One of the major complaints about Saturday Night Live this season (okay, perhaps every season) is that the show falls back on recurring characters rather than developing new ideas. So it’s no wonder that the interwebs erupted with delight upon word that Kristen Wiig has decided to retire two of her most well-known and annoying characters: hair-twirling, one-upper Penelope and homicidal child prankster Gilly. Since Wiig is cleaning house, here are a few more SNL characters we wouldn’t mind seeing exit stage left forever.
A Vogelcheck brings his girlfriend home to meet his family (played by Wiig, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader) and is witness to their absurd affection for each other, which includes licking, groping and tongue-kissing. The latter half of the sketch will inevitably include as many elaborate male-on-male kisses as possible. But in the year 2011, is it really that shocking and hilarious to see two guys kiss, and is it really enough to build an entire sketch around?
Kenan Thompson’s recurring character is an elderly but spry sex enthusiast who makes instructional videos in his basement. Watching him demonstrate his techniques is like watching a game of charades, but with a lot more thrusting, kicking and yelling. The problem is that, besides not being very amusing, Grady is simply running out of moves. For example, “The Skydiver” in one skit is re-titled “The Mission Impossible” in another. Even if he enlists a willing guest host like Jim Carrey, it seems there are just so many ways Grady can mime the bump and grind.
(Note: Some might include Thompson’s “What’s Up With That” host Deandre Cole on this list instead. The recurring character gets a pass for now, because his sketch features Bill Hader’s perennially-bumped Lindsay Buckingham and Jason Sudekis’ dancing.)
The sole point of this sketch, in which Armisen hosts a Maury-style talk show featuring cheating lovers and scandalized parents, is for the characters to do a silly dance each time they enter or leave the stage. Like the Vogelchecks, it is one-note and repetitive, and its returns are rapidly diminishing. If the presence of Betty White can’t improve a sketch, it’s probably not worth doing anymore.
The name “Roger Brush” may not sound familiar, but you’ll recognize Armisen’s recurring character, who resembles an extra-paunchy Dr. Phil and sounds like Harvey Feirstein. Roger is a grumpy producer who fills in for the sick hosts of female-oriented talk shows. In the sketch, Brush takes questions from the audience and gives rude, insulting answers until the show breaks for commercial. (Sample exchange: “My boyfriend seems more concerned with his needs than mine.” “And?”) The humor is not enjoyable even in a cringe-worthy, The Office way. Brush is blandly sexist and cruel, and never gets challenged by any of the other characters. If he must be a recurring character, the writers should at least change up the formula and have Brush get his comeuppance. Imagine the riot that would ensue if he substitute-hosted one of Oprah’s final episodes!
Palin’s inclusion on this list comes with an asterisk; it’s not that her character should be retired entirely, but rather, appear sparingly. Tina Fey’s spot-on Sarah Palin impression is widely believed to have affected the outcome of the 2008 election. But just because Fey is guest hosting this weekend and will no doubt return for future stints, does not mean she has to automatically trot out her most notable character. As Newsweek recently noted, Palin is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a political figure. Fey’s wicked portrayal of the former Alaskan governor is best when she has a news story to satirize (such as the infamous Katie Couric interview). There is clearly an expectation that Fey must put on her “aw, shucks” accent and beehive wig each time she takes the stage at Studio 8H. But until there’s a real reason to parody Palin, she should avoid doing so, to preserve the potency of the character for the future.