Kristen Wiig: The Present-Day Lily Tomlin

“She has this thing that Lily Tomlin used to have which is that her characters are never losers, or at least they’re not thinking they are. They have confidence; they think it’s going well.”                                                                              -Lorne Michaels

It is Saturday night at 11:25. With a bowl of popcorn in hand, I get comfortable on the couch with a blanket. I flip the television to NBC and wait … patiently (cough cough). The clock finally strikes 11:30 and Saturday Night Live is starting. I am happy, at last. After the host’s introduction, the first skit plays. Kristen Wiig is the main character. A digital short plays. Again, Kristen Wiig is the main character. The next skit plays. Kristen Wiig is still the main character. A trend is forming, but, of course, no one is complaining. Kristen Wiig, introduced on SNL in 2005, quickly made her way into peoples’ hearts after just a few episodes. Seven years pass and Kristen Wiig is not solely known for her comedy anymore because she is becoming just as strong of an actress. Her direct comedy and remarkable characters attribute to the viewer’s fascination of her work. As viewers watch her change from “Target Lady” to “Penelope,” their love for Wiig only grows deeper. Through her irresistible charm, Kristen Wiig has made her way, not only to SNL stardom, but also to celebrity stardom in just a few short years.

One of the skits that helped Kristen Wiig reach this stardom was the familiar “Lawrence Welk Show” skit when Anne Hathaway was hosting SNL. The original Lawrence Welk Show, hosted by Lawrence Welk, had beautiful women sing and dance throughout the show. However in SNL’s rendition of the show, four sisters are facing backstage when cheerful music starts playing and they individually turn around and begin singing. As the fourth sister, Denise, played by Kristen Wiig, introduces herself with a nasally, screeching voice, the audience is unable to listen to anything she is singing because they only see a woman with a gigantic forehead and an irregular tooth. As the sisters continue to sing, the audience views another very peculiar feature of Wiig’s character. She has very small hands, which look like baby doll hands. In the song they sing, we learn each of the sisters are married, engaged, or have a boyfriend and they like things such as rainbows and butterflies. However, when Denise tells the audience about herself, we discover that she is alone and likes chasing cars. At the end of the song, she goes on a rampage about finding a dead cat on the road, taking it back to her house to cook, and putting honey on it to eat. This, of course, disgusts the three beautiful sisters and sends them running offstage.

In this skit, Kristen Wiig portrays an odd looking woman who has strange hobbies. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Kristen Wiig discussed the weirdness of the skit. Wiig, James Anderson, and Kent Sublette wrote the skit in an attempt in redoing the Lawrence Welk Show, but having one weird sister. She said in her character’s description, it read “big forehead and little hands.” Therefore, she was given a big forehead, but before they were about to perform, she realized she still needed small hands, so they gave her baby doll hands. She commented on this by saying, “It was like, kind of, by accident.” As the sisters interact with each other, we see Wiig’s character being left out as she dances around alone. We also see two sisters holding hands, but as the camera pans to Denise and one of the other beautiful sisters, played by Anne Hathaway, they are not holding hands. It looks almost as if Hathaway’s character is disgusted even thinking about touching Denise’s hands.

In the picture on the top, we see Wiig’s character being left alone while the other three sisters sing to each other. On the bottom, we see where Hathaway’s character fails to hold Denise’s hands like the other two sisters are doing.

Throughout the skit, the audience sees a large spectrum of expressions from Wiig’s character, which is what makes this skit so popular among viewers.

                  

In Kristen Wiig’s more recent SNL skit, “Disney Housewives,” we see Wiig portrayed as a beautiful Cinderella who is also an alcoholic. All of the Disney Princesses are in a new series about the real Disney housewives and they all have their different problems. However, no princess takes her problems to the extent Wiig does with her impersonation of Cinderella. While introducing herself, she states, “And I’m a huge fucking mess,” and then she lifts her dress up and sloppily throws it down. There are interesting changes in Cinderella’s expressions in the beginning of the skit. It looks as if she tries to play the part of a “perfect Cinderella” by smiling while greeting everyone, then she just gives up and wears a scowl on her face. After discovering that Jasmine and Aladdin ran out of wishes, she claims Aladdin used his last wish on a lap dance from her. We also see that Cinderella’s Prince Charming is not so charming anymore due to his obsession with shoes. Also proving this, he leans in to kiss Cinderella, but then looks disgusted and turns away. After spilling some of her drink on herself, she concludes the skit by saying, “Whatever,” which is a good way to summarize her attitude about life as Cinderella.

Kristen Wiig introducing herself as Cinderella.

Wiig greets everyone with a warm smile.

The warm smile fades to a rude scowl.

Playing Cinderella, Wiig takes on a more current look as a comedian because her hair and makeup are done perfectly and she is dressed in a gorgeous ball gown. This skit offers more room for interpretation of Kristen Wiig’s comedic lifestyle. Wiig’s character in this skit is a parody of Kristen Wiig’s comedic life because her character, Cinderella, looks beautiful from her outward appearance, but on the inside, she does not really care about how other people view her, hence all the alcohol. Comparing this to Wiig’s comedy, she does not really care about how other people judge her because of her strange characters and expressions. She just simply wants to be funny and she will do whatever it takes to obtain that humor. Having this outlook provides Kristen Wiig with a timely sense of comedy because she is a fresh comedian using comedic strategies from sixty years ago. Converting comedy from such a long amount of time has made her strong in her comedy role today. People enjoy watching pretty women not using beauty to reach a goal. Kristen Wiig plays in so many skits on SNL not because she is just some pretty woman who looks good on a television screen, but because of her captivating humor.

In the past, it has taken female comedians much longer to receive the respect and adoration that Kristen Wiig has rapidly accumulated in the past few years. In the beginning of comedy, when silent pictures were playing, women were just people to take up space behind the actual storyline occurring. After World War II, these roles began changing for the better. Putting a spin on the norm of a domesticated housewife, Lucille Ball starred in the show, “I Love Lucy,” in the late 1950s. Also during this time, Phyllis Diller broke a major custom by appearing in mostly-male-populated stand up comedy.  Joan Rivers, now widely known as a television personality, made her professional start in comedy. Rivers was, and still is, an aggressive woman who was known for the brashness of her comedy and overall personality. While all of these comedians have their own styles, they also share one major aspect in common.

In gaining their fame in the comedy world, they all were very extravagant and overdone in all of their skits and shows. Extravagance is what made them stand above all the other females with the hopes of becoming a famous comedian. Through extraordinary acts, Kristen Wiig’s timelessness and timeliness hold true because without these women, there would be nothing for female comedians, such as Wiig, to use as a structure to create their own comedic personalities. The SNL producer, Lorne Michaels, once said about Wiig, “She has this thing that Lily Tomlin used to have which is that her characters are never losers, or at least they’re not thinking they are. They have confidence; they think it’s going well.” Lily Tomlin began her comedic career in the 1960s and also used overdone expressions and personalities, which made her a standout as a female comedian.

Kristen Wiig portrays both the timelessness and timeliness due to these women because of the mold they set for female comedians to follow. Ms. Wiig has reintroduced this older style of comedy that is not as familiar to current viewers. This is what makes her so addictive to watch. These witty and outlandish characters she has played in her career are what have made her timeless as a comedian. This is because of her ability to stand out as a comedian while adapting to an older form of comedy with crazy expressions and characters. This type of comedian will always be popular. Pretty female comedians will come and go as times change, but women who can be legitimately funny while having baby doll hands and a gigantic forehead prove that appearance is not the most important aspect of a female comedian. In skits like this, it is as if Kristen Wiig purposefully tries to hide her beauty because she just wants to be known for her humor. By bringing back this style of comedy from the early 1950s, she has appealed to new and old crowds of all ages.

In the beginning of her career, Kristen Wiig made such a strong name for herself that she could do practically anything and still be loved by millions. Uniquely using these crazy characters that disgust audiences and make them appreciate Wiig more at the same time is what has made her stand out in her time, making her the timely comedian that she is. While other female comedians were sticking to the typical characters most girls play, Wiig was writing new skits and creating even more wacky characters to exhibit her sense of comedy. Kristen Wiig’s timeliness as a comedian has not only made her stand out in her time, but has also set a standard for future female comedians.

Works Cited

“Hulu – Saturday Night Live: Disney Housewives.” Hulu. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

“Hulu – Saturday Night Live: The Lawrence Welk Show.” Hulu. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

“KristenWiig.org Video Archive – Jimmy Kimmel Live (2011).” KristenWiig.org Video Archive.

Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

“Lucy’s Famous Chocolate Scene.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 May 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

Philsdendotcom. “One RingyDingy.” YouTube. YouTube, 30 Mar. 2007. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

Ryzik, Melena. “She’s Really Shy, but That’s a Secret.” NY Times. 31 Dec. 2008. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

TheEdSullivanShow. “Joan Rivers on “The Ed Sullivan Show”” YouTube. YouTube, 24 Aug.

2009. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

TheEdSullivanShow. “Phyllis Diller on The Ed Sullivan Show.” YouTube. YouTube, 28 Sept.

2009. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

“Women And comedy.” Women’s History Month. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

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