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

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.

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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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GIFs via Giphy

Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Mirror, Mirror

Portlandia Season 7 In Hindsight

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available Online and on the IFC App.

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Another season of Portlandia is behind us, and oh what a season it was. We laughed. We cried. And we chuckled uncomfortably while glancing nervously around the room. Like every season before it, the latest Portlandia has held a mirror up to ridiculousness of modern American life, but more than ever that same mirror has reflected our social reality in ways that are at once hysterical and sneakily thought-provoking. Here are just a few of the issues they tackled:

Nationalism

So long, America, Portland is out! And yes, the idea of Portland seceding is still less ludicrous than building a wall.

Men’s Rights

We all saw this coming. Exit gracefully, dudes.

Protests

Whatever you stand for, stand for it together. Or with at least one other person.

Free Love

No matter who we are or how we love, deep down we all have the ability to get stalky.

Social Status

Modern self-esteem basically hinges on likes, so this isn’t really a stretch at all.

These moments are just the tip of the iceberg, and much more can be found in the full seventh season of #Portlandia, available right now #online and on the #IFC app.

via GIPHY

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