Less Cowbell: Christopher Walken’s Most Underrated ‘Saturday Night Live’ Sketches

With the wonderfully exciting news that Christopher Walken will be playing Captain Hook in a live action version of Peter Pan, we’ve decided to take a look at some of Walken’s best, most underrated moments on Saturday Night Live. Here’s the thing, everyone knows about The Continental, and everyone has seen the Cowbell sketch at least a hundred times by now. With that mind, here are some of other great Walken sketches that don’t get enough respect.

When he had a job interview with a centaur

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It’s hard to to tell who plays the straight man here; Chris Parnell as a porno-loving centaur doctor looking for a job at a hospital, or Walken as the man bewildered at the prospect of hiring him. Either way Walken is wonderful in this sketch, delivering lines like “is there centaur pornography?” and “would I be aroused by it” in his signature inflection. To his credit, Parnell’s blunt response “you might be aroused for a second, but eventually you’re gonna see a horse penis in there” is genius in its own right. Just a fantastic sketch all around.

When he shared his trivial psychic abilities with the world

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If you’re looking for a psychic to tell when you’re going to die, or if you’ll ever get married, don’t waste your time visiting Ed Glosser: Trivial Psychic. He’d be more likely to tell you if you’re going to leave a cup of coffee in the cab, or if you’re about to get a really bad ice cream headache. This sketch — parodying his The Dead Zone character — came from Walken’s second hosting job in 1992, and made it clear that he was well on his way to the five-timers club.

When he fundamentally misunderstood how the census worksWatch Here

Filling out the census form everyone ten years can be irritating, but chances are you’ll have a better handle on it than Walken did in this sketch, when he seems to be greatly confused about how the census works. He seems to believe that “candy bars and plants” count as people who live in his house, and that he’ll win a car if he just answers the questions correctly. Eventually, he wins the Census Taker over, and he offers to have a beer with him, but Walken has to spend another night with the “old bal and chain,” who just happens to be a bobcat.

The time when he played a very disturbed practical jokerWatch Here

From Walken’s gig in 2003, he appears on a Seth Meyers-hosted talk show called Pranksters, which appears to be a light-hearted show about the type practical jokes that 10-year-old boys might enjoy. But Walken’s character has other ideas in mind, as his “prank” involves beating a co-worker to death with a tire iron. This is darkly hilarious in its own right, but what makes the sketch really work is Walken’s delivery of lines such as “I think.. he probably.. agrees with you, now,” and “I hate Stiffly Stiffersons. I wanna prank them for hours… in my basement.” Walken is well aware of how weird he is , and this is a fine example of him using it to his advantage.

When he directed a weirdly censored version of Grease as a high school drama teacher Watch Here

This one comes from Walken’s most recent hosting gig in 2008 (note: it’s been six years since Christopher Walken hosted SNL, let’s fix this immediately!), and it involves him playing a drama teacher who thinks the lyrics in Grease are too risque to be sung at a high school performance. So, he changes his them to the point where they make no sense whatsoever. He changes “cream” to “fleem,” and “greased lightnin'” to “Gene Rayburn,” and in the end everyone is just confused. Personally, I can never here Gene Rayburn’s name in any context without immediately thinking of this sketch, and that has to count for something.

When he played a rather mean spirited talk show host

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It was the mid-90s, and Jerry Springer and the like were all the rage. Naturally, this was prime territory for SNL to mock, which they did expertly with Connie Stinson Talks, where Walken plays a talk show hosts who expresses his guests’ complaints in the most mean-spirited way possible. In the sketch, it’s uncertain if he’s doing to make any specific point, or just because it’s fun, but either way, Walken is hilarious here. Every time he says “fat hog,” it’s hard not to crack up.