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This Week’s Saturday Night Live Had Two Great Commercial Parodies

The left half is an image of Don Cheadle dressed as a roach; the right half is a giant puppy costume with googly eyes.
Two!!! NBC

From “Creeley’s Soup” to “Wells for Boys,” commercial parodies have always been some of Saturday Night Live’s absolute best work. Mostly, that’s because living in a capitalist hellscape in which everyone is constantly selling everyone else things they don’t need in the vain hope of grifting enough money to secure food, shelter, and water produces some pretty comical situations! But it’s also true that Saturday Night Live’s writers have historically been great at writing commercial parodies. The problem has never been quality, but volume: the show produces at most one good commercial parody a week; on an exceptional week, it’s a great commercial parody, but there’s still only one. So mark this week in red on your Saturday Night Live Comedy Quality Tracking calendar, because host Don Cheadle pulled off two great commercial parodies, each operating in different modes. First, there’s “Pound Puppy,” an instant classic of the “ridiculously impractical solution to a problem, presented as if it were normal” genre:

I didn’t know I wanted to see a googly-eyed “furry dog costume big enough for two people to have sex in” bouncing and lurching around atop a canopy bed, but it turns out that was exactly what I wanted to see. The show’s second commercial this week was even better:

If “Pound Puppy” is a straightforward sales pitch for a ludicrous product, “Roach-Ex” is a ludicrous sales pitch for a straightforward product. Cheadle’s performance is sort of the platonic ideal for using a dramatic actor on the show: he doesn’t play the final faceoff straight, exactly, but Richard Widmark is a lot less of a reach than Richard Pryor, and the sketch is structured in a way that the more seriously Cheadle takes things, the funnier it gets. The pacing, too, is exquisite: there’s a full minute and a half of slowly deteriorating family life (with clockwork escalations around the 30 second and one minute mark) before anyone pulls out a bottle of Roach-Ex Plus. But the news here isn’t how the two sketches work, it’s that the two sketches work, and that both of them aired in the same week. It’s far too early to say whether this was a statistical blip or the opening bell of a new era of Saturday Night Live commercial parodies. But if this trend continues, it’s the kind of thing they should advertise.

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