Post #5: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of “More Cowbell”

Rhetorical Situation

The Saturday Night Live skit “More Cowbell” originally aired on April 8, 2000, and has since left its mark on many Americans who continue to use the famous line that the skit is named after, “More Cowbell”. It was written by Will Ferrell and Donnell Campbell and it is currently ranked number 9 in the Rolling Stones’ top ten SNL skits. The skit, linked above, is a mock reenactment of the recording of “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult, a well-known rock song. The band, played by Chris Parnell, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan, and Horatio Sanz, are increasingly annoyed by Will Ferrell playing the cowbell. The music producer, played by Christopher Walken, however, demands there be “more cowbell” playing causing a hilarious contrast in opinions and Will Ferrell to become more outrageous at playing such a simplistic instrument. Since first airing, the phrase “more cowbell” has been used when someone feels like they need more of something and they are making a joke of their desperation for more.

A Fantasy Theme Analysis

I am conducting a fantasy theme analysis for this artifact because FTA is “the tool or methodology rhetoricians use to identify, understand, and interpret those converged symbols” (Sellnow 110). Meaning, I am interested in how this SNL skit has left a lasting impression on American pop culture. “More Cowbell” has a fantasy type of a classic SNL skit which generally takes something from pop culture and makes it comedic. SNL skits usually reenact a specific scene or situation and turn it satirical or create a hyperbole of something that is usually minor. In this case, they are taking a subtle cowbell playing in the background a well-known song and emphasizing it. Christopher Walken’s character, the music producer, says at 2:49 “… you’re gonna want that cowbell” because he thinks it is the key to this song’s success. The sanctioning agent for this skit can be attributed to the music producer, played by Christopher Walken, who demands “more cowbell!” because he is the greater force that causes Will Ferrell’s character to act ridiculously. The phrase “more cowbell” is the symbolic cue for this artifact because the phrase is not self-explanatory and only has a comedic meaning for those that have seen the skit. The platform for the skit, Saturday Night Live, I categorize as the social master analogue because it shows popular actors having fun together and forming a brotherhood that results in hilarious skits for the audience, us, to enjoy. As previously stated in the rhetorical situation, “More Cowbell” is ranked number 9 in the Rolling Stones’ top ten SNL skit because it has become a staple phrase in so many American households.


“More Cowbell” is heading towards the end of its rhetorical vision life cycle. Right now, I believe it is either in decline or close to the decline phase because it is twenty years old and media is growing so rapidly in comparison to when the skit originally aired. It is memorialized by the Rolling Stones’ high ranking, so I do not think it will be forgotten any time soon, but I do think it will become lesser and lesser widely known to SNL’s audience and the American public in general.


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6 Responses to Post #5: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of “More Cowbell”

  1. Grace Girdley says:

    I really liked this analysis! I think you did a good job of mentioning why this is important to read and how it is changing over time. I like how you incorporated a time of when something was said because then the post feels more interactive! This would be a good idea for critical essay #2!

  2. John Ward says:

    I love Saturday Night Live (SNL) sketches. This one is one of my favorite sketches. This one does have rhetorical popularity and it did create over a decade of memes from this. I agree with you about the decline of rhetorical popularity. As you mentioned, this came out 28 years ago and most of the audience is older and most of the people who remember the memes are out of school and in college. With the internet, the amount of funny content made by SNL is a similar style to this and the content becomes predictable. I think it will be remembered as the song and the anniversary commemorations of the SNL casts, and some people will have nostalgia for the memes and look back. This will always be a classic for me.

    • Amber Thomas says:

      Thanks for the input! I wasn’t sure if you guys, my classmates, would know about this skit or not, but I’m glad to hear some people know of it!

  3. Sara Holdsworth says:

    I think this is is really a good idea for this theory! If you were do to a paper on this, it might be helpful to include references that have been made to this skit to show its relevance in media.

    I know you talked about the fact that it is at the end of its life cycle but you could talk about the entire life cycle in general and the rise and its height of popularity.

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