Those with the sheer endurance to make it through the “Deep House Dish” sketch on this weekend's "SNL" (dance music is not that good! Yes, this is the entire joke) got a special gift: musical guest Lady Gaga and surprise star Madonna, in a battle to the death.
Now my first thoughts (along with pretty much everyone else I've spoken to about the sketch) were, "Wow, Kristen Wiig does a really good Madonna impression!” But, sadly, the Madonna impersonator in question was Madonna herself. And the sketch, despite being intensely unfunny – it seems as if Gaga and Madonna skipped several lines, resulting in two vaguely insulting non-sequiturs from the Lady before the whole thing devolved into latex-clad hair-pulling – has become an Internet sensation.
Of course, the reason the sketch failed was precisely the reason folks picked up on it. Gaga and Madonna – both masterful sexual provocateurs and profoundly subversive artists – were shoehorned into a “catfight” scenario as predictable, vanilla and crowd-tested as can be. Far be it for us to see these two playing off each other in a friendly, funny way; the fact that they're both good, and female, means that we must assume hostility. So Gaga disses Madonna, Madonna disses Gaga, hair is yanked, thigh-high boots are kicked, a dude demands they “kiss and make up,” the kiss turns into a three-way starring Kenan Thompson, etc. Reader, I zzzzzzz'd. Didn't we settle the whole “Madonna names heir to her throne with straight-girl makeouts” back in 2003?
And yet, it was exciting to see them together. Lady Gaga is delightful, for the same reasons that Madonna was delightful in her prime: They're weird. They both take the established script for sexy blonde pop stars (a script which, you could argue, Madonna largely wrote herself) and exaggerate it to the point of parody. Gaga's other high points on the show – performing “Love Game” dressed as a sexy gyroscope, or navigating a kiss with Andy Samberg through a plastic-bubble costume – show that she hasn't lost her sense of humor, or her taste for the absurd, and it's these moments that show Gaga alone has inherited Madonna's pinup-as-performance-artist glory. But of all the many sins committed by late-period "SNL," this may be the greatest: It managed to make Lady Gaga and Madonna boring.