June 19, 2006
Head 2 Head: Screech vs Urkel
Since the dawn of time, human beings have argued.
Sometimes these arguments concern matters of critical importance: religion, morality, who gets the last slice of pizza. Yet, more often than not, the arguments that plague humanity concern matters of absolutely no importance. World War II, for instance, started because Germany and Poland couldn't agree on whether to call sweetened fizzy drinks "soda" or "pop". 62 million people died in that war, and it all could have been avoided if someone had simply told all involved parties to SHUT THE HELL UP BECAUSE IT'S CALLED SODA AND EVERYONE WHO CALLS IT POP IS A FREAKING MORON.
If only there were a Voice of Reason who could settle these arguments before they resulted in bloodshed; someone who was infinitely knowledgeable and commanded universal respect. I don't actually know anyone like that... so I guess I'll have to do it. Though I'm neither knowledgeable nor respected, I do have a lot of free time and my very own website.
With this in mind, I'm happy to introduce Head 2 Head, a new feature on Joey Headset. The purpose of this feature is to identify common arguments that threaten to destabilize our culture -- and to settle them ONCE AND FOR ALL.
Today, we decide this critical question: Who was the Ultimate 80s Sitcom Geek? Was it Screech, from Saved By the Bell... or Urkel from Family Matters?
When considering the respective merits of Urkel and Screech, comparing their talent seems like a good place to start.
The role of Steven Quincy Urkel was portrayed by Jaleel White, a young actor from Pasadena, California. Like the finest actors of his generation, White transformed his body to play this role. Though he was a gifted athlete, solidly built, White starved himself to play Urkel, maintaining a dangerously low weight for most of his adolescence. Also, the young actor shredded his vocal chords in order to achieve the high pitched vocal characterization that was so essential to the role. Urkel suffered for his art... and boy did it pay off. Check out this thrilling montage of Urkel in action -- the man really had a gift for physical comedy.
Dustin Diamond never had to suffer for his art. Really, it was more like the art was suffering for him. You see, Diamond naturally looked and sounded like a dork. That's not a "voice" he was doing -- the man really sounds like that. Though some might think of Diamond's portrayal of Screech as the ultimate example of Method Acting, most critics consider it an example of what might happen if you recorded the sound of a drowning ferret and then scoured Hollywood to find an actor who could emulate that sound in human speech.
After Saved By the Bell, Dustin Diamond tried his hand at stand up comedy. He's toured the country relentlessly, and you may have seen his comedic stylings on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman. That is, you may have seen Diamond on these programs IF you're in the habit of dropping acid before you turn on your television. Otherwise, you haven't seen him. ANYWHERE.
Since Family Matters, Jaleel White graduated from Film School and currently supports himself as an actor and writer. He appeared in the most recent season of FOX's 24 and maintains a very entertaining blog on NBA.com.
It is impossible to overstate the impact Urkel has had on contemporary culture -- though the precise nature of his influence is a matter of significant debate. Some critics consider Urkel to be the crowning achievement of the 20th century; a cultural nexus that embodied every relevant aspect of Old Postmodernism, while establishing a new paradigm that we have only just begun to explore. Others believe that Urkel is the quasi-mystical conjuration of his own zeitgeist, the inevitable result of centuries of literary and aesthetic thought.
The cultural impact of Screech is that boys with curly dark hair get the crap beaten out of them 67% more often than they did back in the pre-Screech era. And they all deserve it.
Was it ever really in doubt? Steve Urkel is the Ultimate 80s Sitcom Geek. Those of you who picked Screech are stupid and wrong. Those of you who picked Arvid from Head of the Class... you are also wrong, though your knowledge of bad 80s television is commendable.