Brow Beat

Watch Will Ferrell and Tom Green Dress Up as Bald Eagles and Torment Saturday Night Live’s Studio Audience

Tom Green and Will Ferrell, both dressed as bald eagles, lick each others' tongues. Really!
The nation was going through a lot at the time. NBC

In retrospect, November of 2000 was a catastrophic month for the entire planet, but at the time, it mostly just seemed weird. In Florida, the presidential election degenerated into an absolute clusterfuck; in London, a gang of jewel thieves failed in their efforts to bring economic justice to the De Beers Group by botching a heist at the Millennium Dome, and in New York, just a few days after the Florida Supreme Court stopped Katherine Harris from certifying the election results, comedian Tom Green hosted Saturday Night Live. Here’s how Horatio Sanz described the experience in Live From New York:

Tom Green brought in a few of his own writers and was kind of more preoccupied with his image as a guy who doesn’t give a fuck. And the show I think suffered. 

Judging from the “Bald Eagle Fight” sketch Saturday Night Live reposted online this weekend, however, it might be more accurate to say that the studio audience suffered. Watch Molly Shannon and Jimmy Fallon gamely play along as Tom Green and Will Ferrell (but mostly Tom Green) dress up as giant eagles and do everything they can think of to annoy audience members, from chewing up carrots and spewing them at people to, well, full-on chewing on a stranger’s hair. It’s not often that SNL leans into a host’s comedy style like this, but whatever else you can say about “Bald Eagle Fight,” it’s pure Tom Green:

That is nearly four straight minutes of horrible squawking noises from Green and Will Ferrell, making this possibly the single worst SNL sketch to listen to, although it’s pretty funny to watch. It’s also one of the show’s weirdest moments, at least against the backdrop of decades of SNL’s audience-friendly sketch comedy. But everything is relative: Against the backdrop of “Tom Green’s Saturday Night Live episode,” the bald eagle sketch is practically “Celebrity Jeopardy.” Check out “Lorne and Tom in a Tub,” if you dare:

It was a time of chaos: We didn’t know who the next president would be, and turning to NBC for answers, a troubled nation was met only by Tom Green’s demonic quacking. (The episode’s cold open did address the issue, but it did so by having Bush and Gore sing “I Got You, Babe,” which was even less reassuring than “Lorne and Tom in a Tub.”) And those are just the sketches that survived: That night’s bestiality-themed “TV Funhouse” segment, “Sex and the Country,” was pulled from the syndicated version of the episode and doesn’t seem to have made it online at all. Less than a month later, the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush and set the country on a path to endless war. Here’s how SNL marked the occasion in that week’s cold open:

We couldn’t have known it at the time, but Tom Green’s comedy was a much more fitting response to the moment.