Monday, January 21, 2008


So, for the first time in many months, I watched a lot of televison this past weekend. Lately, I haven't as much on weekend afternoons, but I felt compelled on these past couple of snowy days. I appreciate good drama, science fiction and a handful of reality shows (please, no competitions where deceiving people is rewarded), but comedy is still key with me. Television comedy takes many forms, so I'll hit different sub-genres. After a few recent conversations, I feel like posting my favorite sketch comedy programs that are at the forefront of my mind.

Kids In The Hall
Saturday Night Live introduced me to the genre, but it was my parent's show at the time. KITH was something I could claim as my own. Thematically, the show ran all over the place, but it seemed to have something for every taste. If you liked absurd, recurring characters (minus annoying title cards and theme songs) you could enjoy The Head Crusher, Chicken Lady and Mr. Cabbage Head. Do you enjoy television and film parodies? Try "The Darcy Panell Show", "The Pit of Ultimate Darkness" or the foreign movie work of Francesca Fiore and her lover/director/co-star, Bruno Puntz-Jones. How about some slice of life humor? Drop in on rebellious teenager Bobby, lonely housewife Fran, corporate drone Dan Husk or secretaries Cathy and Kathy. KITH had it all and it took five very different talents to pull it off. This one is available on DVD and if you want to give it a try, you can buy one of two "Best Of" discs that will give you a taste without having to eat all of the "salty ham". Or just type "Kids In The Hall" on YouTube. You'll see more favorites including: Gavin, Buddy Cole, and Mr. Heavy Foot.

Saturday Night Live
I recall watching the early episodes with my parents and enjoying the recurring characters - The European Brothers, The Samurai and The Killer Bees. The other stuff was over my head, though I returned to it later and appreciated the social satire. Many people consider the first cast, the best and they may be right. I grew up with the show and continue to watch it today. Sticking with it is like riding a rollercoaster. A lot of highs and lows, sometimes occuring back to back. (Compare the '84-'85 season featuring Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest with the '85-'86 season featuring Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr.). My own favorites were the early '80's and the mid '90's, though great performers and writers existed throughout its history.

Monty Python's Flying Circus
I didn't see this until after watching "The Holy Grail", but I certainly enjoyed it. The fact that you had to live near a PBS station that ran it made it all the more special (though MTV aired it briefly in the latter part of the '80's.) You didn't have to be British to enjoy the comedy which mixed the absurd ("Argument Sketch") with social commentary (any time they played an English housewife). Some highlights include "Queen Victorie Steeplechase", "How Not To Be Seen" and "The Funniest Joke Ever Told".

Mr. Show
This was the closest thing in style and construction that Americans have ever come to Monty Python. Like KITH, this one was aired on HBO and certainly is best experienced uncut. Like Python, recurring characters seldom showed up, but you won't soon forget some of the situations that unfold into one another. I dare you to not laugh/cry if you get to see what happens when heavy metal band, Wycked Sceptre discovers they are gay through a record executive's intervention. Don't forget to check out a lost chapter in the history of American pornography.

The Dana Carvey Show
A brief-live, audacious cousin of Saturday Night Live, this one aired in the family hour on ABC. I'm astounded that some of the material got onto television. Carvey was the star, but the ensemble was destined for greatness. The cast included Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell. The head writer was Robert Smigel (owner of Triump, the insult comic dog). Notable for the debut of "The Ambiguously Gay Duo".

Honorable Mention
  • The State - These guys and gal were closer to my age than any of the prior programs and were about half funny to me. With a cast of 11, I think that too many cooks spoiled the soup.
Dishonorable Mention

  • MadTV - I've tried. I've really tried to like this show, but I can't embrace it. I can't argue against the mastery of celebrity impersonations that occur here. But impersonation is just that. When you reduce a character to tics and weird voices there isn't much left to play with in a scene. I'm just saying.


Anonymous said...

You know Bill Chott wrote for and sometimes appeared on The Dana Carvey Show...

Galoot said...

I was going to drop his name, but it hasn't worked for me in awhile;) I totally forgot "Chappelle's Show"! Definitely near the top of my favorites.

monkeybrigade said...

This list needs more Scrubs. You know that you can't resist Zach Braff's kissable lips. : )

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Mr. Show. Amen, Amen.

Long live Bob and David.

PS. I've shaved Bubba. I'll be mailing him to you shortly.

("Shortly" because he's short. Ha! I kill myself.)

Galoot said...

Monkey - "Scrubs" is one show the kids and I both can enjoy. Well, that and whenever Ann Curry does the news on the "Today" Show.

Mama - Long live B&D indeed! I'm recording "Run, Ronnie Run!" tonight on the old DVR. Thanks for the gift of cat.

PreppyGirl said...

Didn't I buy you Run, Ronnie, Run on DVD? Maybe I'm losin' it.

I can't do this all on my own, no I know - I'm no superman.

And you know I'm with ya on the MadTV thing. I just don't get it.

Makkaio said...

Don't know if you knew this or not. Lorne Michaels, producer extraordinarre of SNL, actually produced one of the KITH shows in 1989 to start giving it some street cred. Over the years he produced a couple other episodes. He loved the cast so much and saw them as potential SNL cast member someday that he produced the movie KITH: Brain Candy in '95, releasing it in '96.

I love your whole list, even MadTV. I try to find a little goodness in everything.

Galoot said...

Makkaio - I think two of the KITH wrote for SNL, with Mark McKinney becoming a cast member and a couple more of the guys making cameos in a "Toonces" special. Also, around the time that KITH show ended, SNL ran a sketch titled "Gay Stripper Theater". The five strippers were named Mark, Bruce, Dave, Scott and Kevin...