Friday, April 30, 2010

Is Kristen Wiig seriously annoying?

From Jaime Weinman...

Can’t the new female star of ‘Saturday Night Live’ come up with a likeable character or two?

Photographs by Dana Edelson/NBC

Have you seen the Saturday Night Live sketch where Kristen Wiig plays a horrible person who gets on our nerves? Oh, wait, that’s all of them. Since Tina Fey and Amy Poehler left to do sitcoms, and SNL fired two of its other female comedians, Wiig has become the unchallenged leading lady of the show, carrying many sketches in every episode. She’s also building a movie career, which includes several Judd Apatow films and a supporting part in the new SNL spinoff film MacGruber (opening May 21). But she hasn’t created many characters who are likeably funny, like Will Forte’s MacGruber or Bill Hader’s Italian talk-show host. Instead, Wiig specializes in playing people who are absurdly unpleasant to be around, like a Target clerk who irritates customers by pumping her hands in the air and screaming things like “you’re buying a big bag of feces!” Not everyone would go as far as David Medsker at, who wrote earlier this season that Wiig has “become wildly unfunny, and must be stopped.” But given enough horrible characters, they might.

Like most comedians, Wiig wants to have a lot of range; she told Vanity Fair she doesn’t have a style of comedy because “I’m always trying to change it. I don’t always just want to do the same thing.” But not only does she manage to use some of the same physical mannerisms in most sketches—tilting her head a lot—she seems to make most characters equally hateful. Among Wiig’s recurring sketches, the definitive one may be her impersonation of Kathie Lee Gifford, co-host of the fourth hour of the Today Show, whom she portrays as a talentless drunk with a penchant for bad jokes and shameless mugging.

Judging from Gifford’s reaction—“Everyone seems to enjoy it,” she said on Today, “but I don’t think it’s that funny”—the sketch hit its mark. But it’s completely malicious comedy; even Tina Fey made Sarah Palin a more sympathetic character, with her cheerful, almost innocent stupidity. Wiig seems to want her audience to feel pain at even watching her characters in action.

That’s because Wiig usually plays what Charlie Toft at called “variations on the same character: a neurotic who is either overly talkative and/or inappropriately exuberant,” and who is sheer hell to be around. Take Penelope, a fast-talking woman who is always trying to one-up other people—she arrives at a wedding and says that on her honeymoon, “we went to the moon! Actually, it’s made of honey!” Wiig plays her as a borderline insane person who, in the words of another character, is “ruining” life for everyone else.

Another Wiig character who ruins everything is Gilly, a frizzy-haired little girl who commits arson and murder and smirks about it. Then there’s the Lawrence Welk Show parody sketch she co-wrote, where a female singing group is wrecked by one member: a woman with deformed hands who won’t stop singing lyrics about how she ate a dead cat or put a squirrel in her bed. That member, of course, is played by Wiig. Her characters are always out to make things rotten for the rest of us.

Still, however nasty Wiig’s sketches can be, at least they’re relatable: these evil characters mostly seem like people we’ve known in real life. The Target Lady, a character Wiig created before she joined SNL, is the loud-mouthed retailer who keeps you waiting in line. Even Penelope, Wiig told Women’s Health Magazine, is based on real people she knew who tried to one-up her: “I’d say I was going to get a massage and they’d say, ‘Oh, I’m getting a massage this week.’ ” Viewers might like Wiig because she uses comedy to take down the people we already know and hate; she’s like a sketch comedy counterpart to TV characters like Michael Scott on The Office.

But obnoxious characters, even true-to-life ones, are easier to take in small doses. After Wiig was chosen to host SNL’s Christmas special in character as the unspeakably awful Gilly, there were murmurs of online revolt against her overexposure, and earlier this season, in a list of ways to fix the show, Entertainment Weekly argued that Wiig needs to appear less often: “How can we appreciate the woman if she never leaves the screen?”

Even the writer of a Wiig fan blog ( admitted she was doing too many solo sketches and that the producers “need to mix it up more.” If they don’t—or if Wiig doesn’t come up with a likeable character or two—there may be more people echoing the sage words of Kathie Lee Gifford [about Kristen Wiig]: “Can’t she get another job? Go off and do something else?”


That's true Jamie, we did say that. And I think you also nailed the essence of most of Kristen's characters... annoying. However, she does have a few that aren't annoying.

Plus the producers have already pulled Kristen back and used her more to support and a little less to lead. This has also given some of the new cast members the opportunity to shine a little more.

So they're definitely listening to us, and Kristen isn't all that bad. I mean, most of her annoying characters are genuinely funny, and not just annoying.

But I have to agree that her impressions of Kathy Lee Gifford and Elizabeth Hasselbeck are more annoying and malicious than funny. For example, Sarah Palin could probably approach Tina Fey and compliment her impression (Palin has publically laughed at the SNL parodies). Or, as another example, Hilary Clinton already had light and fun conversations with Amy Poehler and complimented her impression.

However, Kathy Lee Gifford thinks Kristen Wiig should be fired, and I bet Elizabeth Hasselbeck is just biting her tongue and doing the Christian thing. So if one of them ever met Kristen Wiig, they'd probably deck her. Or Hasselbeck would probably run away to avoid the confrontation. Or, at the very least, Kathy Lee would publically give her a piece of her mind.

So Wiig's impressions can be much more malicious than SNL has ever done before. (Although Kristen has many other impressions that aren't nearly as malicious and annoying.)

What do you think, readers?


  1. Oh god. Comedy is in the eye of the beholder. I find Kristen Wiig to be hysterically funny. If you don't like annoying characters, that's your choice, but it isn't everybody's.

    I think of Kristen Wiig as a Jim Carrey-like comedian. Her comedic personality is very physical, very gesture- and facial expression-oriented. Like Andy Kaufman, she annoys the hell out of some people, and makes others laugh hysterically. In my opinion, she's a unique talent, and one of the best cast members to come onto SNL in a long time.

  2. sorry, but her sketches are way too long. over and over and over the sketches drag on and on and on. Take the extreme house makeover one. That had to be 5 minutes long and totally crappy writing. It also seems as though SNL is using a laugh track. There should be no laugh track! If a skit is not funny, let it have awkward silence. Or at least test out the skits with a live audience first! I think more people dislike the annoying sketches than like them. I can't believe SNL doesn't get real feedback about their sketches. If it aint funny, do something else, learn from things that aren't working. I think Kristin has potential, but she needs to take the feedback and grow from it....

  3. Last Anony,

    They do what you're saying. They don't use a laugh track (but they do use an applaud light at the end of skits and musical acts).

    What was the extreme house makeover skit? Was that where Kristen arrives at the door and tries to present the award and get them to be surprised and happy? I don't know, I though Jay Pharoah's reaction naked was hilarious!

    They do their dress rehearsals in front of a live audience. That's how they determine the order of skits better and which ones to cut. They also air the skits in order so the skits that "kill" in dress make it on earlier in the show. And the weird but funny skits usually go to the end.

    Kristen's skit is a repeat (second in the series) and so the audience might already like her and the character (being that fans of the show come to the show) and, thus, would laugh more often than you or I would.

    The main problem seems to be in that they write every single week, and they often run out of ideas. And they get a little pressure to write sequels to characters since that seems to be more successful on the show. So, thus, they go to making sequels such as this one. Plus Kristen pitches herself well, so her stuff often gets on.

    So, yeah, they are trying to take the feedback and grow from it. They basically need you and your friends to attend all the dress rehearsals. =^)

    - TAE


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