Since conquering the global music scene in 1995 with one of the great alternative albums of the decade, Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette has been steadily putting out records and watching them climb to the top of the charts. That’s included multiple No. 1 albums around the world and a streak of six records cracking the US top ten. This week, the Canadian-American singer-songwriter will end her longest drought between records by releasing Such Pretty Forks in the Road, her first album since 2012’s Havoc and Bright Lights.
With one hand in her pocket, a new album of material about to drop, and a can’t-miss anniversary tour co-featuring Garbage and Liz Phair rescheduled for 2021, we can expect no shortage of Alanis in our lives for the next couple of years. But there’s nothing new about that, really. Morissette has made it a habit since she started out as a child actress of popping up in pop culture and reminding us that she’s out there. Sometimes it’s a cameo where we least expect, an appearance on a late-night sketch show, or even just a music video that we’ll still be bopping our heads to and imitating a quarter century later.
The truth is, you oughta know that it’s Morissette’s world, and we’re all just waiting to see what she’ll do next. If that’s a jagged, little pill to swallow for you, well, tough. Here are 10 times Alanis Morissette crashed pop culture and totally blew our minds.
Slimed on Early Nickelodeon (1986-87)
Before she became an alternative icon and even before her short-lived pop career in Canada, Morissette was shaping the future of children’s television as a cast member on Canadian sketch comedy show You Can’t Do That on Television. It’s the show that put the fledgling children’s network Nickelodeon on the map, especially when Alanis or one of her cast mates uttered the phrase “I don’t know.” That slip of the tongue would get you a bucket of the now-famous Nickelodeon green slime dumped squarely on your head. The above clip captures the young actress getting the mean, green treatment, but it also shows, even then, you don’t mess with Miss Morissette. –Matt Melis
Letterman Oughta Know (1995)
Late-night television often feels like nothing but a glorified commercial full of shameless plugs and a couple cheap chuckles, but if you’re going to break it big, it’s not a bad forum to kill it on. Ask Courtney Barnett what her SNL appearance did for her popularity a couple years ago or how Future Islands’ trajectory changed after crushing it on Letterman. Here, in her television debut, Morissette put not only David Letterman and his audience but the whole world on notice that she was going to be a force to be reckoned with. “You Oughta Know” would go on to top the alternative charts, and Jagged Little Pill would ride that success to 33 million copies sold worldwide. That’s not to say this performance (hey, that’s Taylor Hawkins behind the kit, kids!) was the spark, but I remember it sure as hell had us talking the next day, and, oh, yeah, picking up a copy at our local record shops. –Matt Melis
God of the View Askewniverse (1996)
Kevin Smith struck a powerful blow for feminism when he cast a woman as God in his 1996 faith-based action comedy, Dogma. Then again, the film also has a rubber poop monster. Maybe more impressive is that Smith cast Morissette in the minor role of God (there are no small parts, only small deities) when she was arguably the biggest rock star in the world. To see a pair of stoners battle the forces of evil and save existence was adventure enough for most, but to then find out God is Alanis Morissette (well, played by her, anyway) and watch Her explode heads with Her heavenly pipes was a “high” note to end on. See, told ya she was funny. –Matt Melis
Playing Spin the Bottle on Sex and the City (2000)
Sex and the City has often been maligned as reductive — to be fair, it was the early 2000s. Among being financially unrealistic, overwhelming white, and overtly sexist (women just loooove to shop and sleep around), Sex and the City often forgot that not everyone is heterosexual. There are only a handful of moments where sexuality is explored, but, of course, one of those includes Alanis Morissette. In this specific episode, Carrie starts dating Tag, a bisexual man. She attends a party that she calls a “pupu plater of sexual orientation” and is eventually persuaded to play a classic game of spin the bottle. And you oughta know, Morissette (who plays Tag’s friend) lands on Carrie. Carrie is reluctant at first, but doesn’t want to offend the “radical” partygoers so she leans in — with her eyes open(!?) As one of the few queer “representations,” this seems like big win for Sex and the City. Even if SJP said the kiss tasted “kind of like chicken.” –Samantha Small
Telling a Secret to Larry David (2002)
Curb Your Enthusiasm and Larry David have been cultural icons for as long as — well, since the start of the millennium. It’s not often that a show that began in 2000 has remained in tune with the times enough to stay relevant in 2020 (well, unless of course it’s Days of Our Lives and you’re a soccer mom). But a show’s ability to stay so connected to the modern day despite its age is a testament to the creator’s ability to recognize content that may not necessarily be timeless, but definitely iconic. For Larry David, one of these instances was Alanis Morissette’s appearance in a 2002 episode where he’s lucky enough to find out who “You Oughta Know” is really about. With worldwide speculation on just which ex-boyfriend the song is referring to, it really does make quite an iconic moment that Larry David might truly be the only one of us out there who knows. –Jennifer Irving
Click ahead for more of Alanis crashing pop culture…
Delicious Morissette on Mad TV (2004)
Given her background as an actress, it made sense that Mad TV would have Morissette as a guest. While most musicians are about as naturally funny as politicians and quarterbacks on sketch comedy shows, Morissette dove right in and embraced the silliness. In this appearance, she plays her fictional 15-year-old sister, a singer named Delicious Morissette, who’s tone-deaf (due to puncturing an eardrum with a meat thermometer), ditsy, and, as she puts it, a combination of “Eminem, Missy Elliott, and Mandy Moore … but mostly Mandy Moore … except younger … and sluttier.” We find out just how slutty when she films the video for her new single, “Bubble Trouble”. It’s a fun jab at the bubblegum pop movement that followed Morissette’s own edgier sound, with the singer having a thick enough skin to see herself portrayed as an overly serious wet towel. –Matt Melis
Kevin Malone Sings Karaoke (2006)
What makes The Office so special is that there is nothing really special about it. It simply features a cast of cubicle workers, albeit colorful ones, and the ludicrous antics that take place at an obsolete paper company in Pennsylvania. But at its core, the mockumentary is an endearing, cringe-worthy ride that is painstakingly relatable. One of the more relatable moments features a karaoke session from Kevin Malone singing Morissette’s “You Oughta Know”. Things tend to go awry whenever Dunder-Mifflin throws down. In this particular episode, we have a battle of the Christmas parties, an FBI mission for Dwight, and a heartbroken Michael Scott. But things get brighter when Kevin steps up to the mic and delivers a passionate rendition of the song. Jim grimaces at the camera (typical) as Kelly and Ryan dance along, fueled by Kevin’s intensity (and his couple extra you’s). Hey, if there is one way to channel your underpaid frustrations, it’s into “You Oughta Know”, because much like The Office, anyone can relate to Morissette. –Samantha Small
Road Trip in The Trip to Italy (2014)
In what may be one of the most meaningless discussions ever had about Alanis Morissette (Is her name pronounced differently in Canada than in America? Is Avril Lavigne the teenage version of her?), Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon somehow shot Jagged Little Pill back up the album charts almost 20 years after its release. The conversation in The Trip to Italy features little of substance (Are volatile women always sexy when you first meet them? Apparently not two years later when they don’t put lids back on jars, according to Coogan), but it exemplifies the way people normally talk about music. Being that the album is Brydon’s wife’s favorite, seeing the two men talk about the album like regular people rather than putting on a front and ridiculing it really showcases how Morissette is beloved, even if in this case it’s just between two men enjoying a vacation soundtrack. –Jennifer Irving
Updating “Ironic” with James Corden (2015)
Anyone who has tuned in to The Late Show with James Corden knows that the host is fond of music, and anyone who has followed Morissette throughout the years, or even just read this list, knows that she doesn’t mind revisiting her hits and can take a joke. So, it wasn’t shocking (or even all that ironic) to see her randomly in 2015 reworking the words to one of her most popular songs while wearing her iconic pink hat and braids, nor was it surprising for Corden to join her wearing the same outfit. Will Morissette stick with their lyrical updates (“It’s singing ‘Ironic’ but there are no ironies”)? Probably not, but, hey … it figures… –Matt Melis
Down at Fraggle Rock (2020)
It’s fitting that Alanis would pop up in the latest mini-revival of this beloved Jim Henson property. The original production of Fraggle Rock, after all, was shot in Morissette’s native Ontario. Here we find her helping the fraggles sing their iconic “Dance Your Cares Away” theme song, complete with watermelon bongos. It’s the perfect collision of ’80s and ’90s pop culture and adorable as hell. –Matt Melis