2016 was a very, very bad year no matter how you slice it. In tough times, comedy is often a form of escape that people turn to when they need comforting. With that in mind, we asked our contributors to pick the one piece of comedy in any form that they turn to when they really need cheering up. We’ll be sharing their choices throughout the week in a package we’re calling “The Best Medicine.”
Clocking in at just under four minutes, the 2003 Late Night with Conan O’Brien sketch “Tea Copywriter Cage Match” is a tale as old as time: Jon Glaser plays a smug, douchey Celestial Seasonings copywriter in the Late Night audience who brags to Conan about his talent for penning tea descriptions until he gets cut off by Brian McCann, another audience member and copywriter at Celestial’s competitor Bigelow Tea Company who certainly knows how to market a relaxation blend like a seasoned expert. Of course, there’s only one way to solve a power dispute between rival tea copywriters: a cage match fight to the death.
“Tea Copywriter Cage Match” is jam-packed with so much goodness that, since 15-year-old me first saw it, it’s only grown better with age. Not only is this a perfectly crafted sketch that utilizes every second to push an already absurd premise to hilariously exaggerated heights, but thanks to Glaser, McCann, and O’Brien’s performances, it’s one of those sketches where Conan and his writers are clearly having so much fun with an impressively stupid idea that it’s impossible to resist. Plus, it’s got a bunch of wonderfully intricate tea descriptions, and nothing makes me more simultaneously relaxed and entertained than McCann’s soothing delivery of my favorite line of the sketch: “Its medley of chamomile, lilac, and blackberry root wraps you in a soothing quilt of satisfying herbs…and fragrances.”