When it comes to classic, beloved, and frequently quoted Saturday Night Live sketches, the “More Cowbell” Blue Öyster Cult sketch from 2000 featuring Will Ferrell and host Christopher Walken is high on the list. (It has fans on both sides of the political aisle, as illustrated by Daniel Kibblesmith’s collection of Donald Trump Jr. tweets on the subject.) But the comedy world was rocked this week when Bloomberg opinion writer Noah Smith posted the below two tweets about the sketch, in which he argued that the “real joke” of the sketch is that there is no joke, therefore outing himself as someone who doesn’t understand the “Cowbell” sketch at all:
Of course, comedy is always open for interpretation, but the idea that the point of “Cowbell” was to create some epic inside joke so SNL fans could gaslight people is definitely a new take. (Is Smith trying to gaslight us with an analysis he doesn’t truly believe? Anything is possible!) People were quick to dunk on Smith in his replies, calling his take both “bad” and “garbage.” Several people tried to explain the joke of the sketch to Smith, but only one of them, film critic William Bibbiani, took Smith’s tweets as an opportunity to post a 23-tweet screed that painstakingly breaks the sketch down into all of its glorious parts, and concludes with some helpful thoughts about how when critics are dismissive of comedy and assume a joke doesn’t exist when they don’t “get” it, they do so at their own peril. It’s certainly not a great thread for people who aren’t fans of jokes being overly explained, but it’s a fun resource for people who are — and for anyone who, like Smith, don’t get what all the “Cowbell” fuss is about. You can read Bibbiani’s whole thread starting here; some highlights are below:
One thing this entire conversation has been lacking though? More cowbell.