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Author of Jesus and The Bachelorette and unapologetic devotee of teen soap operas and police procedurals. knoxmccoy.com

Is 'What Up With That' Funny?

Currently, there is a recurring skit on SNL that is something of a comedic anomaly. While it certainly resonates, how it resonates remains in rancorous dispute. Fundamentally, the question concerns What Up With That and whether or not it is actually funny.It looks funny. It seems funny. It keeps getting resurrected so it certainly fits the pedigree of ‘funny’ in that respect. But is it indeed, funny? Let’s take a closer look and examine the specific elements to scientifically determine whether or not What Up With That? is funny.

 


DeAndre Cole
I’m not normally a huge Kenan Thompson fan beyond crosscuts of him showing his scary big eyes in reaction shows but let’s give him credit here: he’s pretty tremendous as the musically inclined, pastorally trained rhyme prodigy known to us as DeAndre Cole. There’s very little in the way of fundamental divergence from his routine within the various iterations of this skit, but he sells it all hard and he sings really well. The suit he wears is tremendously Pentacostal and he’s mastered the ability to sweat exactly like an enthusiastic clergyman.

VERDICT: Funny


The Saxophonist
As a piece of the landscape, I understand its inclusion. It’s Fred Armisen as a Kenny G. character and he’s playing a saxophone! On a talk show! How bizarre and unexpected! But part of being fundamentally funny is being able to evoke humor as a singular component as well as within a larger landscape. Plus, something about Armisen just kind of rubs me the wrong way. He seems like he’d be one of those guys who discussed comedy as a “craft” or “calling.”

VERDICT: Not Funny

Lindsey Buckingham
The humor in Bill Hader’s Lindsey Buckingham is that Buckingham’s celebrity is menial, he almost never gets to speak and he is faithfully included in every version of the skit. I am a total sucker for call-back jokes and especially the ones with no huge payoff. It doesn’t matter that it’s Lindsey Buckingham getting cut off. The joke would be more impactful if it was Pippa Middleton or Hugo Chavez, but it’s not. It’s Lindsey Buckinham and most of us can’t even name a song he helped write.  But it’s funny because they keep doing it. The non-essentialness of it makes it funnier. I’m talking too much about this. I feel like I’m trying to explain why peanut butter M&Ms are good when everyone already acknowledges it.

VERDICT: Funny

 


The Famous / Random Guest(s)
While this does work because it keeps every version of the sketch fresh, it also allows for some awkward interactions as the guests feign surprise at DeAndre’s vocal antics. There’s nothing better than fake surprise on a live improv show. Everything else is either spontaneous or humorously broad, so to see celebrities fake surprise at being interrupted is just tremendous. Watching Robert DeNiro do his DeNiro thing for the skit was like me hitting an ant hill with hand grenade.

VERDICT: Not Funny


The Leisure Suited Running Man
This is easily my favorite component of the sketch. Why does he exist? Who is he? Does he use a trampoline to come flying in? Why the perm?  Why the running man? With all the mystery and wonder he inspires, he basically amounts to the polar bear from LOST and we love him for it.

VERDICT: Funny

FINAL VERDICT

Funny – 3

Not Funny – 2

After reviewing our research we can definitively say that What Up With That? has been scientifically proven to be funny.

What’s your favorite / least favorite part of What Up With That?

  • http://chrystalmurphy.com/ Chrystal

    I think it’s funny. You never know what characters/costumes will show up – there are always random people walking on while he’s singing, they usually aren’t explained…it’s funny in a “what is happening right now?!” way.

  • http://lauramcclellan.com Laura McClellan

    Thank you for bringing this up! They bring it back ALL the time and I never think it’s funny. I think it’s one of those things that was mildly funny the first time and never after that. The Lindsey Buckingham thing is the only thing I think is semi-funny. I think mostly because it’s exactly the same every time, I’m not a fan.

    Bring back the Miley Cyrus show instead. Haha. But I’m a sucker for good impressions. Or Target Lady. Let’s just let her be on every episode.

  • http://thegboat.net The Joseph Craven

    I think it’s hysterical all around, honestly. Will have to disagree with you slightly on both the sax guy and the guests. Sure, I don’t think they’re AS funny as the other three components, but that doesn’t mean they’re not funny.

    The guests are great because you are just never quite sure who will be on there. Will they have a politician? An actual, serious actor? Some other random public figure? The humor isn’t in the interactions, it’s that they’re actually on the show in the first place.

    And the sax guy. He’s funny BECAUSE he’s part of a whole. It’s like comparing the fight scene in Anchorman to a knock knock joke. The knock knock joke is supposed to stand alone. The elements of the fight scene? Wouldn’t be good without the rest of the elements. I don’t find somebody throwing a trident funny. When it’s over journalism, THEN it’s funny. So the sax guy? He’s funny because he’s a crucial element to the overall absurdity of the sketch.

    Basically, the sketch is just absurd. Absurd humor isn’t funny to some people, and that’s cool. I was raised on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, so it’s just in my blood.

    So yeah, I find it funny. As a whole. But obviously it’s just because that’s the type of thing I find funny.

    • http://www.knoxmccoy.com Knox McCoy

      VEHEMENTLY disagree. Anyone throwing a trident anywhere is funny.

      The saxophone is just lazy to me. If he was playing an upright bass or flute, different story. But it just seems to fall into the cliche Kenny G category.

      • http://thegboat.net The Joseph Craven

        My father was killed by a trident. There. Now the truth is out there.

        Alright, I’ll agree with that. It would be much funnier if it were not so much of a Kenny G rip-off. And really, I wouldn’t be opposed to chalking him and him alone as a “Not Funny”. But even then, I’m still giving it 4 Funnies to 1 Not Funny.

        I think a lot of this stems from your inability to like Fred Armisen. If it were somebody else as the sax guy, would you find it funnier? You need to be honest with yourself about this.

        • http://tylerstanton.com Tyler Stanton

          Knox – this may be our debate post in the making. I’m a loyal Fred Armisen fan, and you’ve just waged war.

          • http://www.knoxmccoy.com Knox McCoy

             If you want to back a guy who cheated on Peggy from Mad Men with Chris Elliot’s daughter THEN FINE BY ME.

            You can put a bird on this argument. IT’S GOING NUCLEAR.

  • chrishull

    It’s one of the best recurring sketches on SNL.  Jason Sudeikis and his track suit at first seemed the one redeeming part but slowly, I fell under the spell of “WUWT?”

    The double Lindseys night was awesome.

    As to the “cliche of Kenny G”, it should be obvious to anyone that they’re doing it ironically. Duh!

    • http://www.knoxmccoy.com Knox McCoy

      Oh. I thought he was still an icon within the culture.

  • http://www.mustardseedyear.com/ Jason Wert

    I’ll be in the minority here…I don’t think it’s funny at all.  In fact, I find it so tedious that’s usually when I go to the kitchen to nuke up some pizza bites.

  • Rick Knowles

    Red suit guy kills me EVERY TIME.  I absolutely cannot help laughing out loud when he comes on screen.  When the guests start to speak and DeAndre does his subtle takeover of the scene until it goes full blown – I love it.

  • Erin Hicks Moon

    My husband is obsessed with WUWT? – he absolutely adores it.  And honestly, I think the sketch is less about DeAndre and more about Running Man Guy.  It’s just a catalyst for Jason Sudekis to be able to perform his unreal dance moves.  Basically the sketch could just be that, and I’d be perfectly happy.

    • http://www.knoxmccoy.com Knox McCoy

       HOW DOES HE VAULT HIMSELF ONTO THE STAGE? I’ve seriously had 30+ conversations about this.

      • Erin Hicks Moon

        We discuss it every time.  I think there must be a mini-tramp or something off camera.  I feel like he gets higher every sketch as well.

        • Erin Hicks Moon

          And by mini-tramp, I do not mean a small prostitute. Tiny trampoline, thanks.

  • http://www.haleybragg.com/ haleybragg

    I’m SO conflicted about this sketch. I love the Running Man so much that it almost makes me reconsider my position on Jason Sudekis’ real-life douchbaggery. (How can someone that lacking in inhibition REALLY be such a tool?)

    On the other hand, Kenan Thompson makes me want to shove razor blades into my eyes on a regular basis. Sooooo – I don’t know what to do here.

  • http://laurelkate.com/ Laurel Kate

    I’m with everyone else who didn’t like it at first, but resisted the urge to fast-forward just for the joy of seeing Jason Sudeikis dance.  At this point it has totally grown on me and I chuckle my way through every time!

  • http://www.siteorganic.com Brad Hill

    I agree that the red jogging suit guy is killer. We would like to get him in our office for all-hands meetings if there was a way to do it.

    I enjoy some of the celebrity guests… Bill O’Reilly was funny precisely because he was so professorial and feigned disdain for the process.  On his show the following Monday he pronounced the crew at SNL mostly good-natured “pinheads”, and he even said that “everyone on the cast was very nice to me, except for ONE person. I’ll give you a hint, it was a female.”  Hmmm…. my money is on Tina Fey.

  • joeb

  • http://twitter.com/peachgeek Donna Williams

    What makes this enduring for me is the fact that occasionally when I see something weird, I ask myself, “What up with that?” or the song pops in my head.