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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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