Only Christopher Walken‘s plea for “more cowbell” tingles Saturday Night Live fans as much as the classic, oddball, utterly enduring Jeopardy sketches with Will Ferrell as the flustered Alex Trebek. And none of the faux Jeopardy contestants contributed quite so much to Ferrell’s consternation as Norm Macdonald’s non-sequitur spewing Burt Reynolds character. (Yes, yes, Darrell Hammond’s boorish Sean Connery wins in some polls!) SNL featured the Jeopardy sketch an astonishing fifteen times. Macdonald was on Howard Stern’s show this week, telling tales and promoting his new book (Based on a True Story: A Memoir). Macdonald repeated the oft-told story of how he ripped the Jeopardy sketch nearly note for note from Martin Short and an old SCTV sketch called “Half Wits”, which Eugene Levy had written years before. Macdonald told Stern how Levy had graciously given him permission for the theft.
Macdonald and Stern bonded over the source material — SCTV being a huge landmark for most comics who grew up in that era. Macdonald said he’d remembered the “Half Wits” sketch from when he “was a child.” And Stern jumped in: “There was no better show than SCTV. That was unbelievable, right? Amazing.” Macdonald agreed. “Unbelievable,” he said. It’s been the gift the keeps on giving, too. Just ask SNL, or Alex Trebek, or Christopher Guest.