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Raider Grudgematch: Battle of the Sketch Comedies
by Doom and John Madden
SNL vs. MADtv vs. The Genocide in Darfur
Sketch comedy has taken a bit of a fall as of late. Well, by 'as of late' I mean 'for a long ass time', start with the mid to late 90's where Mr. Show ended, SNL and MADtv stopped being funny, and Bill Clinton blowjob jokes started popping up on the television landscape. Point is, right now sketch comedy is at its death knell, with SNL reaching one of its historical all-time bad periods wherein sometimes, sometimes Dane Cook is the funniest guy on screen in a given sketch. Yeah, I know. Disgusting. MADtv is no better, replacing humor with a lot of "Look, I'm Asian!" or "I'm playing a child!" 'humor'. And The Genocide of Darfur, well, it's terrible as sketch comedy. But the $64,000 dollar question is, of course, which of the three sucks the least? Well, wouldn't you know it, but a format we've used eight times before is perfect for just such a question. Begin the Grudgematch!
SNL: The first impressions are always the impressions that stick, supposedly. If that's the case, well, the impression of 'this sucked' will stick with me forever. The first sketch involved George W. Bush at a comptroller speech where Bush makes all sorts of bored comments to an uninterested woman sitting next to him. It's long, boring, tedious, and above all, not funny. Other sketches followed the classic Lorne Michaels maxim of 'never write a sketch of any sort of potential for comedy', like a bad Al Pacino impression [bad because he neither looks nor sounds nor behaves like Al Pacino] checking his bank balance, a Hugo Chavez sketch where the 'gag' is Chavez and Kim Jong Il make a lot of crazy hand gestures and talk funny, and a something involving Farrah Fawcett. I say 'something' because I really don't know what the fuck went on. I saw it, but I don't understand it. A lot of other unfunny sketches appear too, like Dane Cook as a water deliveryman who steals water and yet another flash-in-the-pan SNL Digital short for idiots to throw onto YouTube.
MADtv: The usual fare, a lot of people yelling and screaming in silly voices. Two sketches wherein Bobby Lee acts suitably Asian, not counting two more where he appears in a supporting role as suitably Asian. Parodies include Survivor and High School The Musical, perfect targets for wit and satire obviously, and there's also a fake musical performance by Kevin Federline. Oh, yes, he'll be relevant for the next...two weeks. Then he'll choke to death on his own self-entitlement, if he hasn't already. The rest is shit you expect - zany characters, 'reality' segments, racial humor, and so on and so forth.
The Genocide in Darfur: The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when the Janjaweed militia started decimating the non-Baggara tribes of the region. Over the years there's been a lot of sketches by the "Not Ready for Enslavement Players", from the hijinks of "Lending a hand to the handless" to the more subtle wordplay parody humor of "Darfur meets Star Trek: Where No Man Has Lived Past The Age Of 60 Before", and a lot of celebrity impersonation sketches, like "Shaq joins the Janjaweed" or "Dr. Phil versus AIDS". Despite their commitment to quality I'm not very impressed, a lot of it's been done before by the Rwandan comedy group, and I'm really not a fan of the latest material where they've added the United Nations to the cast, it ruins the flow of a lot of the sketches with the third party butting in all the time now. I wouldn't yet qualify it as Jump the Shark moment yet, but I'm beginning to think the United Nations isn't committed to the quality of this genocide.
DA WINNAH: None of them are really funny and all sport very repetitive humor, but The Genocide in Darfur at least tries to be funny. The other two don't even bother, running sketches based on poor premises or people talking in weird voices.
SNL: There are none. Seriously. I counted several sketches where I couldn't identify a joke, not even an attempted or aborted joke. Simply no jokes. Absolutely nothing at all. I blame Dane Cook for the lack of jokes, he's a pioneer in the method I like to call "nonhumor", so it's easy to see why SNL never even put forth an effort to be funny with Dane Cook on as host. What the fuck does SNL do all week, crack cocaine and then throw the script together over some pizza on a Saturday afternoon? Here's an example of something that drew laughs - roughly one minute of water bottles falling from a closet. No other absurdity or 'gag' to it, just what I described. For a long period of time. Then one guy says to the other how they'll get the story broadcast on SNL, Studio 60 or 30 Rock. Then it ends. What the fuck. There's no joke there!
MADtv: MADtv approaches what might be a 'joke' several [and by several I mean one] times, but it turns out to be a completely botched attempt which angers me even more than if no joke existed at all. For example, the parody of Gnarls Barkley's video "Crazy", the Rorschach blot one, starring Kim Jong Il instead of Cee-Lo. Now, this had potential to be funny given inventive lyrics. But no. The lyrics are terrible and you can tell the writers really strained to figure out how to rhyme things. For the 'not even approaching funny' 'jokes', we've got a platter of bad stereotyping, childish jokes, dick jokes, Asian jokes, fried chicken jokes, Mel Gibson jokes, and every other overplayed style of joke of any stripe. If millions of people have done it before, MADtv's ready to canonize it in their humor!
The Genocide in Darfur: Not a whole lot of laffers here, either, but I do admire a lot of the practical jokes they play. Like on April Fool's 2004, the Janjaweed made it looked like they stopped their campaign, lulling their targets into a false sense of security. Then BAM! Death right to the kisser. It's not the most complex of jokes but it works nonetheless. A lot of the other jokes misfire horribly, especially the banana peel gag, but I admire their effort, the black ink around the sniper scope being a particularly intricate and well-thought out joke.
DA WINNAH: The Genocide in Darfur. A joke's a joke and it had a joke, no matter what you felt about it. And honestly, Darfur's much better than Bobby Lee's Kim Jong Il 'impression'.
SNL: Dane Cook and musical war criminals the Killers, both of whom I hate with every fiber of my being. Dane Cook appeared in an inordinate amount of sketches for a guest, each time playing the only character he knows how to play: himself. Yes, occasionally he pretends to be a water deliveryman or a bouncer or Saddam Hussein [WORST SADDAM IMPRESSION EVER IN THE HISTORY OF FOREVER], but it's all in the same overenunciating voice, the retarded demeanor and the need for hand gestures or moving around to relay a situation. The Killers likewise suck, and the singer is still the most concentrated form of gayness outside of Charles Nelson Reilly. He even has a child molester mustache now! The perfect ensemble for creeping everyone out. The drummer looks suspiciously like My Name is Earl. Oh, and they happen to suck at music too. Note to The Killers: ripping off New Wave and combining it with shitty pop music isn't original, better bands have done it before.
MADtv: No guest host or musical act, but a sketch does feature The Rock and Xzibit! Remember those guys? They have one of those based on a true story football movies out and apparently MADtv is the only place desperate enough to promote it with them, likewise with the Rock and Xzibit being the only people desperate enough to hawk their wares on MADtv. When was the last time anyone ever thought, "Hey, it's the Rock, he's awesome, I loved him in the cult classic Be Cool! What a comedy genius and acting powerhouse!" And Xzibit, I remember when I thought he had rapping talent, oh wait, I confused it with 'NEVER'. Anyone who hosts Pimp my Ride is not a star, he is a walking, talking product prostitute. These guys make me long for Dane Cook. [shudders]
The Genocide in Darfur: Most notably the United Nations, who entered with peacekeeping forces in the past few months. The United Nation's been really hit and miss there. Sure, it's a peacekeeping force, but not really a big enough one to make a huge difference. Better than nothing but not enough in my opinion. The U.N.'s not even sure about staying in the region past September 30th, and if you're a guest, don't duck out after Weekend Update, stay until the end credits for the goodbyes. Perhaps the United Nations decided to leave just after the end of the rainy reason. Not very courteous to leave because of some bad weather, there's always rescheduling for a less humid date. Bad guest stars. First the U.N. snubs Rwanda and now a half-assed appearance in Darfur? Methinks the U.N. is the new Joe Pesci and not in a good way!
DA WINNAH: The Genocide in Darfur. U.N. = better than Dane Cook and the Rock no matter what the situation, even if it's the 'Oil For Food scandal'. After all, the U.N. never starred in The Scorpion King or Employee of the Month, though the U.N. unfortunately appeared in Halo.
SNL: The 32nd season is the first season recently to be without Tina Fey as the head writer. When I heard of her departure, I thought, "Good fucking riddance." Since then I've learned two things: one, Tina Fey continues her plans to spread uncomedy across the land using her new show 30 Rock, and two, SNL without Tina Fey is just as unfunny if not worse as SNL with Tina Fey. I mean, seriously. What the fuck is the writing on this show? I'm not even exaggerating when I say this is by far the worst period of SNL, worse than the Ebersol years. Absolutely nothing is funny and the faux attempts at edgy [like sketches that don't anywhere] aren't funny when Mr. Show already did it and did it with actual humor. Kids, if you want to learn how not to write comedy, watch SNL for 90 minutes and it all becomes clear. Seth Meyers is the new head writer now known for a flat performance as the new Weekend Update guy, and it's proof of all Boston Red Sox fans needing immediate sterilization.
MADtv: No writers. A series of chimps in business suits, overalls, bibs, onesies, and race car driver suits sitting at a table 12 hours a day, eating bananas, laughing, and shitting. The shit is later compiled into script form and the cast members perform the sketches according to the script coposed mostly of chimpanzee shit.
The Genocide in Darfur: Due to the whole nature of the conflict it's up to debate over who is the head writer but evidence points to Musa Hilal of the Darfurian Arab Tribe. It makes a lot of sense, the Darfurian Arab Tribe is second only to Second City in terms of longevity and comedy. Here's a guy who knows his pie in the face and the thing not to do while improvising a sketch. Creating a ton of classic characters like Mr. Fly Off The Handle Man and Bigsy the Littlest Genocidal Nutcase, he's easily one of the biggest improv talents out there right now, and I can't believe Lorne didn't hire him. Oh, wait, I can, cause Lorne's a Nazi. Hilal's a very sought after man according to reports and I see why.
DA WINNAH: The Genocide in Darfur. Well planned, well executed, unlike the total incoherent mess of the other two sketch comedies. Seth Meyers and Head Writer Bobo Bananas could learn a thing or two from Musa Hilal. Mainly killing, but also comedy writing.
SNL: Every good head coach knows you need a good roster of talent to win the games, no matter how good your plays are, if you have scrubs on the field, you aren't going to pull it out of the jaws of defeat, even if you're Green Bay during the winter. Well, Lorne Michaels is no Tom Landy, because this team is woefully outclassed by almost all the competition. They've got no depth. Only two black cast members? No Hispanic cast members? You're gonna be in a real humdinger if you want to do a sketch on illegal immigrants or Carlos Mencia or Rosie Perez played in drag! Lorne Michaels didn't even pick anyone in the draft, opting to cut long time players and replacing them at their positions with second stringers. Not a good strategy. The guest quarterback, Dane Cook, is in particular a bad move. He's not suited to quarterbacking and everyone knows it. The owners need to fire Lorne Michaels as head coach, trade some of the players for draft picks, and start fresh. These players are not ready for prime time, and I'm not talking about Deion Sanders.
MADtv: Did MADtv have a really bad draft this year, trading all their first round draft picks for a pack of beer and some chips? I don't recognize any of these kids, except for perennial veterans Michael McDonald and Bobby Lee, veterans never quite reaching their prime and certainly not in their prime now. Bobby Lee in particular, whoa baby, his throwing arm is all off this game and Michael McDonald's just collecting a paycheck every game. You just can't field a team of no-name scrubs and be a contender, MADtv. These guys make SNL's squad look like the 16-0 Miami Dolphins coached by Don Shula!
The Genocide in Darfur: Now here's a winner, at least success-wise! The teams are evenly balanced, the Sudanese backed Janjaweed versus several ethnic tribes making for some really excitely inter-team scrimmaging! Janjaweed's got a lot of weapons on the primary and the secondary, and while the tribes aren't equipped the same, they've got a lot of weight on the ol' depth chart, not to mention the death chart! Finally, a game I'm looking forward to seeing the outcome of, as opposed to a predictable NFL game! Looks to be a real barnburner.
DA WINNAH: It's no question, The Genocide in Darfur comes out on top. They've got a lot of radical rookies hungry for a genocide but the stiff-arm defense of the tribes will make it a very interesting match. The other squads just aren't very impressive and in my honest opinion, sketch comedy needs to contract a few teams for the greater good and better competitive balance.
By a very, very, very wide margin, it's The Genocide in Darfur for the win! The Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militia tries to win over our hearts with a helping of comedy and while it doesn't always succeed, you must admire their gall to turn a tragedy into a tracomedy. The question remains: Which is funnier, The Holocaust or the Genocide in Darfur? That's a separate article, but I bet the Holocaust. The whole Gypsy thing gives a whole new fresh target and a lot of good nomadic-related jokes.