The Best (and Worst) of Kristen Wiig

The Academy Awards came and went without a win for her screenplay, but there’s no question that Kristen Wiig is a hot commodity. The sink-pooping hilarity of Bridesmaids, which she co-wrote over a number of years, has only fueled her rising star as a Saturday Night Live featured player. And there are reports floating that she’s planning on leaving SNL at the end of the season.

If so we’ll really miss the myriad characters, original and impersonated, that she parades around SNL like someone proud to wear toilet paper on her shoe. To wit, here are some of the biggest hits and misses of Wiig’s SNL career:

The Target Lady

Jazzed by the love of her employer and off her ADHD meds, The Target Lady is a hyper-enthused employee always fleeing her checkout station to score deals she’s found from customers. As a good vehicle for guest stars like Justin Timberlake’s equally nutty Peg, Wiig sports a bowl cut (“bangs that go all around her head”) and an indiscernible Midwestern-Alaska twang that I’m still trying to get out of my head. Wiig says the inspiration came from a checkout gal at a Target in Burbank, Calif., so we should probably find that lady and thank her. Grade: A

Gilly

How many times can you reprimand a nerdy troublemaker in an Afro and a pink bow and have it be funny? “Gilly…” was the familiar refrain from then-fellow cast member Will Forte, which was mildly funny at first but got stale quickly. Wiig told Time magazine’s Joel Klein that she was hanging up this character along with Penelope (see below), and we’re glad she did. Grade: D+

Junice

The same could be said for this character, initially created during the show starring Anne Hathaway, Wiig says. The malformed, fang-toothed member of the sister act wasn’t ever funny or watchable, and it has become an exhausting chore. One recent caveat, though, was Melissa McCarthy’s balls-to-the-wall hosting performance in which she played Junice’s buck-toothed, muscle-bound sister. Grade: C+

Penelope

If you thought one-upsmanship was just a GOP primary, you’d be wrong – it also was an SNL skit. You know the type: the bragging party girl who is not satisfied just being the center of attention, but the most successful at all costs, too. Penelope pops in at parties and even the ocassional group-therapy session. Her one redeeming quality is that she scored a cameo by Liza Minnelli. The hair-pulling outlandishness was funny at first, but like Gilly, Penelope played herself out. Grade: C

Aunt Linda

Comedians like Wiig are often the best life observers. Such is the case with her creation of the perfectly irascible Aunt Linda, who was inspired by a plane ride during which Wiig sat next to a confused woman commenting loudly on a movie. This character formed the perfect foil for Seth Meyer’s straight man during “Weekend Update,” and stays current and fresh by spoofing the latest movies. Grade: B+


Judy Grimes

Perhaps Wiig’s most enduring, demanding character of all, Judy Grimes is a travel writer who is so deeply self-conscious that she spews rapid-fire, “just kidding” non-sequiturs like a machine gun. This was an early look at the brilliance and quickness of Wiig, who must be able to speed-read cue cards better than any SNL player in history. As a travel writer, I approve. Grade: A-

Garth & Kat

This always-late but never dull duo is one of the only fully improvised sketches on SNL. Like Judy Grimes, they are guests on “Update,” but unlike the Grimes travel writer they’ve gone past their sell-date. Although I give props to the pair for the unscripted vibe, a bit’s thin novelty cannot sustain it for more than a few iterations. The success of Garth & Kat, though, should prove to Lorne Michaels that we could use more skits built around improv. That is, after all, the heart of the comedy game. Grade: C+

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