'SNL' built an entire magical sketch around British showman Mika's 'Lollipop'

Following December’s extraordinarily specific instant-classic Weezer sketch, in which Leslie Jones and Matt Damon argued about the deep cuts in Rivers Cuomo and company’s back catalog, Saturday Night Live is now targeting another niche music market: Mika fans.

This weekend’s funniest (and most left-field) SNL skit was completely built around the somewhat obscure “Lollipop,” a 12-year-old bouncy bop by eccentric British pop star Mika. In the sketch, Beck Bennett and guest host Don Cheadle are about to engage in a Road House-style bar brawl, but when “Lollipop” accidentally comes up on the jukebox, the macho men cannot resist the sprightly, earwormy song’s syncopated handclaps, vivacious falsetto and stacked kiddie gang-vocals — so they end up engaging in an epic dance-off instead.

“It’s very bright, it’s very fun. … It just don’t feel right dancing to this sucking-on-a-lollipop song!” Cheadle protests, seemingly unable to stop shaking his hips to the glam banger.

Someone on the SNL staff is clearly a massive Mika fan. This sketch is practically an infomercial for the flamboyant singer-songwriter, with the cast members clearly enunciating the song’s title, discussing its perceived meaning and even clarifying the proper spelling of the artist’s name (“Is that Mika with a ‘K’ or a ‘C-H’?”) for any viewers wanting to immediately hop on iTunes or Spotify to hear more.

Mika himself appeared to have no idea this skit was in the works, tweeting his surprised delight Sunday morning and saying the homage had him “crying laughing.”

For those whose introduction to Mika’s clearly universally appealing music was via SNL this weekend, here’s a Mika primer: The 35-year-old glam-pop piano showman, who has earned comparisons to Elton John, Robbie Williams and Freddie Mercury, was born Michael Holbrook Penniman in Beirut, the son of banker and grandson of a diplomat. His family relocated to Paris and then London, where the prodigy studied at the Royal College of Music and recorded with the Royal Opera House before becoming an international sensation with his 2007 full-length debut, Life in Cartoon Motion.

That album sold 5.6 million copies worldwide, topped the charts in the U.K. and went to a respectable No. 29 in the States. “Live Today” from Life in Cartoon Motion (which also included “Lollipop”) earned a Best Dance Recording Grammy nomination, but the album’s best known track is “Grace Kelly,” which went to No. 57 in America, stayed at No. 1 in Britain for five weeks and was a top 10 hit in 24 other countries. Check out an exclusive, stripped-down Yahoo performance of that smash, shot at the South by Southwest festival in 2007:

Among the many accolades Mika has won are the Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter of the Year, the BBC Sound of 2007 critics’ poll and the BRIT Award for British Breakthrough Act. His fourth and most recent album, No Place in Heaven, came out in 2015. He hasn’t enjoyed a particularly high profile in America lately — his most noticed U.S. project was probably the 2013 duet “Popular Song” with Ariana Grande, which appeared on his third album, The Origin of Love, and Grande’s debut album, Yours Truly. But Mika is still a major star overseas. In 2016-2017 he hosted the Italian variety show Stasera Casa Mika, which won the Rose d’Or award for Best Entertainment Series, and he has served as a judge on The X Factor Italy and The Voice France.

And now he’s a Saturday Night Live star too.

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