Ritta Vetta Skech: SNL vs. Rowan Atkinson

Filed Under Sketch Comedy

My first thought when I saw the cold open from this weekend’s SNL: “Steve Carell’s the host. So they’re downplaying the high expectations. Everything else will look better by default.”

The opening sketch consists of Carell reciting silly dirty names in a serious Dean’s voice. That’s it. There’s really no twist to it - it leans more to the Mike Myers idea of repeating something times until it becomes unfunny and keep going until it become funny again. (You can sort of hear that ebb and flow in the laughs here.)

I don’t want to be too hard on it, but it was a sketch that made me feel like the writers already had their foot out the door for the summer. It felt like a sketch that you didn’t need comedy writers to create.

But here’s something interesting. A comment from this TV Squad review pointed to this similar Rowan Atkinson sketch compete with a snarky “I liked it better when it was…”

It is a better sketch, simply by including a twist or two, one of which is combining names to make new jokes.  Also helpful, at least to me, is that a few of the names are just straight forward dirty word, without any pretentions about making them sound like names.

I think the austerity of the production helps too. If there were a bunch of actual students he was admonishing, it would get a little distracting. I remember looking to see if they used Asian or Black people for some of names recited in the SNL bit - something I probably shouldn’t be focusing on.

(Even weirder, the two sketches are almost exactly the same length. There’s only a second’s difference.)

But what do you think? Which is the better sketch? And why?

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Posted by Sean L. McCarthy on 05/20  at  12:41 AM

The Rowan Atkinson sketch is superior in every way. I’ll probably end up blogging about this meself, but let it be said here that Atkinson’s version cuts straight to the chase and doesn’t let up.

Posted by JackSzwergold on 05/20  at  04:07 AM

I honestly don’t think either sketch is anything more than a place-holder for something else.  But I will say that the Rowan Atkinson sketch is superior because (1) he does it on his own in a “black box” and no set dressing (2) the bluntness of the names is less winky and (3) it seems as if the SNL sketch is timed to pander to grads now that spring is here; I hate that.

I will say that the Japanese Office video short is sheer brilliance of meta references. More proof in my mind that the future of SNL is not in the tired old stage sketches, but in the realm of quick/dirty shorts based on solid concepts.

Posted by Owen on 05/20  at  10:57 PM

The Rowan Atkinson sketch gets that the comedy of the piece comes from the headmaster’s reaction (or lack of) to the names rather then the names themselves.  Whereas at points it seems as if the SNL sketch is just trying to cram in as many fake names as it can to get quick laughs.  Also, the names in the Atkinson piece are only the set-up to the headmaster dialogue about smut whereas the names in the SNL skit are the entire sketch.

Posted by Bebhinn on 05/24  at  05:41 PM

I realized about 2 seconds into the roll call that this sketch was stolen from the Rowan Atkinson one. It’s like the writers took the idea and just tried to alter it enough to not be complete theft. Unfortunately the SNL one has NONE of the wit of RA’s… add that to the fact that the original was included in a classic comedy special from over a decade ago, and it’s just a little pathetic. Or a lot pathetic. I was looking forward to Steve Carell on the show, but I thought this skit set a bad tone. Here are some of the reasons the original was far better.

Atkinson sets it up simply and then hits you with “Anus” as the first name. There’s no trying to set up some elaborate story about why all these people with weird names are at the same school. It’s a ridiculous idea and should have been treated as such. The following lines are clever, witty, and take the joke beyond “hey, we’re saying dirty names, isn’t that funny?”

Clitoris? Where are you Clitoris
Herpes? Still with us I see.
Very well, remind me to beat Myprick when he comes…
Bottom, squeeze Myprick in.

SNL added middle names that didn’t add to the comedy or dirtiness, it just slowed down the comedy and eliminated the shock value.

Finally, Atkinson’s admonishment to the audience to: “C’mon, grow up. Please!” is so fabulously ironic. There is no comparison.

Posted by mister bin forever on 03/04  at  11:47 PM

The Rowan Atkinson sketch is superior in every way.

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