Comedy Day - The Steve U.S. Top 10: Part 1

Top 10 comedy sketches

Steve Taylor-Bryant loves a list! For Comedy Day he has outdone himself in being able to provide two list articles whilst referring to third and fourth, previously published, list articles. Here is Part 1, on American sketches...

Back in January our wonderful Ian Ham listed his favourite Comedy Sketches in one article, and his favourite comedy scenes from film and television in another. To be honest I couldn’t argue with his choices, and anyone who knows me will realise how much I love to argue and to tell people how wrong they are. I just had to find a way to come back at Ian and prove once and for all I know better but damn if he isn’t just the nicest fellow. He said sure, of course he will have missed things, of course he couldn’t have included all he wanted to, he even sent me a glorious looking spreadsheet with all his research, and damn again if the boy hadn’t done a lot of work. It was meticulous, it was organised, it was like reading someone’s university thesis and I was sat here defeated. I couldn’t argue with him, he was just so nice, he had worked harder than we all know I am ever going to, and his choices and his back up choices were all magnificent. Now I was sad.

However, not one to be deterred when ripping someone else a new one is at stake I went back to the reading, determined to find an issue. And I found one! I’m having to really nit-pick mind you, but a fault is a fault and I now know I am righter than he! Oh, who am I kidding, he’s wonderful and I couldn’t rip him anything. His research and his finished pieces though did show me one thing, a country difference that we have. Most of his sketches and scenes were classic British comedy, the humour he had been brought up on so it’s understandable, but in my upbringing and because the military camp we lived on when I was a child was predominantly American, our youthful introductions into comedy differ somewhat. For every Fry & Laurie, and Monty Python piece that springs to Ian’s mind releases a Saturday Night Live sketch in mine. So rather than try and give Ian comeuppance, I am going to share with him my American comedy moments in the hopes he will appreciate the stuff he may have missed in the same way I learnt from his wonderful articles originally. So here in the order they aired are my Top 10 American Funny Bits…

 1938 – Who’s on First from Abbott & Costello 

The ‘play on words and names’ concept is as old as comedy itself and has been used to great effect over the decades but it’s Abbott & Costello that first introduced me to the idea, and it was the first experience of comedy that transferred from audio to visual really well I experienced. I like a lot of radio comedy but not everything done to a microphone works as well in a visual medium. I’ve grown up thinking Who’s on First is the most famous comedy skit of all time and it’s not until I shared this list privately with friends and family that I realised I may be the only one who remembers it. It was on radio in 1938, The Kate Smith Hour, that Abbott & Costello first debuted the sketch so that’s the date I’ve used. I’m not sure when they first performed it on television, but I’d hazard a guess at the mid 1940’s.




1967 - Airline Passengers from The Dean Martin Show 

It’s not so much The Dean Martin Show I wish to celebrate here, no it’s Jonathan Winters. I first discovered Winters via Mork & Mindy and whilst Robin Williams obviously takes all the plaudits for that show it’s Winters that left more of a mark on me. It was once said you couldn’t write for Winters, he improvised everything, and I couldn’t find a good quality sketch from his own show in the 1950’s but this one is funny! Martin reads all his lines from cue cards, nobody knows what Winters is going to say. It’s incredibly good improv.

 


1976 – Godfather Therapy from Saturday Night Live 

How do you narrow down your favourite Saturday Night Live sketches? You can’t is the answer, you can just remember the cast and hosts that left the biggest impression on you. One of the biggest impressions ever left on me was the comedy of John Belushi. I could have picked any Belushi sketch, but I’ve been talking about The Godfather a lot recently so plumped for this one.

 


1981 - Mister Robinson’s Neighbourhood from Saturday Night Live 

Another favourite of mine growing up was Eddie Murphy. He was razor sharp in his observations, cruelly cutting in his put downs, and incredibly difficult to find a sketch for that doesn’t contain four million curse words!




1991 – Homey Claus from In Living Color 

In Living Color (see Nate? No U!) were magnificent. Started by Keenan Ivory, by far the most talented of the Wayans family, it showed the world African American humour as it was, not the whiter friendly stuff we knew from the likes of The Cosby Show. It was pretty much the Clan Wayans, Keenan Ivory, Damon, Kim, Marlon and Shawn with occasional appearances from Dwayne, and young Canadian stand up Jim Carrey along with unknown Jamie Foxx. It was for a young white man a brutal introduction into more adult oriented comedy, but it was funny as hell and has stuck with me all these years.




1995 – Salmon from Exit 57 

Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, Stephen Colbert, Jodi Lennon, and Mitch Rouse weren’t on Comedy Central for long and I can only describe Exit 57 as a bit alternative, perhaps even surreal but what I understood I loved and what I didn’t quite get I wished I did. Salmon is perhaps the most audience friendly, so I hope you see a little of what I did back in the mid 90’s.




1996 – Leftover Beatle Memories from The Dana Carvey Show 

How did The Dana Carvey Show not garner a bigger audience? It was some epic levels of comedic writing, it was everything Saturday Night Live used to be but wasn’t anymore, and it was Dana freaky Carvey for heaven’s sake! Sometimes you lot don’t deserve nice things and ruin it for the rest of us. The Dana Carvey Show is proof of that. It should still be running today.




1998 – The Audition from Mr. Show 

I liked Mr. Show, but I honestly cannot tell you why. It’s not obviously funny, but neither is it the surreal or alternative. Just looking through video clips for this list had me laughing so hard coffee was pouring out of my nose but by the time the sketch ended, and I’d recovered my composure (cleaned bogeys off his desk - Ed) I’d forgotten why I laughed so hard. Do you know what? That’s fine by me. Comedy doesn’t have to be a lifelong thing, there’s a lot to say about being in the moment.




2008 – VP Debate Cold Open: Palin/Biden from Saturday Night Live 

Any political sketch from Saturday Night Live is worth an airing, I can’t think of one that’s ever failed. The ‘08 election for us none Americans was what we thought at the time would be the most ludicrous. Little did we know what we’d be facing nearly a decade later, a period of political history that’s virtually impossible to satirise. The Sarah Palin impression was my first televisual experience of Tina Fey who blows my socks off with her writing and performing now, but it was as Governor of Alaska that she first impressed me. How do you take someone that comes across so stupid and ill-informed and make them funnier than that? You let Tina Fey loose on them.




2018 – George W. Bush Returns Cold Open from Saturday Night Live 

I’ve loved Alec Baldwin as Trump on SNL and very nearly shared one of those sketches, but I’m all Trumped out if I’m honest so it’s to someone who I admire as a stand up and as an impressionist even I don’t really appreciate their film work. Will Ferrell as George Dubya is hilarious, his SNL work is brilliant and if you get the chance to watch You’re Welcome America I really urge you to. Two hours of Ferrell as Bush just chatting to an audience.