September 27, 2011

What's your favorite gag?

I love a good laugh, and I love a good gag. And what I mean by a "good gag," is that it's a humorous routine that's repeated, but it's repeated in a way that it doesn't get stale or overused.

In 2009, the women nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy had a gag. As their names were called, the camera showed each woman wearing some sort of silly glasses. I still remember how hard I laughed as the camera lingered on Kristin Wiig while she raised a monacle to one eye, then slowly added a pipe with her other hand.

This year, nominees for Best Actress in a Comedy had their own gag. As Amy Poehler's name was read as a nominee, she startled everyone by jumping out of her seat and running up on stage. At first, it looked like the gag was that she thought she won. But it got funnier.

She stood to the side of the announcers, shaking out her hands and deep breathing, and they -- with puzzled looks on their faces -- continued reading the nominees' names. One by one, the nominees approached the stage and joined the rest of the women, holding hands like the top ten contestants in a beauty pageant.

When Melissa McCarthy's name was announced as the winner, all the other nominees gathered around, embracing her with genuine support and excitement. When she emerged from the huddle, she was carrying roses and sporting a tiara! The whole bit was planned by Amy Poehler, and although the nominees didn't know exactly what was going to happen, they all joined in wholeheartedly.

Melissa McCarthy said in her speech, "It's my first and best pageant ever!"

(Laura Linney wiping lipstick from her teeth: priceless.)

Another gag that is regularly repeated at the Emmys is the creative way the comedy writing teams are portrayed.

There are typically more than a dozen names read for each show's nominees for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Series, so these bits are prepared and taped beforehand. This year, as Saturday Night Live's names were read, various images of Justin Timberlake were flashed on the screen (appropriate, as he is a recurring guest host). Late Night With Jimmy Fallon's team was represented by cute puppies in human clothes. The Colbert Report had all the writers in a room, and they all shouted out their names at the same time. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart had each writer, in a goofy costume, on a Newsweek magazine cover.

I've come to enjoy and look forward to these surprises. Of course, they're not really surprises any more, except for the creativity of new writers and performers putting their own spin on the gags each year. I anticipated these comedy gags, knowing that someone will do something... but what?

What are some of your favorite repeated gags?

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