Sunday, October 07, 2012

Breaking Bad

On this weekend’s Saturday Night Live, there was a very familiar moment in a late-episode sketch. Fred Armisen was playing the obnoxious, elitist, outrĂ© girlfriend of Daniel Craig’s character in a sketch. Late in the sketch, Armisen broke character and had to fight hard to keep from laughing—and as he did, rapidly the other actors fell victim to the same affliction.

The phenomenon of breaking character to laugh (or “corpsing” as one article tells me it is known in the biz) is hardly new of course—poor Rachel Dratch fell victim to its snares in those Debbie Downer sketches, and current critical and audience favorite Bill Hader consistently breaks up during the Weekend Update “Stefan” segments. And Jimmy Fallon became infamous for the inability to stay in character for any sketch ever.

So—here’s my idea for a year-long research project I would totally undertake if someone would pay me to do it instead of my job: A statistical analysis of every SNL player and their “corpsing rate.” I’m very curious as to who was the least likely in the show’s cast to break – who did it the least, who the most. You could also envision a whole host of factors to account for in the research:

·         Degree of difficulty—is the situation such that you would have been impressed for the actor not to break? Or is it surprising that they did?

·         Friendly fire—is the breaking a chain reaction thing? Do you count it less against an actor if they are the third in the train to break?

·         Prep time—it’s commonly assumed and I believe somewhat validated that Hader is reading at least some of the Stefon stuff cold on air. Surely he should be dinged less than an actor who had the script early in the week?

·         How bad do they break? A smirk? A guffaw? A twinge?

Any guesses as to who would come out on top?

If any media outlet wants to fund this research write to me at with serious offers only please.
Dratch breaks in a Debbie Downer sketch:


Poor Hader at the mercy of the writers:

Until Whenever



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