More Cowbell

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"More Cowbell"
Saturday Night Live sketch
Bruce Dickinson (Christopher Walken) demands "more cowbell"
Written byWill Ferrell
Donnell Campbell[1]
CastJimmy Fallon
Will Ferrell
Chris Kattan
Chris Parnell
Horatio Sanz
Original air dateApril 8, 2000
GuestsChristopher Walken

"More Cowbell"[a] is a comedy sketch that aired on Saturday Night Live on April 8, 2000. The sketch was written by regular cast member Will Ferrell and playwright Donnell Campbell and depicts the recording of the song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult. The sketch stars guest host Christopher Walken as music producer Bruce Dickinson, and Ferrell as fictional cowbell player Gene Frenkle, whose overzealous playing annoys his bandmates but pleases producer Dickinson. The sketch also features Chris Parnell as Eric Bloom, Jimmy Fallon as Bobby Rondinelli, Chris Kattan as Buck Dharma, and Horatio Sanz as Joe Bouchard.

The sketch is considered one of the greatest SNL sketches ever made; in many "best of" lists of SNL sketches, it is often placed in the top ten (ranked number nine by Rolling Stone,[3] for example). As a result of its popularity, "more cowbell" became an American pop culture catchphrase, and has even entered the dictionary.[4]


An episode of VH1's Behind the Music documenting the band Blue Öyster Cult showcases footage of the group from a 1976 recording session that produced the band's biggest hit, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper". The producer Bruce Dickinson (played by Christopher Walken) tells the band they have "what appears to be a dynamite sound". The first take seems to go well but the band stops playing because the cowbell part is rather loud and distracting. Dickinson, to the surprise of most of the band, asks for "a little more cowbell" and suggests that the cowbell player, Gene Frenkle (Will Ferrell), "really explore the studio space this time". Frenkle's exuberance in following this advice causes him to bump into his bandmates as he dances around the cramped studio, thrusting his pelvis wildly in all directions, and the band aborts another take.

After the other members voice their frustrations with the instrument, Frenkle sheepishly agrees to tone down his performance in the spirit of cooperation. He passive-aggressively plays the cowbell very close to Eric Bloom (Chris Parnell)'s ear and fails to keep time with the rest of the band. The rest of the band expresses frustration with Frenkle, but Dickinson remains focused only on getting more cowbell onto the track. Frenkle makes an impromptu speech to the rest of the band, declaring that Dickinson's stature lends a great deal of weight to his opinion about the cowbell part and that the last time he (Frenkle) checked, they didn't have "a whole lot of songs that feature the cowbell" and therefore he would be "doing himself a disservice, and every member of the band" if he "didn't perform the hell out of this". In the end, the band agrees to let Frenkle play the cowbell part his way. The sketch ends with a freeze frame on Frenkle with the superimposed message: "In Memoriam: Gene Frenkle: 1950–2000."



Will Ferrell, seen here in 2010, wrote the sketch.

Will Ferrell's idea for the sketch came from hearing "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" over the years: "Every time I heard [the song], I would hear the faint cowbell in the background and wonder, 'What is that guy's life like?'"[2] He co-wrote the sketch with friend and playwright Donnell Campbell.[1] Ferrell first submitted it for the episode with Norm Macdonald as host, which aired on October 23, 1999. SNL creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels was unsure about the premise, though the sketch played well among crew at the table read.[2] According to Seth Meyers, who served as head writer several seasons later, the sketch was submitted over seven times before making the show.[5] Ferrell re-wrote the sketch when Christopher Walken was scheduled to host to fit the actor's rhythm.

The actors who appeared in the sketch had trouble keeping straight faces. They found Ferrell's acting, along with Walken's stone-faced performance, so funny that they were all on the verge of corpsing and ruining the sketch several times.[6][7][8] On "Take Two", Walken can be seen through the booth glass, laughing, as Ferrell's too-tight shirt rides up, exposing Ferrell's stomach while he is dancing and playing the cowbell. Even Ferrell at one point can be seen laughing for a moment soon after Jimmy Fallon laughs for the first time in the sketch. According to Ferrell and Michaels, the sketch did not do well in dress rehearsals, and Ferrell had the idea of performing in a smaller shirt in the live sketch.[9] According to Fallon, Ferrell's tighter shirt made him unable to stop laughing, and had to bite his drumsticks to avoid breaking the scene.[10]

Factual accuracy[edit]

While the song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult does indeed include a cowbell playing throughout the song, its sound is largely drowned out by the rest of the instruments. According to Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, the lead singer and author-composer of the song, the sketch accurately portrays the band's look during the 1970s, but it inaccurately portrays some of the details of the actual recording:[11]

  • The sketch has the recording session taking place at Sunshine Studios in late 1976. In reality, the song was recorded at the Record Plant in New York City, in late 1975 or early 1976 (the album the song first appeared on, Agents of Fortune, was released in May 1976).
  • Parnell plays the group's lead singer, "Eric". While Eric Bloom was the band's lead singer, Roeser performed lead vocals for the song.[11] Drummer Albert Bouchard is incorrectly referred to as "Bobby" (Bobby Rondinelli, their drummer at the time the skit aired), and keyboard player Allen Lanier is notably absent.
  • Gene Frenkle is a fictional character invented for the sketch, although his appearance was modeled on Eric Bloom's appearance at the time. Despite the fact that Frenkle is fictional, fans occasionally express their sympathies to Blue Öyster Cult over his death.[11]
  • Christopher Walken portrays producer Bruce Dickinson. The song was actually produced by David Lucas,[12] who had discovered the band and produced their first album, and also Agents of Fortune and Spectres. The actual Bruce Dickinson was a mid-level manager at Columbia Records whose name appears on a Blue Öyster Cult reissue CD and a greatest hits compilation as the "reissue producer". The SNL intern who was sent out to get the record got a "hits" compilation CD instead of Agents of Fortune.[13][14]
  • Ferrell later revealed that a woman working in the art department of SNL was the daughter of a man who worked on Agents of Fortune. She reportedly told him that the band had seen the sketch and said the actual cowbell player in question was not unlike Ferrell's interpretation.[2] Producer David Lucas, on his website and in interviews when he was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, says that he was the one who played the cowbell.[13][14][15] In recent[when?] interviews, Albert Bouchard has also claimed to be the real cowbell player, citing producer David Lucas confusing the songs he played the cowbell in, although Bouchard still credits Lucas for the idea.[16]


The sketch's offbeat nature, as well as the actors breaking character, made the sketch an immediate fan favorite. Marc Spitz called it "one of the first super-memes of the new century" in The New York Times.[17] Walken continued to hear from fans about the sketch in years afterward: "I hear about it everywhere I go. It's been YEARS, and all anybody brings up is 'COW-bell.' I guess you never know what's gonna click."[18] Ferrell even speculates that it "ruined" Walken's life.[19] Members of Blue Öyster Cult reacted favorably to the sketch. Co-vocalist Buck Dharma mentioned in 2016 that the song was previously deemed creepy before "Ferrell pretty much sabotaged that" and its initial intent "has not only been restored but also seems to be unstoppable".[17]

In popular culture[edit]

Will Ferrell[edit]

Will Ferrell has since played the cowbell alongside other artists, either in character as Gene Frenkle or as himself.

On May 14, 2005, on an episode that Will Ferrell hosted, the Gene Frenkle character made a reappearance on the set of Saturday Night Live as musical guest Queens of the Stone Age played their first song of the night, "Little Sister" – which features a jam block, an instrument similar to a cowbell. In his Gene Frenkle costume, Ferrell played the song's jam block part using a large cowbell along with the band, drawing much applause.[20]

At the end of the May 16, 2009 Will Ferrell/Green Day episode, Green Day performed "East Jesus Nowhere" with Ferrell on the cowbell. Ferrell's appearance was unrehearsed and it was unknown to Green Day that Ferrell would appear. Additionally, Ferrell was unfamiliar with the song and not aware of the sound-break near its end. As the sound-break continued, Ferrell elaborately played single "final" cowbell beats, expecting the lights to fade, then began to leave the stage. Lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong called him back, saying, "Wait, goddamn it!" and began his vocal. Ferrell came to the microphone and asked, "Wait, is this song still going on?" Laughing, Armstrong answered, "Yes."[21]

Ferrell guest-starred on the final episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, playing cowbell in reference to the sketch.[22]

Ferrell appeared in the 2011 video for "Make Some Noise" by the Beastie Boys, in the front of a limo, playing a cowbell.[23]

Ferrell and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith (with whom Ferrell is often said to bear resemblance) appeared on the May 22, 2014 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon for a charity drum-off battle. Despite Smith clearly giving the better performance, Ferrell was named the winner and awarded a giant gold cowbell after Ferrell, realizing he could not outplay Smith, pulled out a cowbell after the latter's third solo, whereupon both were joined by the rest of the RHCP (Anthony Kiedis, Flea and Josh Klinghoffer) for a performance of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" with Ferrell playing cowbell.[24]

At Ferrell's all-star cancer benefit concert Best Night of Your Life on October 6, 2018, Ferrell joined Coldplay's Chris Martin on cowbell for the song "Viva la Vida."[25]


The quote from Dickinson, "Guess what! I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!" has become a legendary SNL quote, and is parodied, homaged, and referenced by many forms of media.[26] The sketch was referenced on various episodes of SNL in years to come. Promotions for the April 5, 2008 Christopher Walken/Panic! at the Disco episode of Saturday Night Live referenced the "More Cowbell" sketch.[27] The cowbell did not appear during the actual episode.

Ferrell claimed in 2019 that this "More Cowbell" sketch "ruined" Walken's life because Walken is best known by the general public for his role in this sketch.[28]

In the 2016 film The Jungle Book, the character of King Louie, voiced by Christopher Walken, appears after Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi, shakes a cowbell.[29]

In St. Charles, Missouri, a marathon/half marathon race is held annually called MO' Cowbell Run. The race name was inspired by the SNL sketch.[30]

At Washington State University during their historic NCAA basketball tournament runs in 2007–2008, coached by Tony Bennett, power forward Robbie Cowgill prompted student section chants of "I've got a fever and the only prescription is more Cowgill."[citation needed] Los Angeles Angels and New York Mets outfielder Collin Cowgill was the subject of similar fan jokes.[31]

Due to its long-running history with cowbells, Mississippi State University has adopted the skit as a part of its athletic teams' public image (particularly their football division), traditionally playing a clip of Dickinson's speech before home football games.[32]

In The Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG, there is an item that can be used for music generation called the "Moor Cowbell".[33][better source needed]

Some Tesla automobiles feature some of the SNL More Cowbell soundtrack when "Rainbow Road" is chosen from the Toybox options and autosteer is engaged.[34]


  1. ^ The sketch is listed by the title "Recording Session" in a 2017 Rolling Stone special,[2] though it is listed on NBC's official website and in most other sources as "More Cowbell".


  1. ^ a b Miller, James Andrew; Shales, Tom (September 2014). Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests (2nd ed.). Little, Brown and Company. p. 537. ISBN 978-0316295048.
  2. ^ a b c d "My Favorite Sketch". Rolling Stone: Saturday Night Live (Special). Wenner Media Specials. September 16, 2010.
  3. ^ "9. Behind the Music: Blue Oyster Cult". 50 Greatest 'Saturday Night Live' Sketches of All Time. February 3, 2014. Retrieved December 12, 2022.
  4. ^ "MORE COWBELL meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary". Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  5. ^ Cohen, Rich (September 16, 2010). "The Godfather of Studio 8H". Rolling Stone. No. 1113.
  6. ^ Reiher, Andrea (March 15, 2014). "Jimmy Fallon and James Franco laugh about 'more cowbell' sketch from 'SNL' on 'Tonight Show'". Zap2it. Archived from the original on September 8, 2015. Retrieved September 7, 2015. 'You always cracked up!' says Franco.
  7. ^ Lifton, Dave (June 27, 2012). "Jimmy Fallon Recalls Famous Blue Oyster Cult / 'More Cowbell' Saturday Night Live Skit". Retrieved September 7, 2015. ...Fallon ... often had difficulty keeping a straight face. In a new interview, Fallon recalls why he broke up in the middle of the famous 'More Cowbell' sketch...
  8. ^ Winter, Jessica (July 25, 2013). "When Is It OK to Crack Up? Some Ground Rules for the Cast of SNL". Slate. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  9. ^ "Oral History of the "More Cowbell" Movie That Never Was". February 24, 2017. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  10. ^ Lifton, Dave (June 27, 2012). "Jimmy Fallon Recalls Famous Blue Oyster Cult / 'More Cowbell' Saturday Night Live Skit". Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Farhi, Paul (January 29, 2005). "Blue Öyster Cult, Playing Along With 'More Cowbell'". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
  12. ^ Sauro, Tony (September 17, 2009). "Blue Oyster Cult's innovative use of a cowbell will never be forgotten". The Record. Archived from the original on August 2, 2020. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Arena, Joe (June 30, 2011). George, Eli (ed.). "Blue Oyster Cult cowbell ringer honored". Buffalo, NY: WIVB-TV. Archived from the original (text, and video clip) on July 2, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  14. ^ a b "He Really Did Want That Cowbell". Just my Show: Retro Pop Culture Podcast. July 15, 2011. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  15. ^ "David Lucas Music – Biography". Retrieved May 29, 2011. Lucas sings the background vocals and played the now famous cowbell
  16. ^ "Blue Oyster Cult Drummer Reveals Truth About Cowbell on 'Don't Fear the Reaper,' Says It Sounded Like 'Crap' First".
  17. ^ a b "'(Don't Fear) the Reaper' Is a Creepy Tune, Even With the Cowbell". The New York Times. May 20, 2016. Archived from the original on June 9, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  18. ^ Moore, Roger (October 25, 2004). "Nobody Does It Like Walken". Orlando Sentinel. p. E1.
  19. ^ Gonzalez, Sandra (November 22, 2019). "Christopher Walken couldn't escape popularity of 'SNL' cowbell sketch, according to Will Ferrell". CNN. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  20. ^ "Queens of the Stone Age - Little Sister featuring Gene Frenkle on Cowbell". Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  21. ^ Green Day East Jesus Nowhere (Live with Will Ferrell). November 26, 2009. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021 – via YouTube.
  22. ^ Kreps, Daniel (January 23, 2010). "Conan O'Brien Recruits Will Ferrell, Beck for Final Episode "Free Bird"". Rolling Stone. Ferrell, who whipped out his storied cowbell in an homage to his Saturday Night Live's Blue Oyster Cult skit.
  23. ^ Beastie Boys - Make Some Noise (Official Video). Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2020 – via YouTube.
  24. ^ Newman, Jason (May 23, 2014). "Chili Peppers Surprise Will Ferrell, Chad Smith Drum-Off on 'Fallon'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 23, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  25. ^ Kaplan, Ilana (October 7, 2018). "See Coldplay's Chris Martin Perform 'Viva La Vida' With Will Ferrell on Cowbell". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  26. ^ "It Seems To Me: 'More cowbell' bridges generations". Leader-Telegram. Archived from the original on July 30, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  27. ^ SNL Promo #1 Apr 3, 2008 (for 33-09). Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2020 – via YouTube.
  28. ^ Hoffman, Jordan (November 23, 2019). "More Cowbell Ruined Christopher Walken's Life, Will Ferrell Claims". Vanity Fair.
  29. ^ "Jungle Book made Christopher Walken's King Louie bigger and badder than ever", by Nicole Sperling,, April 18, 2016, accessed October 12, 2020
  30. ^ "MO Cowbell Run". Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  31. ^ Draper, Alan (May 22, 2014). "Whither Collin Cowgill?". The Sports Daily. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  32. ^ Hail State More Cowbell. July 18, 2013. Archived from the original on January 26, 2023. Retrieved January 26, 2023 – via YouTube.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  33. ^ "Item:Moor Cowbell". Lotro-Wiki. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  34. ^ "Tesla: Mario Kart's Rainbow Road and Don't Fear the Reaper/SNL: More Cowbell Easter Egg". December 2020.

External links[edit]