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The Best Of Saturday Night Live Review

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SNL's Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell

★★★★★

Saturday Night Live’s reputation as a breeding ground for the Hollywood comedy industry — Murray, Martin, Aykroyd, Chase, Murphy, Myers and Belushi all got their breaks on the show — is, frankly, slightly undeserved. After all, the sketch show has recently given us the ho-hum likes of Chris Kattan, Chris Farley and Jimmy Fallon.

But the production line does still work, as these three discs, showcasing the early efforts of a ridiculously young Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell — three of the biggest names in funny flicks today — aim to prove.

However, there’s one big problem: perhaps due to the pressures of writing and performing for live TV every week, the material is often patchy, overlong, and — crucially — not that funny. In particular, the Rock and Sandler discs, each just over an hour long, are weak. Rock is not a sketch comedian, his material only coming alive on stand-up rants about politics, crime and race, while Sandler’s angry young man schtick is hidden beneath a surfeit of comedy songs that wouldn’t have got past the Two Ronnies’ script editor.

Ferrell’s disc, though also hit-and-miss, is better. A true one-off, as gifted at physical comedy as he is surreal wordplay, Ferrell’s versatility and full-on approach gave SNL a rare edge. Check out the utterly barmy Jeopardy skit, or his spot-on take on the ass-licking Inside The Actors’ Studio head cheese, James Lipton, for early proof that here was a comic talent too big to be contained by a show whose best days are long, long behind it.