“My name is Matt Foley and I am a motivational speaker,” is how many of the best sketches from Saturday Night Live’s golden years in the mid '90s started off. Chis Farley was a real force of nature on the show and no performer since has really been able to match his blend of physical bravado and emotional vulnerability. The earliest iteration of the Matt Foley character has just been posted online thanks to the theater it originated in, The Second City.
The famed Chicago-based improv and sketch training center is responsible for the likes of Farley, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Alan Alda, John Candy, and John Belushi. It’s the home of comedic royalty, essentially, and from the pages of many Second City scripts were born the characters that would be made famous on Saturday Night Live.
Farley’s caffeinated motivational speaker who lived in a van down by the river is one of the show’s most memorable characters — and Saturday Night Live is in it’s 39th season, so it's quite the feat. Watching the origin clip below had me pining for those golden years of Saturday Night Live.
SNL has been through a tough few seasons in recent years with the departure of some of its biggest stars — Fey, Poehler, Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and now Seth Meyers. Part of what’s been missing from the SNL roster, and what this re-emergence of Matt Foley represents, is the recurring sketch.
Sure, there have been memorable recurring characters on SNL as of late, Drunk Uncle and Stefon to name a few. However, those characters were stand-alones that appeared on Weekend Update. SNL used to have sketches that returned almost every week and were the pillars that the rest of the show could use for direction and balance. As soon as the Spartan cheerleaders stepped on the stage, everyone knew they’d be in for some big laughs. Nearly all of Kristen Wiig’s characters had recurring sketches because, for many seasons, Wiig was essentially the entire show.
But, sadly, there hasn’t really been whole sketches or goal posts like that in quite some time for SNL. The only one that really sticks out is “What’s Up With That?” — which isn’t usually much of a gut-buster. It’s more so entertaining to see what kind of out-of-left-field guests will appear. And digital shorts don't quite count in the recurring sketch category, either.
So now that SNL has plenty of new talent and performers with some serious star power (we’re looking at you, Taran Killam), it’s high time the show delivers the goods. We can’t just bank on the rotation of Justin Timberlake’s greatest hits each time he hosts. If anything, sketches that consistently make the hosts uncomfortable are always bankable (Will Ferrel and Rachel Dratch’s hot tub couple or the family that kisses too intimately were among the best). Oh and hey SNL, how about we make some of these recurring sketches feature more women and people of color, shall we?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a table to fall into. WELL, LA-DE-FREAKIN-DA!
Image: Saturday Night Live/NBC