Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


More Cowbell (2000)

It was ten years ago last month that this classic SNL sketch first aired. When it has turned up on YouTube since then, it tends to be pulled down fairly quickly. So if you haven’t seen it before, hurry! Meanwhile, after the jump, I will single-handedly suck every last drop of fun out of the thing by rationalising exactly it’s so funny. It’s odd sketch really, even by SNL standards. Last week I explained in forensic detail exactly why I reckoned this classic Seinfeld scene was so great. But the genius of “More cowbell” is not as easily parsed.

Written by Will Ferrell, it was initially rejected by the shows producers. Presumably, they just didn’t think it was that funny. I mean, on paper at least, there’s hardly a single laugh in the entire thing. An eccentric music producer has an unexplained predilection for cowbell. Some rock musicians argue and then make up. (And Jimmy Fallon fails, yet again, to make it even ten seconds into a sketch without cracking up.)

So why do we find it so hilarious?

Well, Christopher Walken’s manic turn as “famed rock producer” Bruce Dickenson is certainly a major factor. His deadpan delivery wrings big laughs from dialogue that might otherwise have seemed merely absurd. (Fans still pester the actor to do the “more cowbell” catchphrase for them.)

But aside from that, virtually all of the humour in the entire sketch derives from the deranged physicality Ferrell brings to the role of (ficticious Blue Oyster Cult band member) Gene Frenkle. His energy, his facial expressions and even his girth are all somehow just inherently and hilariously funny. That’s what carries this entire bit. Remove those and all that’s left is a bizarre, and not particularly funny, skit about a long forgotten rock band. Oh, and the word cowbell repeated about a hundred times.

Another classic Will Ferrell SNL moment here.

May 9th, 2010.

8 Responses to “More Cowbell (2000)”

  1. Paul Says:

    The ‘More Cowbell!’ iPhone app was pretty much the first thing I got when I got an iPhone. I still have it but it isn’t as funny as it used to be. This sketch, however, is.

  2. Chris Says:

    Never ceases to make me laugh. I went back to listen to the actual track and sure enough the cowbell is there pretty much incessantly.

  3. graham Says:

    Ah come on if something is funny what difference does it make why? why do you even care?

  4. Eoin Says:

    @ Paul – There’s a “More Cowbell” iPhone app!? What does it do?

    @ Chris – Same here, I never noticed cowbell on that track before I saw this sketch. Since then it’s practically all I hear.

    @ Graham – I dunno, I suppose it comes with the territory when you write for a living. I’ve used an iPhone for over a year now without once wondering how it worked.

    But show me a thirty second Daily Show clip and, if it makes me laugh, I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon wondering why they chose one adjective or expletive over another…

  5. Paul Says:

    Eoin: it turns your iPhone into a cowbell and if you stop hitting it you hear Walken saying something about how he has a fever and the only cure is “more cowbell!” Like I say, it was entertaining for the first week or so. By the way, thanks for the link to the SNL Neil Diamond bit, we laughed til we cried.

  6. Allan Cavanagh Says:

    I’ve never found this sketch funny. However I heard the song on the radio the other night and it cracked me up.

  7. Eoin Says:

    @ Allen – ah, it got you in the end!

  8. Eoin Says:

    P.S. @ Paul – the black keyboard player in the Neil Diamond sketch is played by Tim Meadows, who nowadays appears occasionally on The Colbert Report as PK Winsome.

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