Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My 30 Favorite Mr. Show Sketches (15-1)

15. Phone Sex (Season 4, Episode 3)

Homoeroticism played a big role in Mr. Show, and when a man who wins some phone sex off a friend's lost bet casually calls the bud up so he can "deliver the goods," the show leaps into the stratosphere. Bob's effeminate sex voice is matched in hilarity only by David's flippant attitude towards it all, and the payoff is gold.

14. The Great Philouza (Season 3, Episode 7)

Combining the bombast of Amadeus with the silliness of marching band, "The Great Philouza" is the kind of sketch a band geek like me can latch onto with relish. David plays the Salieri part, an erudite, studied composer who finds himself upstaged by Bob's even-more-dumbed-down-Mozart Philouza. Unlike Mozart, who at least was a genius under his childish demeanor, Philouza is a gibbering moron who "composes" his tunes by blowing raspberries to a vague tune. David describes Philouza's music in overwrought, agonized prose, damning the God who blessed his rival with the power to move mountains while relegating his hard-learned talents to the shadows. It's Mr. Show's finest single-movie parody, and a better send-up of pretentious artiness than even the Inside The Actor's Studio spoof.

13. Hail Satan (Season 3, Episode 1)

Tom Kenny is by far my favorite of the supporting cast, which is saying something considering the show boasted comics like Paul F. Thompkins, Jack Black and Sarah Silverman. And this sketch is like a six-minute document of why I think the way I do. A merciless deconstruction of televangelism, The Hail Satan Network features incredible performances from Tom, Jill and Bob as the preaching trifecta and David as a child so lazy he must be wheeled around in a chair. When Tom sets off into a frenzy, promising to build David "a devil's house" with TVs for walls and a bathroom in the bed, the sketch's immortality is assured.

12. Wyckyd Sceptre (Season 4, Episode 2)

Where Titannica played up the controversy of metal, Wyckyd Sceptre dealt with the latent homosexuality that the genre hid in plain sight. Possibly based on Rob Halford's coming out around the same time, the skit really goes after 80s metal in general when a band celebrates their platinum-selling album by getting drunk and engaging in gay sex. A tape of the incident surfaces, but the band fails to see the problem: after all, they're just partying. Then the whole thing gets capped with a Spinal Tap-like rocker with thinly-veiled, homoerotic lyrics.

11. Lifeboat (Season 4, Episode 1) [Sketch starts 1:48]

The Jerry Springer Show was always its own parody, but that of course didn't stop all the spoofs. However, when Bob, as the Springer stand-in, decides to take his show on a cruise liner which subsequently sinks, all the Springer goodness is magnified tenfold thanks to a simple location change. Also in the lifeboat with Bob are the redneck who loves his woman but impregnated her mom, both the women, an audience member who has to do all of the hyping himself, and even a super secret black gay lover named Fabian. It also contains my favorite line: "Life is precious, and God and the Bible.

10. Pre-Taped Call-In Show (Season 3, Episode 10)

A special case of "so-simple-it-should-have-been-done-before," the Pre-Taped Call-In Show wound up one of the most inspired moments of the show's run. Watching David break down trying to explain to the people calling in to discuss their topics are actually calling in for last week's show during this week's taping is one of the most madcap things ever.

9. Mom and Pop Porno Shop (Season 2, Episode 2)

As someone looking to transfer into a journalism major, I know all too well the effects of the internet on many industries, but Mr. Show indirectly pointed the way to the future with this brief bit on a mom and pop adult store whose kindly owners run like a place where everybody knows your name. But they must contend with a disinterested son, the scourge of this new digital porn and a realtor who wants to buy their property. And then a God-like figure comes to teach the son a lesson about the beauty of porn. And if you don't laugh when Bob smacks David on the head with a dildo, well, sir, I pity you.

8. The Altered State of Druggachusettes (Season 3, Episode 3)

If you've ever seen tapes of old 70s children's TV or even lived through them, you'll know that they were only a stone's throw away from full on drug humor, and the guys simply decided to give it that one last push over the edge. A full-on acid trip, Druggachusettes is so ingenious I simply can't describe why it's one of the funniest moments in the history of television.

7. Lie Detector (Season 3, Episode 3)

In the DVD commentary, some cast members voice a disapproval with this sketch because it ends with a punchline and "that's not what Mr. Show was about." But I couldn't care less: yes, it may seem like an SNL sketch that was just too blue to make it to air, but it's also a killer old-fashioned sketch-comedy sketch.

6. Spank/Founding Fathers (Season 1, Episode 4)

Few forms of protest are as inane and nonthreatening as flag desecration, and Mr. Show use a mocking sketch of a protestor who defecates on the flag in order to trace the flag's history back to the Founding Fathers (Lincoln is there for no reason, complete with hilariously wrong accent). Their attempts to come-up with a shit-proof flag end up with a wonderful meta-solution: a flag made of poo ("Who would shit on shit?"). Apart from being anarchic and ballsy, it's also the first example of a great link on the show.

5. Recruiters (Season 2, Episode 5)

My all-time favorite documentary is Hoop Dreams, so imagine my delight when Mr. Show took the ruthless preying of basketball recruiters to its extreme. Bob and David play college recruiters targeting kindergartners and getting them while they're young. And as funny as it is when Bob tells a 4-year-old that his college offers a two-year cowboy degree to entice him, there's a knowing subtext that understands how inner city youth are played by these men. Then things pick right back up into pure hialrity when Bob tries to feel a pregnant woman's stomach to test the kick of the fetus.

4. Titannica (Season 3, Episode 10)

Of all the excellent band parodies on Mr. Show, this take on the early-90s paranoia over subliminal messages in heavy metal music remains the finest. Megastars Titannica visit a sick child at the hospital after he attempted suicide after hearing their song "Try Suicide." Then the blanket comes off and, oh, I just can't ruin it for you.

3. The Joke: The Musical (Season 1, Episode 2)

The episode starts with Bob as a Southern Dixiecrat senator telling an offensive joke, then an entire musical grows out of it. Featuring some sly Godspell references and a joke that plays like "The Aristocrats" with a different premise, "The Joke: The Musical" is the first sketch that proved Mr. Show had legs (even more than the excellent "Ronnie Dobbs"). It's dry while at the same time giving in to pure inanity, and the results are extraordinary.

2. Commercials of the Future (Season 1, Episode 2)

Mr. Show gave us plenty of absurd yet plausible ads in their time, but when Bob and David pitch a series of profane commercials to a futuristic mega-conglomerate called Globo-Chem (a recurring entity), the result is a transcendant moment of commentary on censorship that ends up a great excuse to give us the ads "they" really want to show us. And the highlight isn't even one of the commercials: it's the boardroom reactions that clinch it.

1. Monsters of Megaphone (Season 2, Episode 6)

This one sketch is the reason I can't even play at making a "best of" for Mr. Show. There is no way I can objectively argue that this is the greatest sketch in the program's all too brief run, but I simply love it too much to place it anywhere but the no. 1 spot. A dead-on spoof of the sort of pretentious documentaries that PBS runs all the time about old-time musicians forgotten by a world that moved on. Tom Kenny is downright perfect as the old music historian who tells us the tale of Dickie Crickets, the king of megaphone crooning or, as they referred to it back then, "megaphone crooning." Kenny sounds like every single old timer they wheel out for these kind of documentaries, and he alone would cement this as my favorite. Then there's the crooning: Bob and David pose as competing crooners, singing short ditties about the lastest inventions and ultimately fighting against their increasing irrelevancy with the "Monsters of Megaphone" tour, in which they inventing new items just so they could sing about them. Mr. Show excelled with their "historical fictions," and this is the king of them all. If you don't think this is funny, I don't know how I could be friends with you.

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