DID YOU READ

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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
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Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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