SNL's "Grouch" Joker parody is the show's best digital short in a while

It might be the best thing SNL's done in years.

If ever a film has served as evidence that controversy sells, it’s Joker. We’re well over a week removed from its debut and it’s still pretty much the only movie anyone is talking about. In fact, it’s still such a hot topic that the Saturday Night Live digital short parody of the film’s trailer aired a whole week after the film’s debut and still felt fresh and relevant. Grouch feels like the first big SNL hit of the season (and maybe even bigger than anything the show did last year).

The short effectively remakes the original Joker trailer as a Dark N’ Gritty revamp of Sesame Street icon Oscar the Grouch. Conceptually it’s solid, if somewhat predictable fare. It’s the execution made it such an internet phenomenon.

Crucially, Grouch never winks at the camera. It is, in a weirdly perverse way, almost too believable as a movie trailer. Its depiction of a grim, ‘70s Sesame Street is startlingly on-point and the performances throughout are played mostly straight, which only makes it funnier considering that everyone is playing a screwed-up version of a Sesame Street character.

Then there’s the David Harbour of it all. You get the feeling watching the video that this may be a concept the writers of the show sat on for a while waiting for the right host, and David Harbour is very much the right host. He’s kind of the perfect guy to play a broody, Joker-esque Oscar and the dude commits to the bit 100 percent. It plays up the extent to which the short doesn’t wink at the camera even more and makes it all the more hilarious.

The production values are a real standout. Grouch looks like it had a real Hollywood budget backing it. It’s shot beautifully and has a whole lot of nice, authentic sets. The costuming isn’t cheap and the whole thing just has a richness to it.

It’s all in service of a great joke, ultimately. And that joke is also why the trailer works so well: it doesn’t have to try to be funny because the subject matter it’s lampooning is kind of inherently ridiculous already. Why wink at the camera when the concept alone — a children’s character being made into a gritty adult one — is funny enough as it is?

Joker is in theaters now.

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