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SNL Sketch Showdown: Wayne’s World vs. More Cowbell

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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.

The Finals

The championship matchup of our “Saturday Night Live” bracket features a contrast in styles. On one side, you’ve got the premier sketch of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that gave birth to a comedy franchise. On the other, you’ve got the best sketch of the 21st century, which, surprisingly (and happily), the show didn’t decide to spin off into a recurring bit. But they also have much in common. Both highlight their respective era’s biggest “SNL” star displaying everything that made them so beloved. Additionally, each sketch gave birth to ubiquitous catchphrases that have become so ingrained in the culture that some people might not even know where they originated anymore. Either one would be a worthy victor. But there can only be one winner…

The Matchup

Over the span of about five years, “Wayne’s World” appeared almost 20 times on “Saturday Night Live.” Developed from a character Mike Myers had honed on Canadian television, Wayne was a dorky, lovable suburban metal-head who hosts a cable-access show with his punching-bag buddy Garth (Dana Carvey). Each sketch found Wayne and Garth giddily mimicking the talk-show format — there were Top 10 lists and interview guests — and amusing each other with their litany of invented slang: “No way!”/“Way!”; “Schwing!”; “We’re not worthy!”

Especially in hindsight, you can see that these guys really were the satirical poster children for a fading, clichéd hard rock scene that was about to be swept aside by Nirvana. But don’t feel too bad for Wayne: Along the way, he got to make out with Madonna and jam with Aerosmith while Garth mostly tried to keep from hurling in excitement. Adding to the sketches’ legacy, they birthed two movies, including 1992’s “Wayne’s World,” still the highest-grossing “SNL” film ever. And it transitioned Myers into his film career, showcasing his boyish love for playing very silly, very quotable characters. (Austin Powers was just around the corner.)

While “Wayne’s World” became a long-running cultural institution, “More Cowbell” built its legend entirely on one skit. Clocking in at just less than six minutes, the sketch aired on April 8, 2000. Constructed like a “Behind the Music” segment, the sketch purports to show unearthed footage of the recording process for Blue Öyster Cult’s 1976 hit “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” On its surface, it’s not a very funny idea: The band’s legendary, cocky producer (Christopher Walken) encourages the guys, especially fictional member Gene Frenkle (Will Ferrell), to go crazy on the cowbell, even though the rest of the group finds it annoying. But “More Cowbell” may be the most perfectly executed sketch in “SNL” history, satirizing ‘70s rock, hotshot producers, artistic pretension (“Really explore the studio space this time”), unconventional instruments in rock songs, and fat guys with tight shirts. It’s also the single-best thing frequent host Walken ever did on “SNL,” with all due respect to the comparably nutso “The Continental” and “The Census” — which, by the way, were both part of that April 8 broadcast as well.

Ferrell reprised the character a couple times over the years, sitting in on the show’s live performances, but Frenkle never appeared in another sketch. (Maybe Ferrell knew he could never top it.) And yet look how, more than a decade later, “more cowbell” is still an incredibly recognizable catchphrase, synonymous with an entire era of rock-star bloat. Ferrell has gone on to movie stardom portraying other self-important, hopelessly ridiculous bozos, but the pure commitment Frenkle brings to pounding away at that damn cowbell may be his crowning comedic achievement.

And The Winner Is…

As great as these two contenders are, neither is flawless. “Wayne’s World” lost steam the more Myers and Carvey kept rehashing the sketch, resulting in quickly diminishing returns. (And that second “Wayne’s World” movie sure stunk.) As for “More Cowbell,” the comedy purist in us wishes that the cast members could have kept from breaking during the bit. (This was a constant annoyance during the Horatio Sanz/Jimmy Fallon era of “SNL,” and it’s especially irksome in a skit that requires deadpan sincerity for its humor.)

Ultimately, though, this really isn’t a showdown between sketches as it is a question of what aspect of “Saturday Night Live” you love the most: a long-running, much-quotable franchise or that one impeccable sketch. After much hemming and hawing, we’re going with the one impeccable sketch. Beyond all its other merits, “More Cowbell” is so fantastic because of the way it makes you think initially that it’s going to be about the Walken character, suddenly flipping the script and making Frenkle the brilliant, clueless focal point. Before that sketch, people remembered “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” for its guitar riff or its chorus. After that sketch, you can’t not hear the cowbell — and laugh every time.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

Did the right sketch win? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.

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Stan Diego Comic-Con

Stan Against Evil returns November 1st.

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Photo Credit: Erin Resnick, GIFs via Giphy

Another Comic-Con International is in the can, and multiple nerdgasms were had by all – not least of which were about the Stan Against Evil roundtable discussion. Dana, Janet and John dropped a whole lotta information on what’s to come in Season 2 and what it’s like to get covered in buckets of demon goo. Here are the highlights.

Premiere Date!

Season 2 hits the air November 1 and picks up right where things left off. Consider this your chance to seamlessly continue your Halloween binge.

Character Deets!

Most people know that Evie was written especially for Janet, but did you know that Stan is based on Dana Gould’s dad? It’s true. But that’s where the homage ends, because McGinley was taken off the leash to really build a unique character.

Happy Accidents!

Improv is apparently everything, because according to Gould the funniest material happens on the fly. We bet the writers are totally cool with it.

Exposed Roots!

If Stan fans are also into Twin Peaks and Doctor Who, that’s no accident. Both of those cult classic genre benders were front of mind when Stan was being developed.

Trailer Treasure!

Yep. A new trailer dropped. Feast your eyes.

Catch up on Stan Against Evil’s first season on the IFC app before it returns November 1st on IFC.