Sally Field, Phil Hartman, and Everyone’s Jesus

My wife Jessica dug up this old SNL clip today, and I love it.

Let me tell you why I love it.

First, Sally Field commits. This is not some half-baked celebrity-host cue-card phone-in. She becomes this Jesus-loving woman entirely. It’s just grand.

Second, Phil Hartman is the perfect Jesus. Not because he “looks the part” or anything, it’s that he manages to pull off the perfect blank-slate-Jesus. There is no figure in fiction or fact who comes with more cultural baggage than Jesus Christ, and yet somehow Hartman manages to fulfill both the theological/cultural expectations of the character, without inserting any unnecessary commentary on Jesus or Christianity. He’s not the South Park Jesus, or some hypocrite Jesus. He’s just Jesus, writ-large.

Third, the sketch isn’t based on being mean or snarky. It takes a stock character, the Jesus-obsessed mom and lends it a funny twist, but never turns her into a fool or a jerk. There is a love for the character despite her flaws.

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