Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Obscure SNL Skit of the Week: The Whipmaster

So for a while now, I've wanted to take some space in this bloggeroo to talk about some of my favorite obscure Saturday Night Live skits (and not just because I've inadvertantly become an NBC blog lately.

I'm taking about the skits that were once-and-done, not involving a recurring character like "It's Pat" or "Wayne's World" -- just smart (or hilariously dumb) dialogue with a few brilliant facial expressions and unusual comedic payoffs. Maybe they're not terribly funny or hold up that well over time, but something about these skits cracks me up to this day. So here goes nuttin'.

Obscure SNL Skit No. 1: The Whipmaster (1992). (Transcript.)

The skit involves a television show about a Mississippi whip expert who hands out his own brand of justice. The only problem is the skillful actor who plays The Whipmaster is negotiating a contract with the television company and a nervous stand-in (played by the always-brilliant Bill Murray) must fumble his way through the action sequences.

Great set-up here, as explained by the voice-over artist and the scrolling text to open the show: "The producers would also like to point out that proficiency with a whip is very difficult to achieve and takes many years, and it is hoped that viewers will bear that in mind."

First of all, anytime Murray is prominently involved, the overall score ratchets up by 1,000. Supporting performances by Chris Farley, Phil Hartman and the fetching Julia Sweeney keep the laughs coming.

Farley, playing a bartender, asks Murray to prove that he is, indeed, The Whipmaster, by knocking the cigar out of his mouth. Murray repeatedly thrashes around the piece of leather until the camera finally cuts back to Farley, which scars all over his face and the cigar falling out of his mouth. Farley remains true to the line given to him, but utters it in pain and with ironic deadpan: "Wow! That's really amazing! You really are the Whipmaster!" I love this because lost in all the "Farley's funny because he's fat" commentary that followed SNL, you get an excellent sense of how he could work "small" in just this one snippet.

Then Hartman, always an excellent villain, struts into the bar and taunts Murray and pulls a gun on him. Murray, aiming for the gun in Hartman's clearly outstretched hand, misses badly and the whip strikes Hartman in the groin. (Yes, an easy groin joke... but wait for the payoff, please.) Murray, also remaining true to his script, utters in matter-of-fact fashion, "I guess he won't be using that gun for a while." That line in almost anyone else's hands might get a cheap laugh, but Murray delivers it with such (un)intentional nuance that it works. And Hartman's squeal as he's hit in the most sensitive of areas is just priceless.

Sweeney walks in as the token hot character Becky, whom The Whipmaster evidently has stood up for a date. As she's walking out the door, he cracks his whip at her legs. He pulls at his whip, tied to a dummy that barely resembles Becky, thereby knocking the dummy to the ground, then yanks the lifeless dummy toward him. The camera cuts to him reaching over to pick the real Becky up. "That whip is one smooth talker!" Becky proclaims.

Just classic. I'm guessing Tom Davis, who plays the cowboy in this scene, wrote the skit. If so, thanks very much, TD. It's one of my all-time obscure favorites.


Anonymous said...

This is indeed one of the funniest skit ever aired on tv.

Anonymous said...

Don't know how long it'll be there, but the skit seems to have shown up online...

Anonymous said...

Another great is the victoria jackson comentary about how a movie with 5 stars sucks, 4 stars is okay, 3 good, 2 stars is GREAT!, and 1 star is okay bad.. or something like that - sorry that I've only seen the skit twice like 20 years ago but it was so spot on that it left a positive impression.. anyone have a clearer recall of that short?