Jon Stewart and the Most Elaborately Esoteric ‘SNL’ Reference of All Time
It wasn’t as funny as the banter he exchanged in the toss with Stephen Colbert this one night in 2007, at the end of The Daily Show, but it was more clever by a mile. That thing he did with Colbert a few years ago, in which the two communicated with each other briefly in SNL catchphrases, was funny because, even though it was simplistic and I wasn’t even sure of the joke’s inside occasion, I knew it must have had something to do with being accused of ripping off their concepts from “Weekend Update.” If I had to guess, that’s what I would say. I have no substantial evidence to support this; they just seemed to be having too much damned fun for the quality of the material they were dispensing. So I knew they had to be up to some kind of mischief.
But just the other week, Stewart came with a genuinely esoteric SNL-referencing riff. Like the bits it parodied, it was more clever than it was funny, but it was highly appreciated nonetheless, at least by me (a lot like A. Whitney Brown’s “Big Picture” “Update” essays from the late eighties). Because I have a Netflix subscription (still, even through everything), and because I use it to watch old SNL episodes, I was acquainted only too well with the segments Kazurinsky had done in the mid-’80s for “SNL Newsbreak” and “Saturday Night News” (as the “Update” segment had briefly taken to calling itself for a time in the eighties). Fourteen times in that stretch, Kazurinksky as Dr. Jack Badofsky would wear a white lab coat and his customary spectacles, and, in an exaggerated nasal tone, dispense with a bunch of bad puns that riffed off of the same prefix or suffix or part of speech—or, at the very least, the same set of letters. The puns in Badofsky’s jokes could certainly get no worse than the one in his name, but still, it’s only about as funny as it sounds—you did not have to be there.
Someone who probably was there is Stewart, who, at the end of some zingers on Herman Cain, recently went into a similar riff, even displaying the words on paper as he went, just like Dr. Badofsky would do, and in the very same voice. The relevant jokes don’t start in the clip until just before the 3-minute mark, but when they do, there seem to be some members of the audience who know instantly what he’s up to. Or maybe they’re just digging the jokes at face-value. Who knows? Whatever the case, at the end of it, Jon Stewart comes clean, or pretends to, mentioning Kazurinsky by name before making off with a gracious if insincere “I owe Tim Kazurinsky money, is what I do.”
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