Friday, June 08, 2007

Mr Show average sketch comedy?

A comment by Paint Roller stalwart and Boonville Blog impresario Jeff has left me with some serious soul searching to do. Is Mr Show "average sketch comedy"? Were the sketches saved by the ability to drop the F-bomb (or the Cockring-bomb, as the case may be)? The only way to answer this pressing question is to take a look at some of the more and less memorable sketches and see just how the comedy in them holds up.

Sketches that make the case against Mr Show
  • The guy who repeatedly knocks over the thimbles while telling the story of ascending Mt. Everest: a punishing endurance test, this is rake comedy at its absolute worst.
  • Used Cockring Warehouse: basically an excuse to have a man in a chicken suit say "Any cock'll do."
  • The 'I'm getting married' beatdown: this one immediately precedes the cockring sketch and matches it for suckiness. Man repeatedly tells his friends he's getting married, each time being beaten for it.
  • The guys who haven't seen each other for a long time, meet, say goodbye and then repeatedly meet in increasing awkwardness: an interesting concept executed as well as it could be, it's also pretty boring to watch and very repetitive.
  • Jeepers Creepers: If it's the worst musical ever made, why did they make a movie out of it? Yeah, good question
Sketches that stand as the best of Mr. Show
  • The Ronnie Dobbs story: Terry Twilsteen, Ronnie Dobbs, the 'I'm with stupid' maternity shirt, off-duty cops waiting nervously for on-duty cops, and some vintage mid-nineties fourth-wall breakage makes this a classic.
  • The law school sketch: just good old-fashioned Bob Odenkirk saying insane things. The bloody foot of law, duel-mind blades, and all that good stuff, plus apple butter.
  • The club for kids that don't like to participate in things: the teacher's old-fashioned positiveness clashes so effectively with their youthful nineties-era ennui.
  • The Bob Lamotta Story and surrounding award ceremony: for brave choices among actors. Odenkirk's performance here is incredible, as are everybody's. I particularly like Jill's pronunciation of the word 'actore'.
  • The Teardrop Award: what could be a repetitive sketch about sad songs is saved by Odenkirk's amazing song about mouth sores and David Cross's amazingly smarmy and merciless Clapton surrogate.
  • Travelling Salesman: The Musical: this to me is what Mr Show is all about: singing good funny songs, dancing, Jack Black as a farmer and Satan, Senator Tankerbell the Dixiecrat, and the best song ever about being a milking machine.

Tell me that was average.

I would say those great sketches more than make up for the seemingly hundreds of sketches based on cursing and sex, which, on reflection, are repetitive and juvenile and in many cases boring. Nonetheless, I would say that Mr Show is a great show, regardless of its negative long-term effects on American comedy, which are slowly becoming extremely apparent as they come more into the mainstream.


Jeff said...

You make a good argument. And I do like Mr. Show. Calling it "average sketch comedy" is probably unfair. I don't think it's as good as the best SNL but it's certainly better than Mad TV, The State and the majority of SNL over the years.

I think it's the format that gets me. If half of the jokes/gags/situations in a sitcom bombed you would probably call it something less than "good". But there's no way you can expect sketch comedy to nail it in every sketch. It's hit or miss by nature. On top of that, the format lends itself to excruciatingly bad, drawn out, repetitive sketches. I think you demonstrated these points in your examples.

One more point, I watched Mr. Show on HBO when it came out but then recently watched the entire series via Netflix. It gets repetitive quickly. I wonder if that tainted my second experience with the show.

Joe Mondello said...

I've certainly noticed the same tendency for the old sketches to not so much impress me as they did way back when I watched them in incredibly compressed formats on Realplayer. But something tells me that a lot of that has to do with the eye of the comedy hurricane having moved over the Mr Show universe over the intervening 8 years. It seems to me fairly obvious that the Mr Show ethic is now the dominant ethic in mainstream comedy today.