Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: YouTube still)

Music

The five best parodies of musicians on 'Saturday Night Live'

Saturday Night Live has long been a convoy of rock parodies since the 1970s, starting from Lorne Michaels’ invitation to bring The Beatles back together for “3,000 dollars”. Weirdly, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were watching the episode nearby and considered appearing onstage. But they didn’t, and we’re left with the biggest of “what could have been” moments.

Naturally, both men ended up being parodied by a series of comedians, some blisteringly so, others with faint desperation. But nobody in the public eye was safe from a pastiche, and SNL was happy to use the talents of the comedians in question.

In this list, we look at five of the funniest, and most scathing, impersonations on the show, as the characters in question create a new sense of perspective on the musicians in question. Such is the way of the world, some thought they were emulating the band members in question.

And so it comes to this moment, we look at five of the most enjoyable vignettes that bring to attention their place in the realm of rock and roll fortitude. Are you ready to rock? No. Are you ready to laugh? Better. Let’s go.

Five best parodies of musicians on SNL:

5. Kate McKinnon as Justin Bieber

This gender-bending piece of batty brilliance is one of the strongest parodies in recent years, although considering the postures Alec Baldwin used to impersonate President Trump, that isn’t necessarily a high bar. More impressively, Kate McKinnon manages to satirise the artist for his boisterous, braggadocious demeanour, that somehow is supposed to come across as charming to the many multitudes of Biberettes who throw themselves at the singer. McKinnon gets the right amount of irony and hard-hitting glory.

Bieber, for all his haughtiness, was genuinely impressed by the pastiche and congratulated the actress on Twitter. From that point in question came the sound of an actor aping a boisterous singer, who was searching for a fight above his weight class. Bieber was ripe for parody, although his work with Ed Sheeran went beyond self-mockery, and headfirst into the realm of comedy drivel.

4. Eddie Murphy as Stevie Wonder

Eddie Murphy‘s scintillating take on the ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’ writer was largely seen as a success, but some members of the African American community had issues with his take. “Stevie Wonder’s a musical genius,” one screamed at him. “That’s terrible, man. Your mother brought you up wrong. That’s what it is. Your mother brought you up wrong, motherfucker.” Clearly, Murphy did something right, as it made him a target of his biggest critics, but Wonder was very impressed with the imitation, and the two remained firm friends for a time.

Wonder allegedly invited Murphy to sing on ‘We Are The World’, but the comedian declined, underestimating the impact of the single. On the subject of ‘We Are The World’, SNL set it up beautifully, turning the song into a requiescat for chickens, imploring their farmers to take the organic route, before leading them to the slaughter. Mike Myers appeared as Mick Jagger and sends up The Rolling Stones frontman nicely.

3. Maya Rudolph as Beyonce

The Queen Bee as you would never believe. Rudolph, daughter of Marnie Dixon, fits the role well, bringing the same amount of swagger and sensibility to the role as she did in the vulnerable role in Bridesmaids. Rudolph is all tut-tuts and swagger, but that’s effectively what Beyonce is when she’s distilled to her essence, at least from a public point of view. But while Rudolph might set Beyonce up, she doesn’t do it in a way that threatens to undermine the singer, as it’s a parody that’s deeply respectful of the source.

In some ways, her performance of Beyonce recalls Neil Innes’ rendition of John Lennon — or Ron Nasty, as Eric Idle would have you know. Fittingly, The Rutles also got their start on SNL as Lorne Michaels begged The Beatles to come back, only for The Rutles to run on in their place. And talking about The Beatles, the next entry is one that brings us back to the fab, fab four.

2. Malcolm McDowell as John Lennon

Yes, that’s right: The man who brought Alex DeLarge to life, once played a Beatle, and did so as if he was playing himself. Nobody thought McDowell was actually Lennon, but that was OK, as it was more of an effort to set up the retired Beatle who had given up the rigours of rock and roll for a slower, more domestic style of life. Eerily, the skit was released only weeks before the guitarist was butchered outside of his apartment, so it’s little surprise that McDowell has rarely talked about the skit in public.

This is more of a shame, because it’s a fairly strong sketch, showcasing a man who has nothing but the greatest of compliments for his fair Yoko Ono. Considering the reports George Harrison and Paul McCartney released to the world, it doesn’t sound like McDowell’s performance was too misguided.

1. Jimmy Fallon as Barry Gibb

Yes, Fallon’s chat show is dreadful. It’s so bad he makes Graham Norton’s presentation look like the type of investigative journalism the Corkman’s fans applaud him for. Fallon’s interview with Paul McCartney was bad enough, but his decision to imitate the band members – much to the bassist’s visible embarrassment – was even worse. But the man is talented, and incredibly musical, which might explain why his pastiche of Bee Gee numero uno is one of the best displays of Bee Gee ribbing since the days of one Kenny Everett.

Fallon was mostly accompanied by Justin Timberlake, as the two of them set up Barry and Robin Gibb, although as to why there were only two, and not three, Bee Gees has yet to be explained. But Fallon’s helium-flavoured impression was met with great mirth across the world, and no less a luminary than Barry Gibb joined him in a song on one occasion.