Our weekly column in which writers share their off-beat, wacky and unexpected current obsessions.
The ladies on “SNL” are killing it this season, particularly the unstoppable trio of Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and Vanessa Bayer. Speaking of Bayer, I am currently obsessed with one particular facet of the underrated cast member's formidable skill set: her obvious knack for portraying repressed suburban housewives.
We first became aware of her genius in this regard during the hilarious Totino's Activity Pack Super Bowl ad this year, which for once took us behind the scenes of every male-driven beer and pizza roll ad in existence to show us what really goes down on the other side of that sunny kitchen threshold: a slow descent into madness.
Bayer's vapid Stepford Wife sunniness, delivered with a plastered-on smile that shows signs of breaking into a wail at any moment, perfectly encapsulates the outdated “doting housewife” persona that remains stubbornly persistent in “game night” programming. Her delivery of the recurring line “Anything for my hungry guys!” is note-perfect in its casual subservience; her limp-wristed head cock at :15 (“I'll be in the kitchen if you need me”) is endlessly replayable; the simmering desperation she conveys with the line “Well I…already did that whole activity pack you gave me…” is almost chilling. And just look at the way her head lazily follows that sticky hand toy as it falls from the refrigerator, like an overmedicated cat.
This wheel-spinning persona got an even darker spin in the Michael Keaton-hosted episode from earlier this month, when a more medicated version showed up in the “She's All That”-esque Mike O'Brien sketch “Prom Queen.” As our own Ryan McGee wrote in his recap: “The O”Brien/Keaton stuff is fun, but I almost wish the sketch had been about Vanessa Bayer”s character. What does she do after 7:30 pm? How can she wear that many layers and not be sweating? I have so many questions!”
I hear McGee on this. How is it that Bayer managed to steal the entire sketch with nothing more to play than soul-deadness? Her languid, robe-drenched shuffling from room to room and unfocused eyes skirt the line of some truly disturbing territory, in the way that they suggest a looming murder-suicide and/or trip to the psychiatric hospital. That Valium and white wine addiction is going to catch up with her sooner or later, and when it does…I shudder to think. I shudder.