What’s Up with This?

This is a cheap post, I’ll admit. No revelations, no rants, no dug-up family memories in this one.

Sometimes, you just discover things on the internet that you have to share.

I’d never seen the Saturday Night Live sketch “What Up With That?” until recently. I long ago stopped watching SNL live because, you know, it’s on kind of late. And, to be honest, it’s been hit and miss for a long, long time. It’s just not worth missing sleep for it.

But I am now a huge fan of Kenan Thompson, who has now become SNL’s longest-running performer (he started in 2003). The skit above, from 2010, features guest stars Morgan Freeman and Ernest Borgnine (who died in 2012). It might be the best of the 10 of these skits that were done.

The setup: “What Up With That?” is a talk show on BET hosted by Diondre Cole (Thompson).  The Jheri-curled Cole is part-preacher, part-singer and all entertainer, a man so enamored of his own rousing theme song — which is complete with backup singers and (an un-shown) big band — that he can barely contain himself. Thompson explained his character this way to Rolling Stone in 2018:

“I feel like he had a singing group at one point,” says Thompson, “or maybe a solo career that never went anywhere and he went triple-wood-in-the-hood when his album came out. He probably had his own church at one point, but it was taken away from him for tax issues or something like that.

The bits all have recurring gags which, over the life-course of this sketch, make it one of the best sketches to ever — honestly, ever — grace the SNL stage. For example:

  • Cole can’t sit still. He always wants to sing. Always. And move.
  • His guests — who have included Paul Rudd, James Franco, Al Gore, Mike Tyson, Robert DeNiro, Bill O’Reilly, Robin Williams and Samuel L. Jackson, to name a few — are mostly flabbergasted, bordering on furious, at Cole and his antics. Most never get a chance to speak.
  • Cole’s last guest is always Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham (played by Bill Hader). Because of all the singing and dancing, Cole always runs out of time before getting to Buckingham. Hader never spoke in the sketch.
  • Jason Sudeikis plays a backup dancer. He wears a red Adidas track suit, a gold chain, white sneaks and a goofy non-stop grin. He literally leaps onto stage and doesn’t stop moving until the music stops. Once it does, he rounds off a walkoff strut that cracks me up every time. He’s a machine. He’s hilarious. Many consider him the best part of the sketch.
  • Fred Armisen plays a Kenny G-looking saxophonist, standing next to Sudeikis.

WUWT also has featured Zach Galifianakis as an ambidextrous flute player and Bryan Cranston, in his Walter White underwear, doing a George Clinton thing. And in one episode, the real Lindsey Buckingham showed up. Hader still didn’t get a chance to talk.

Plus, facsimiles of Mary Kay Letourneau, Jessica from the well and the NBA’s John Stockton have graced the WUWT stage.

These recurring SNL skits often border on stupid. Some of them step quite a bit over. And, yeah, you might think the same of this one.

But head over to You Tube. Tap in “snl what up with that.” Watch a few of them.

Thompson. Sudeikis. The music. The dancing. The slack-faced guest stars.

Comedy gold, I’m telling you.

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