If you’re a true blue SNL fan, you definitely have a favorite sketch. Are you a fan of More Cowbell, MacGruber, or Debbie Downer? There are too many to pick from! But, out of the many sketches, there is one gag that continues to confuse the audience. It is the Sidney Applebaum joke!
During the 2012 Halloween sketch, many wondered why Bill Hader and Seth Meyers couldn’t keep a straight face while performing the skit. On the internet, you’ll find many people searching for questions like – Who is Sidney Applebaum? What is his connection to the Jewish Dracula?
There are many layers to this joke. And we are here to help you figure it out!
In this article, we will look into what the SNL joke is about, how it came to be, where it draws its inspiration from, and the top ten moments in SNL.
What is Saturday Night Live?
Saturday Night Live, or SNL, is your typical late-night live television sketch. It airs on NBC and is often credited as one of the longest-running shows in American television history. In 2022, the show was well on its way to its 48th season!
It started under the title NBC’s Saturday Night on 11th October 1975. The show’s creators are Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. SNL parodies everything about contemporary culture – politics, the entertainment industry, etc.
It is said to take inspiration from the 1965 British show hosted by David Frost called That Was the Week That Was. Moreover, the show relies heavily on improv comedy.
The format of SNL remains the same for every episode. You’ll see an ensemble of regular comedic actors, a celebrity guest host, and a musical performance. The celebrity host usually starts the show with an opening monologue and performs in a few sketches throughout the episode.
SNL has been a launchpad for many comedic actors. Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, and Andy Samberg, to name a few.
During the cold open sketch, the actors break character and exclaim, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”. This is considered to be the signature phrase of the show.
The show is filmed before a studio audience and broadcasted live on television.
What is the SNL Joke About?
The context is essential to understand the Applebaum joke. On SNL, Bill Hader plays the character of Stefon. This character is a city correspondent that appears for SNL’s satirical news segment called Weekend Update.
For the Weekend Update sketch, Hader is joined by actor Seth Meyers. In the sketch, Stefon is shown to be a know-it-all when it comes to parties and nightclubs in New York.
Their Halloween sketch for 2012 was called Weekend Update: Stefon on Halloween’s Hottest Tips – SNL.
Stefon begins the program by giving Halloween tips to tourists in New York. He talks about human pinatas, a club guarded by an army of hobo cops, and the Jewish Dracula.
The Weekend Update sketch has a fixed format. Usually, Hader starts the sketch by saying, “New York’s hottest club is…..” Then, he proceeds to make absurd sounds and mentions nonsensical club names.
Thereon, Seth Meyers interrupts him and asks for family-friendly city spots. But that doesn’t stop Stefon! He continues to talk about outlandish New York clubs and parties.
Fun Fact: Chevy Chase was the first to say the lines from the opening sketch, “Live From New York, Its Saturday Night Live.” Here’s the first sketch of SNL and Chase’s opening line.
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How Did the Applebaum Joke Play Out?
For the Jewish Dracula joke, here’s how the conversation unfolded:
Stefon: New York’s Hottest Club is …[growls and hisses]
Stefon: Located in an abandoned whitefish factory in Little Israel. This place is going to have everything: Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, my son!
Stefon: On the dance floor, you’ll find both guys from Wham! Wearing a two-man horse costume. Spoiler alert: They’re both in the back. Plus, there’s a special guest – Have you heard of Blacula, the Black Dracula?
Stefon: Well, they have a Jewish Dracula.
Meyers: Oh, What’s his name?
Stefon: Sidney Applebaum!
Why Was the Joke So Funny?
You see the audience and Bill Hader break into a fit of laughter. However, some viewers are genuinely confused by it.
There are three reasons why the Applebaum joke was funny. These are – the nature of the name, Hader breaking character, and the Woody Allen movie reference. Let’s look into it!
1. Nature of the Name
The line Blacula – the Black Dracula is a setup. When Hader starts talking about the Jewish Dracula, you expect the name to be similar to Blacula.
Also, Jewish names have a reputation for being difficult to pronounce. So, you’d think the name would be something complicated or clever. But, it’s neither. It turns out to be an ordinary and random name – Sidney Applebaum!
2. Hader Breaks Character
Another thing that the audience finds amusing is Bill Hader himself. Hader is known to easily break his character and start chuckling. For the audience, this is funny because they see Hader trying to maintain a straight face while delivering his line and failing at it.
We now know that Hader goes into sketch without knowing the entire script. The writer, John Mulaney, is said to add a few extra lines here and there as the show goes live. So, Hader is part of the reason why it’s funny.
3. The Woody Allen Connection
The Applebaum joke comes from the Woody Allen movie “Love and Death.” In the film, we see a French General talk about how the world will remember his name.
Then, he proceeds to mention the name, which is Sidney Applebaum. Since the name is so random and ridiculous, you are caught off-guard as an audience.
Woody Allen is known to use non-sequiturs in his work. This is just one of the many examples!
Fun Fact: Tina Fey was the first female head writer in the history of SNL.
So, Where Does the Inspiration For Applebaum Come From?
Short Answer: Woody Allen’s comedy movie Love and Death (1975)
As we mentioned, the Applebaum joke is an ode to the Woody Allen movie.
The 1975 movie is a satire on Russian Literature. The plot revolves around two characters who hitch a plan to murder Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812.
The story follows the life of a ‘cowardly’ Russian villager named Boris Grushenko. Grushenko is shown to be in love with his cousin, Sonja. However, Sonja has feelings for his brother, Ivan.
When Ivan gets engaged to another woman, a heartbroken Sonja marries an elderly merchant. Meanwhile, Grushenko is forced to join the Russian Army. In a turn of events, he accidentally becomes a war hero after he hides a canon that hits the enemy camp. Back home, Sonja’s husband passes away.
On his return, Grushenko proposes to Sonja, who agrees to marry him if he wins a duel.
When Napoleon invades Russia, Boris is all set to flee the country. However, Sonja hatches a plan to assassinate the French military commander.
The two engage in a lot of philosophical babble while debating their plan.
Eventually, Boris gives in, and they both go ahead. But their plan fails, and Boris is executed while Sonja escapes arrest.
So, where does the Applebaum joke finds a mention in the movie? The Applebaum joke comes in when a supporting character called General Leveque remarks:
“They call me mad, but one day when the history of France is written, they will mark my name well – Sidney Applebaum!”
The line is considered amusing because it’s absurd. As we mentioned, Allen is known to employ non-sequiturs in his movies.
Non-sequitur is the Latin word for the phrase “it does not follow.” It simply means that the statement made is nonsensical and confusing. Non-sequiturs do not follow a line of logic. In everyday conversations, non-sequiturs are rarely used.
However, they are used in literature and movies for comedic purposes. It is utilized to catch the audience off-guard or to shock them.
When the General talks about France remembering him, we anticipate a heavy-weight name. But he proceeds to say Sidney Applebaum, which makes the audience chuckle. The name is lame and random.
Fun Fact: Actor Jim Carrey auditioned to be a part of Saturday Night Live. However, he was rejected twice. He did show up as a guest host in 1996, 2011, and 2014! Here’s the reason why – Why Jim Carrey’s Original Saturday Night Live Audition Was Rejected.
How Did the Applebaum Joke Come to Be?
So, how did the Sidney Applebaum joke materialize?
Let’s rewind a bit! For the unaware, Saturday Night Live has a revolving set of actors and comedians. In 2020, the show bid adieu to some of its veteran cast members. One of them was Bill Hader, who played the popular role of Stefon.
After spending eight years at SNL, Hader sat down for an interview to discuss his journey. The actor spilled beans on the behind-the-scenes action at SNL.
Hader stated that Weekend Update sketches were hard for him. He found it challenging to keep a straight face while playing the character.
He revealed that writer John Mulaney would change a few details in the script right before they went live. So, Hader would shoot for the live show without knowing a part of the script. The surprised reaction and the struggle to stay in character are all very real.
Moreover, the actor said they rarely added a whole new joke in the sketch. Sidney Applebaum was an exception.
Mulaney wrote the Applebaum joke at the last minute. So, Bill Hader saw the card for the first time when the show went live and cracked up.
To quote Hader, “The Jewish Dracula named Sidney Applebaum made me laugh really hard, not because that’s such a funny joke of that name, but that name is from one of our favorite jokes in the Woody Allen movie Love and Death, where a guy is talking about how history will mark his name, Sidney Applebaum, and it’s just the lamest name. It just made us laugh. So it was all very personal.”
But why did Hader break character? What was so funny?
Bill Hader said that he would start laughing at the idea of Mulaney finding the joke funny. Basically, Hader and Mulaney were laughing at their own sense of humor. Even the writing staff would ask Hader, “Why did you laugh at that?”
After a point, Mulaney tried getting Hader to break character as much as possible. This is what Mulaney said about where the inspiration for Stefon came from:
“I knew a guy who was trying to start, not a club, but like, do you remember when in New York, sort of pre-Bloomberg, there’d be club spaces? There’d be like a boat that was haunted on the river near the West Side Highway, and people would go, ‘let’s party in there, and maybe we’ll die too. And he would list things- ‘this is gonna have everything, this is gonna have jacked old men… people dressed as babies… farm animals. He would just list and stare.”
Here’s a video where John Mulaney talks about creating the character – Behind the Sketch: Stefon with John Mulaney – SNL
Fun Fact: Eddie Murphy was hell-bent on getting his break on SNL. The veteran actor would call up the talent co-ordinator, Neil Levy, every day for a week to get the role. When he was called for an audition, Murphy was so good that he was given a contract immediately!
Real-Life Sidney Applebaum – A Natural at Grocery Business
Does the real-life Applebaum have any connection to the joke? No, not really.
But it’s worth talking about this grocery mogul! The real-life Sidney Applebaum was a mammoth figure in the grocery retailing business.
Born in 1924, Applebaum had eight other siblings. He was the second youngest child and the youngest son in the family. His parents, Oscar and Bertha Applebaum immigrated to the United States from Russia.
Grocery Business In His Blood
In 1900, Applebaum’s parents settled in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Soon after, his father started a grocery store in the locality. He had a horse-drawn cart and would go door-to-door to sell grocery products. In 1924, Oscar set up a fruits and vegetable market at 7th Street, St.Paul.
Sidney studied at Humboldt Senior High School in Saint Paul. Moreover, Sidney was a helping hand in his father’s business.
He would bag rice, bundle soap, and deliver fruits and produce. By 1932, the family saw a rise in fortunes. During 1930-1950, they kickstarted additional stores at St.Clair and Payne Ave. As adults, Sidney and his brothers learned the tricks of the trade and became a part of Applebaum’s management.
During this time, Sidney met Lorraine Smith and married her in 1946. With Smith, he had three children – Nancy, Jay, and Ellen.
Applebaum’s business saw a spectacular rise in the 1960s. They gained local and national fame as the go-to grocery chain. They had over thirty stores spread out from Duluth to Minnesota. With the help of his kids, Sidney also co-founded Big Top Liquors and Sid’s Discount Liquors in 1978.
In the 1970s, Sidney and his brothers established “Applebaum’s Food Markets.” However, the founder of National Tea, D.B Reinhart, took over the Applebaum Food Markets in 1979.
For the unaware, National Tea ran the Gateway Foods enterprise. In 1979, Applebaum merged with the National Tea Corporation of Rosemount III.
With this takeover, 26 Applebaum markets merged with the National Tea Corporation of Rosemount III. This made Applebaum the biggest grocery retailing business in Twin Cities. After taking over Applebaum Markets, Reinhart put Sidney in charge of the twin cities’ retail operations.
During this time, Sidney suggested converting a few Applebaum outlets to create new stores. In 1982, the new stores were launched under the name ‘Rainbow Foods.’
Rainbow Foods was a supermarket-styled outlet. With Sidney at the helm, the market saw explosive success in the 1980s.
When it started out, it had just a 5 percent share in the Twin Cities Market. However, by 1993, one-third of the groceries consumed in the Twin Cities Market came from Rainbow Foods.
However, Rainbow Foods did shuffle through different owners. This included Fleming Foods, Roundy’s, Supervalu Inc., Lund’s, Byerly’s, etc. But, Sidney continued as the CEO of the chain till 1996.
After his tryst with Rainbow Foods, Sidney went on to buy four shops of ‘Holiday Foods.’ These shops were in Plymouth, Burnsville, Fridley, and Bloomington. But in 1998, he sold the stores to Supervalu Inc. After retiring, he focused all his attention on expanding his family’s liquor stores. Sidney maintained an active interest in work until he died in 2016.
Sidney was often described as a family man. He had eight grandkids and five great-grandkids. Moreover, he had a strong work ethic and continued to work till the week before he died.
Every morning, Sidney would wake up at 6:00 am and go to Perkins in St. Paul with his daughter. Then, he would go to work with a walker and spend 4-5 hours there.
He was passionate about making his mark in the Twin Cities and was a community man. He died on 6th August 2016. Sidney and his wife, Lorraine, would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on September 17th, 2016
Talking about his father, Jay said, “He loved people and people loved him. Whether it was the concrete people in the parking lot or carpenters or electricians or the highest executive, he treated everybody the same and loved to be with everybody. People gravitated toward him.”
Fun Fact: Alec Baldwin has hosted SNL for a record 17 times! Here’s a piece by NBC on the same – Alec Baldwin’s Record-Breaking History as ‘SNL’ Host.
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What Are Some Top Saturday Night Live Moments?
The Sidney Applebaum joke is just one of the many highlights of SNL. This American comedy institution has given us many cult sketches.
The show first aired in 1975. It is also the successor of the 1960s show called Laugh-In. Over the years, we’ve seen hundreds of character sketches, impressions, and iconic moments.
The show sees a rotating staff of actors and writers. However, the format has remained the same.
“Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night”
Here’s a roundup of our favorite Saturday Night Live sketches:
1. Sarah Palin & Hillary Clinton Address the Nation
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s SNL era have given us some of the best moments. One of them is their political impersonation of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.
The skit was titled “A Nonpartisan Message from Governor Sarah Palin & Senator Hillary Clinton.”
We see Clinton and Palin take a stand against the prevalent sexism during the 2008 United States presidential election. The duo also takes subtle digs at each other throughout the skit.
2. Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood
The sketch is a parody of the famous show called Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. It starred the famous comedic actor Eddie Murphy.
Murphy plays the role of a criminal who is wanted by the police for petty crimes. He teaches kids about illegal activities like shoplifting, breaking into homes, and stealing groceries.
3. Black Jeopardy
Black Jeopardy is a recurring segment that tackles race issues. The 2016 Black Jeopardy sketch starring Tom Hanks has to be one of the best!
Hanks plays the role of a white man who supports the MAGA philosophy. The show’s format remained the same: the quiz game has three contestants – two black and a white contestant.
Most of the questions are tackled by the black contestants. The third contestant usually fails to answer any questions.
4. Dear Sister
A homage to the second season drama of the millennial show, The O.C. Dear Sister starred Andy Samberg, Shia LaBoeuf, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig.
We see a soap opera-level drama with a lot of gunfire. The parody makes fun of the over-the-top song that plays in the background as Marissa shoots Trey in The O.C.
5. The Californians
A recurring sketch on SNL, The Californians is a parody of soap operas. It stars Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Trey, and Vanessa Bayer.
The highlight of the sketch is the valley girl accent that the characters speak in. The melodrama also involves a lot of talk about freeways and traffic in L.A. The famous catchphrase from the sketch is “Stay off the 405!”
6. Debbie Downer
A fan-favorite skit that starred Rachel Dratch as Debbie Downer. Dratch is a natural at playing a pessimistic person. In this skit, we see an Ohio family visit Disney World. Here, Debbie Downer ruins the fun for everyone by talking about depressing issues.
The skit starred Jimmy Fallon, Lindsay Lohan, Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler, and Horatio Sanz. During the show, most cast members couldn’t keep a straight face, nor could they complete their lines.
7. The Lonely Island Era
Regarding Andy Samberg, The Lonely Island is his best on SNL. We saw digital shorts like “I’m on a Boat,” “Great Day,” and “Motherlover.” However, a favorite among these digital shorts would be “D*** In a Box.”
Here, Samberg is joined by Justin Timberlake as they figure out the perfect gift for their girlfriends.
8. Van Down By The River
Chris Farley plays the role of a motivational speaker like no other! In this skit, Stacy (played by Christina Applegate) and Brian (David Spade) are caught with a bag of marijuana.
To straighten them up, their parents call home a motivational speaker. Matt Foley, a 35-year-old, thrice-divorced motivational speaker, shows up and tries to scare the kids.
He tells them that if they don’t mend their ways, they might end up living “in a van down by the river.” The skit tries to mock the motivational speaker trend!
9. Wayne’s World
Another fan-favorite sketch was Wayne’s World. The skit presented two metalhead fans recording their show from their parent’s basement. It gave us catchphrases like “Schwing!”, “Party On!” “We’re not Worthy!”.
The skit was so famous that Paramount Pictures produced a full-feature film of the same name in 1992.
10. Celebrity Jeopardy
Celebrity Jeopardy used to be a recurring sketch on SNL. It was a parody of the game show called Jeopardy. Here, every celebrity competes to win the quiz game.
It was revived during SNL’s 40th anniversary special in 2015. This particular skit was a favorite among fans because it had just the right mix of celebrity guests and comedians.
Kate Mckinnon’s Justin Bieber, Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin’s Tony Bennett, and Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek impressions were on point!
Fun Fact: American voters have admitted that political sketches on SNL have influenced their voting choices! Here’s an infographic by Bustle showing the political impact of SNL- How ‘SNL’ Does & Doesn’t Influence Politics.
It’s been more than 45 years since Saturday Night Live first aired on television. Over the years, the show has given us many pop culture moments. One of them being the Sidney Applebaum joke.
As we mentioned, viewers laugh at the joke for three reasons. One, SNL fans love to see Bill Hader break character. Next, the Jewish Dracula comment makes you think the name would be clever, but it isn’t. Finally, the joke is an ode to Woody Allen’s movie Love and Death.