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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?