about how much people in food service don’t give a damn about whatever inane blather comes out of your face, and how compelled we are to make inane small talk anyway. The samurai is not interested in your gambling problems! He is there to prepare meals honorably – so much so that he will commit seppuku if you impugn the quality of his sandwich artistry! It’s a funny overreaction that makes us smile, but it’s also something those empathic types among us worry about when someone gets our order wrong and we’re deciding if we should complain (although the bigger fear is usually whether or not we’ll be served food covered in spit and boogers afterwards). Anyway, “Samurai Delicatessen” ends with a satisfying bit of destruction, because let’s face it, it’s always a treat to watch Belushi destroy something. It’s visceral.

On the other hand, you’ve got 22-year-old Eddie Murphy without all the trappings of today’s Norbitty version of the man. He’s young, he’s raw, he’s energetic, and he was the best thing about “SNL” of the early 1980s. It’s capitalizing on his notable ability with impressions, especially with The Godfather of Soul James Brown, whom Murphy also spoofed in his hit stand-up special “Delirious” as being famously unintelligible. It’s musical, which makes it that much more likely that “Hot Tub! Hah! Rub-a-dub inna Hot Tub!” will become an indelible part of our brains, randomly popping into our heads when we’re doing laundry, or just walking down the street, where it will also make your body start to strut not like the actual James Brown, but like Eddie Murphy’s version of James Brown. He actually ties in Brown’s trademark “HEAAYYY!” with hot tub water being too hot… because this is a sketch called “James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party,” which is just a hilarious phrase in and of itself, and it’s about James Brown hosting a show where celebrities hang out in a hot tub with him. The ending image of old talk-show staple Dr. Joyce Brothers in a hot tub with James Brown is all you need to see. Many other “SNL” sketches will take that concept and stretch it out until the cute initial concept becomes an old joke by the time it finally goes to commercial. But not “James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party.” It’s just a little over two minutes, in and out, hilarious and done, leaving you wanting more without actually giving you more that would probably only dilute that absurd genius anyway. Really, if it kept going, it’d just be a “What Up With That” sketch – maybe even with Joe Piscopo bouncing around in a track suit, too. To top it all off, there are a couple of moments where Murphy almost breaks, and audiences tend to love that in moderation (and not the Jimmy Fallon overdose). There’s not an awkward silence to be had.

And the Winner Is…

With all that in mind, it becomes clear why the scrappy upstart one-and-done “James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party” managed to beat the longer, more complex single-show-multi-sketch effort of “Buckwheat Is Dead.” It set an amazing standard that most “SNL” sketches don’t follow. Yes, we do like to see sketches and characters we enjoyed again and again, such as “Samurai Tailor,” “Samurai Dry Cleaners,” “Samurai Psychiatrist” and even “Samurai Night Fever,” but all too often they start to wear out their welcome. Not “James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party,” though. High concept, efficiently executed, ridiculously funny and a catchy earworm. Plus, we don’t have to start wondering whether a white guy muttering in fake Japanese is kind of accidentally racist or not.

WINNER: James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party

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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