The 10 Best (and worst) SNL Characters of Kristen Wiig

kristen wiig

No question about it: Kristen Wiig is a force. She’s one of the most refreshing Saturday Night Live players we’ve been blessed with in decades. She’s cute. She’s smart. She’s insanely talented. And, lucky for us, she’s a work-a-holic.

Despite the perennial claims that “SNL has gone downhill!”, Kristen (can I call you Kristen?) is one of those go-to cast members that always has at least a chance of saving a bad episode.

Did the network book another Athelete?
Reality Show Cast-Off?
Politician?

Well, have no fear. Chances are that Ms Wiig will reach into her seemingly endless bag of tricks, and save the show. Or, at the very least provide a few precious moments of levity in an otherwise excruciating 90 minutes of slow, comedic death.

I would even venture to say that Kristen Wiig is not only the best current cast member, but one of the best ever. And that’s saying something.

Is she perfect? No. As often happens for such a talented and hyper-active contributor, she’s often over-used. And it’s certainly possible to get too much of a good thing.

That doesn’t happen too much, thankfully, because the current SNL cast is pretty good overall.

But what also often happens with these freakishly prolifically creative types of personalities like Kristen’s, is that there’s just so much output that you’re bound to get some bad apples in the bunch.

It’s simply a consequence of volume.

That’s probably not her fault, either. First of all, it’s not ultimately her job to edit herself (or at least it shouldn’t be). She seems like the kind of person you wind up, let loose, and then pare-down after the dust settles. And I would venture to guess Lorne Michaels probably doesn’t want to over-use her better characters either (although it’s probably not that calculated).

So what we’re left with is a hardy bunch of fantastic characters, skits and bits… and a handful of, well, no so great characters and skits.

Not really complaining, though. Because having someone as talented as Kristen Wiig lay a rotten egg on Live TV is still pretty damn good.

So, without further hemming / hawing, I present to you:

The 10 Best (and worst) SNL Characters of Kristen Wiig:

– BEST –

“Babe” (One-of-Two A-Holes)

A Hole

Yes. This reoccurring character has reoccurred, well, a lot. A whole lot. But even when we find ourselves thinking “…oh, not these guys again…” they always manage to eek a reluctant laugh out of me anyway. These are people we’ve all run into in real life, and Wiig plays the setup-gal perfectly. Twirling her hair, smacking her gum, perfectly and beautifully oblivious. The main question we have after watching this skit is “how are these people still alive?”

“Target Lady” (Over-Zealous Kitsch-Collecting Cashier)

Target Lady

Yes, she’s clichéd, and singular. Perhaps overly-focused, a bit too “inside”. But Target Lady still makes the GOOD list because, well, she’s likeable. She’s kinda slow upstairs. More than slightly annoying. But if you encountered her in real life, you’d probably chuckle. An incredulous “is this really happening to me?” type chuckle, but a chuckle nonetheless.

“Junice Merill” (Slightly-Off Laurwence Welk Performer)

Junice

When I first saw this skit I almost split my gut. The set-up was pretty pat, standard SNL fare, but with the first reveal of Junice –with her freakish doll hands and car-hood-for-a-forehead– you realize you’re in for a real treat. Perhaps the best moment was her jabbily enthousiastic attempt at bubble catching at the end. Absolutely classic.

“Aunt Linda” (Weekend Update Movie Reviewer)

Aunt Linda

So glad to see “Amy Poehler’s Aunt Linda” didn’t leave with Amy Poehler, because that would’ve been a real shame. Because of all the stabled Weekend Update “Contributors”, Aunt Linda is easily one of the best. Seriously… “Apoklypto !?” Comon! Everyone has a relative that would’ve said the same thing, which is why it’s so friggin awesome. And instead of “thumbs up” or “stars” as a rating scale, she has these little twisted face icons. Friggin brilliant. Don’t like Aunt Linda? I’ve got one word for you: “Gah!”

“Michelle Dison” (Bi-Curious Local Reporter)

Michelle Dison

What’s funny to me about Michelle Dison (besides the obvious), is you’ve gotta wonder… where in the Hell did this character come from? We’ve all seen newscasters do some pretty amazing things, but this is just nuts. And somehow, even after you “get” the initial joke, it stays funny as Wiig keeps ushering it along. Sure, Dison’s a one-trick, and wouldn’t be as funny if she were over-used. But she’s not. So yay us.

“Shana” (Sexy-But-So-Very-Un-Sexy Siren)

Shana

The Shana sketches are in essence an exercise in what constitutes sexy, and what constitutes “oh-my-god-i-feel-ill” in our society; and the extremes of each men are willing to put up with. Sometimes venturing into nuanced fetishism (You pooped your pants? Awesomez!), Shana shines a revealing light on both men and women’s perceptions of… oh, whatever. It’s funny! What’s also cool is that it’s actually kind of hard to tell at first that it’s actually Kristen Wiig under there. I don’t know if it’s the makeup, the acting, or the fact that I can be a bit thick sometimes, but it took me a few seconds to realize it was actually her. Which makes Shana even better, in my book.

– WORST –

“Penelope” (The Consummate One-Upper)

Penelope

The term “heebie jeebies” comes to mind here. Because whenever Penelope shows up on SNL (which is way too often by half), I feel bad for Kristen, and I feel sorry for me (actually, me more). The premise is pretty simple: Penelope, who is beyond-desperate for attention, will take whatever someone says, and will “top it”. And the top that. And that. And so on. The only thing that’s vaguely interesting is “how” she one-ups each statement, but even that’s so hit-and-miss, it only serves to remind us how good Kristen can be… and how good Penelope is not.

“Judy Grimes” (Weekend Update Travel Writer)

Judy Grimes

What Judy Grimes has to do with travel, I’ll never know. But what Wiig does here is pretty amazing. That is, if you’re a student at Second City or a UCB Bunny. Judy Grimes is merely comedic histrionics. The improv equivalent of the ‘ol “Peggy Babcock” vocal exercise. The Yngwie Malmsteen-ing of one, small, lame joke. Sure, it’s impressive on a technical level (which is why the studio audience always reacts favorably), but it falls flat for the folks in TV Land.

“Gilly” (Mischevious Schoolgirl)

Gilly

This relatively new invention by Wiig is all of a sudden on every other show. In fact, they named last season’s Christmas Special after her: “A Very Gilly Christmas”. Why? God only knows. The sad part is, Gilly has the DNA of a good character. There’s something intriguing there. We’ve got a faintly funny costume and hairdo, a grin and those darling darting eyes… but that alone doesn’t-a-quality-character make. The Gilly skits are plodding, and predictable… although, her little dance is kind of funny. Sort of.

“Sue” (Surprise Party Pooper)

Sue

OK. Everyone has a friend that just loooves surprises, right? And they love surprises soooo much that they end up actually blowing the surprise? Right? Right? Well…um… no. And that’s the problem with Sue. She’s not grounded in any real truth at all. None. Anywhere. And the fact that her family is always soooo surprised at her strange behavior concerning the surprise, Sue just wreaks of hack. I mean, really, this is the first time she’s exhibited bizarre behavior? Also (and this is a tell) Sue is eerily reminiscent of Penelope in that she “pops up” in the scene. And, just when you think she’s done, she “pops up” again. Derivative of another bad character, no less. Seriously, Sue. Uncle.

+++

As with all of these “best/worst” lists, much of this is obviously one-man’s opinion. So take it with a grain (or three) of salt. But the main point still stands: that even Kristen Wiig’s “worst” characters are still damn awesome.