The Case for Pat Sajak, the Most Underrated Funnyman on Television

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Wheel of Fortune is A&W Root Beer. A Werther's Original. As long as it stays on the air (which should be forever, considering how it consistently ranks among the highest-rated syndicated television), Wheel will be a quaint comfort object that never alters its formula, save a few label adjustments. Its emcee, Pat Sajak, has not been so consistent since he took Wheel's helm from Chuck Woolery in 1983. He was awkward to start, but as the show progressed, Sajak eased into a snappy, sunny routine undercut by some of the drollest, bizarre one-liners in recent TV. Could the funniest (and sourest) man on TV be the face of parent-approved daytime programming?

As Sajak begins his 26th season, let's bring a magnifying glass to his unusually speedy wit. Call his style the result of misery or boredom, but Sajak turns out punchy, trenchant comedy between the usual contestant spins and solves. He has acknowledged in interviews that his favorite television experience was his short-lived The Pat Sajak Show, in which he conducted sit-down interviews in a Tonight Show format. But that venture called for too much intimacy from Sajak, whose aloof commentary is best delivered with irony in a Merv Griffin-anointed stage spectacle. It should be noted, however, that as a Midwest-hailing onetime weatherman, his start in showbiz mirrors the career and style of David Letterman, not Bob Barker or Monty Hall.

In this clip from Wheel's 5,000th show, Sajak reminisces on a peculiar comic moment from 1989. Strange and nearly gross? Sure. But hilarious? Certainly.

Sajak has used his darkest humor for the segues between announcer Charlie O'Donnell's introductions to different prizes. Here, he pretends to chug a bottle of wine before the Jackpot round.

April Fools' Day episodes of Wheel allow Sajak to exercise shtick. Here he reveals his long-rumored "baldness" to Vanna White, who, in turn, exhibits some Goddess of Love-style acting chops.

In this legendary episode, Sajak suffers contestant Andy as he tries to understand the concept of "Before and After." Click to 1:30 to see Sajak's full headmaster snark from beginning to end.

Lastly, while this speech attacking a Rosie O'Donnell statement evinces Sajak's longtime conservative leanings, some of his points are cruelly, universally funny. It's sort of refreshing, in an era of overly scrubbed Seacrests, that a host like Sajak can gleefully tell a colleague where to stick it.



Comments

  • Dimo says:

    I hate you Movieline! I just sat through 9 minutes and 43 seconds of the Wheel. I thought the nightmare of being trapped at my grandparents' house circa 1986 was something I had finally gotten over. I will have one more Werther's Original however.

  • Furious D says:

    Maybe Sajak can start working the roasts.

  • Miles says:

    Even though I deplore his political stands, I must admit he was damn funny on his late night show.

  • Lowbrow says:

    Also, Pat is a major DILF.

  • MCU says:

    His head seems to just keep getting bigger.
    It kind of worries me.

  • Mikey says:

    I think it's the hair.

  • Bob Schauer says:

    Pat Sajak is a total jerk. He's been one since his days as a weather man in Los Angeles, where he constantly insulted his colleague Stu Nahan, the sport anchor. Nahan took it with grace, and I was outraged when, after Nahan died, Sajak had to gall to write a letter to the editor about how much he "admired" Nahan. It was a bald faced lie, and I will never forgive him for that.

  • Dan Johnson says:

    I had to chuckle when his intro mentioned Sajak's affiliation mentioned ultra-conservative Hillsdale College. That place is CRAZY. Via Wikipedia:
    In 1991, four former Hillsdale College professors, all members of the National Association of Scholars, criticized the college and its president, George Roche III. They wrote: "For years the Hillsdale administration has neglected its academic program to pay for 'outreach' activities designed to promote Dr. Roche, maintained a curriculum that requires no appreciable knowledge of Western culture, and used every possible means including dismissals and threats of lawsuits, to silence dissent of any kind among faculty and students." (Academic Questions, Fall 1991). Roche also urged a student, Mike Nehls, not to publish an independent newspaper, the Hillsdale Spectator. When Nehls went ahead with his plans and began criticizing Roche in editorials, Roche banned distribution of the paper on campus and then expelled Nehls. In 1987, distinguished assistant history professor Warren Treadgold was fired after publicly disagreeing with the dean of women Carol-Ann Barker; Hillsdale, which has no appeals or grievance procedures, refused to give any reasons for Treadgold's dismissal.[4]
    Hillsdale gained national attention in 1999, when Lissa Jackson Roche, the daughter-in-law of college president George Roche III, committed suicide shortly after alleging that she and her father-in-law had conducted an extramarital affair for over nineteen years. Roche's body was discovered in the college's Slayton Arboretum. George Roche III resigned as president of the college.[5][6] There is still some controversy over whether she committed suicide or was murdered, and a book was written on the tragedy, but there was no evidence of either the affair or the charge that Roche murdered the woman. Despite this incident, which inspired an episode of NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Roche's labors to improve the college remain respected, and the college's sports complex, built during his presidency, bears his name. Roche died on Friday, May 5, 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky.

  • Noneyour says:

    Pat Sajak toots his own horn and his ego is bigger than the national debt. He has made it to the top of his ladder and now has turned to slinging mud at people that have surpassed him. Crap rolls downhill Pat and Keith is a few rungs ahead of you.

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