Why Didn’t Saturday Night Live Match “Match Game”?

Filed Under Sketch Comedy

This Saturday, SNL did a pretty good little sketch where they parodied the 70s Game Show “The Match Game.” Except they changed the name of the show to “It’s a Match.” And they changed the names of all the celebrities who appeared on it. So you know Amy Poehler was supposed to be Brett Somers and Fred Armisen was playing Paul Lynde. Except they weren’t. Here’s the sketch:

The sketch works pretty well, but of course my nitpicky mind is wondering - why did they change all the names? I can’t really think of any other cases where SNL has changed the names of real life people to do a parody. I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge of the show, but every impersonation, even obscure ones, are usually done by name. Impersonations are one of the things they look for from new cast members. Changing names is more Mad Magazine territory.

The Match Game is a very old show that you’re parodying for a fairly young audience who are there to see Shia LaBeouf. You might need the slight name recognition to make some of the jokes land, just in case they saw a rerun on the Game Show Network.

My first thought was that maybe it was something legal. But that doesn’t really make much sense. There’s nothing defamatory here. Most of the jokes about characters are ones that the celebs did themselves - that’s part of the point of the Match Game.

So I’m leaning to it being an artistic choice. But I don’t think it really enhances the sketch. Do you? What does changing the names add to the sketch?

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Posted by Andrew Dupont on 05/13  at  11:59 PM

I wondered the same thing. Since I don’t have an answer, I’ll only point out that I think Fred Armisen was supposed to be Charles Nelson Reilly, not Paul Lynde.

Posted by Kathleen on 05/14  at  01:20 AM

Andrew’s comment actually supports my theory that all the characters were creepy hybrids of the stock panel celebrities of the 70s.  Openly closeted gay men with neckerchiefs and vocal tics, unite! I thought the sketch worked since it points to the utterly bizarre fact that these people weren’t one -of-a-kind, they were types.

Posted by Smartass on 05/14  at  02:37 AM

I think it was meant to be a weird Lynde / Reilly hybrid. The voice was Lynde, the scarf was CNR.

And Todd, I had the same “Mad Magazine” thought while watching the sketch. It seemed completely unnecessary. For all of the comedic ass-humping they’ve done to Alex Trebek and Celebrity Jeopardy, why pull punches?

Then again, it is a 30-year-old show, and perhaps a true Match Game parody would’ve been better off left to the Jane Curtain / Chevy Chase-era SNL.

Posted by Don Montrey on 05/14  at  09:26 AM

If I may de-construct a bit: I believe MATCH GAME had two contestants in addition to the celebrities. In this sketch, contestants are unneccessary, so get rid of them. But then it’s not MATCH GAME. The premise wouldn’t work. Hence the new title and new conceit.

Also Paul Lynde definitely wore scarves in the 70s. It was “de rigeur.”

This sketch reminded me of another back during the Will Ferrell years. It was a silly “late in the show” sketch, where Chris Parnell played the host of a 70’s MATCH GAME type show. He introduced the two contestants (Seth Myers and someone else) and then introduced the celebrity panel—which was the rest of the ENTIRE CAST doing their best 70s star impressions. The joke was that the intros kept coming and the impressions sillier until they landed on the final panelist, Rip Taylor, played by…Rip Taylor.

Maybe it was the late hour but this sketch tickled me silly. While Rip Taylor is doing his “Rip Taylor thing,” Tina Fey has this look on confusion on her face. Her mask is down and she is just watching him go off. I have been looking for it online ever since. Hulu didn’t have it.

Posted by adam_cozens on 05/14  at  01:17 PM

Great post. I was thinking the same thing (re: name change). I thought the sketch was beautifully done as far as aesthetics are concerned and the concept was a lot better than I thought it would be going in (too many botched game show parodies in the past have be wary). I liked it, but yeah, a little confused about the need/desire for changing the panel members names.

It would also be cool if they gave that new girl some decent lines. I know that Amy and Kristen and Keenan are getting a lot of their laughs primarily on familiarity, but they still seem to be sand-bagging this girl and it is kinda painful to watch.

Posted by GetOnMyMap on 05/14  at  04:26 PM

I thought it worked great - the sketch wasn’t JUST a parody of Match Game.  I loved the cop investigating the panel.  Kristen Wiig’s impression of Marcia Wallace was spot on.  Don’t overanalyze - this was one of the funniest sketches from SNL I’ve seen in years.  Glad that Shia had a minor role in it instead of one of those ego-stroke roles where he plays the straight man to a bunch of cast-regular buffoons.  Is it it just me or does this kid have way too much intensity?

Posted by natasha on 05/14  at  04:59 PM

hey, im with kathleen.i think the people were supposed to be types rather than individuals..but i liked the sketch overall…

Posted by D.B. Cooper on 05/14  at  06:16 PM

I thought it was very odd, too.  The other very strange thing was that the Doug Henning character kept whispering “magic,” instead of “illusion.”

Like everyone else, I can only imagine the most conservative lawyer advising them to make those changes, and the certainly don’t fit with 30+ years of SNL.  Very odd.

Posted by Jack on 05/15  at  01:19 AM

I think the sketch is almost certainly a wink to the Tom Stoppard play The Real Inspector Hound, a parody which does not use the names of the Christie and Doyle characters to which it refers.

Posted by Andy Urschel on 05/15  at  05:40 PM

I liked the fact that they didn’t use real names. It makes the sketch less about the impressions and more about the writing. I loved this sketch.

Posted by Michael Hartney on 05/17  at  01:25 AM

Could it have to do with the fact that, if it used real names and all that, that they’d have to say that Gene Rayburn was brutally murdered in his dressing room, which is a) not true and b) kinda morbid?  Just guessing, really.

Posted by mpcoc on 03/19  at  06:10 AM

Could it have to do with the fact that, if it used real names and all that, that they’d have to say that Gene Rayburn was brutally murdered in his dressing room, which is a) not true and b) kinda morbid?  Just guessing, really.

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