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.