In the min 90s HBO aired a comedy show created by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. If those names don’t sound familiar to most of you, then I will give you two shows to think about, Arrested Development and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job. Both shows are very funny, but very different in style.
David Cross played Tobias Funke from “Arrested” as well as many other characters, not to mention stand up specials. Basically, if you say you never head of David Cross, you’re wrong you have, at least at some point. Odenkirk is a different story; while yes he has appeared in many other shows and films, such as his character of Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad, he is more occupied with his behind the scenes work. He helped Tim and Eric start their careers helping develop Tom Goes to the Mayor and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job.
After meeting on The Ben Stiller Show in 1992, Bob and David created their own sketch comedy show, Mr. Show with Bob and David for HBO. This program allowed for cursing and more controversial content from the average TV sketch comedy show. This content would include: sexual humor, drug use, political commentary, and even jokes about religion.
Coming from TV comedy writing, together on The Ben Stiller Show, and Odenkirk’s history as a writer at Saturday Night Live, this was their chance to be left alone and allow for as much expression and development in their comedy without network involvement, being on HBO. Also, this show tried a unique idea, borrowed from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, of tying the show together with small linking segments to the larger sketches. This allowed for a unique fluidity between sketches.
Now, onto the list, this one was a little more tricky than expected. I first had to define a “Mr. Show” sketch, and not confuse it with a short one beat joke that was meant to link larger sketches together. Compiled is what I feel was the best and most important sketches in the series. These are half my opinion as well as the opinions of a variety of people I asked and even posed the question to online. But enough back story on with the list. Be warned some of these clips may be NSFW due to language, so if you are sensitive to that you’ve been warned.
10. “Thrilling Miracles” (aka Super Pan)
This is a great sketch to start the list off. It combines elements of “SNL” and other basic sketch format shows, in this case satirizing the infomercial format. However, it’s half way through the sketch it takes a dark twisted turn. With Odenkirk’s character, Ernie, going violent and insane and attacking the woman, Nancy. Finally, it ends with a completely out of nowhere ending involving British people’s gift of flight. This is a great way to show how a “Mr. Show” sketch takes risks, violence against women and dark subject matter would not really show up on Saturday Night Live. Not to mention the way a sketch can drastically shift in tone and style on a dime. This is one of the many fan favorites people told me to add as I compiled this list, so clearly it is very memorable; gaining it the number ten spot.
9. “East Coast vs. West Coast Ventriloquism
This sketch is fantastic because of the portrayal of ventriloquists. From the names of ventriloquists, like Wally P. Doyle, to the dummies, Fitzpatrick, it gives this hilarious vibe of old timey guys. Combine with the juxtaposition of hardcore gang violence, it just works perfectly. Although the East Coast vs. West Coast satire they are making about the rap industry at the time may be dated, it still is relevant when bashing other forms of media being accused of corrupting the youth. Plus the line “Oh you men,” is delivered in such a way that it still makes me laugh today even after seeing this like a million times. Also, who doesn’t love the link sketch before it, my favorite is “Choo-Choo the Hurkey Jerkey Dancer.”
8. “Coupon: The Movie”
This sketch works on a variety of levels. The basic level being that America is sued by the movie industry for not seeing a crappy movie, and thus everyone is forced to see it by law. The bland boring delivery of every character discussing such mundane nonsense, paired with extreme camera angles, intense music, and dramatic narration makes a hilarious satire of movie trailers. This was another sketch highly requested by fans. “A required romp” to any fan of the series.
7. “Ronnie Dobbs”
This was the sketch that became a movie. The sketch basically being, Ronnie Dobbs, redneck and constantly arrested loudmouth is spotted by Englishman, Terry, to become a TV star. Essentially, following Ronnie get arrested in every state and the variety of ways he would explain his way out of it, think Campus P.D. on G4, but actually entertaining. My personal favorite excuse Ronnie used was, “Man’s best friend is a dog. And this is my dog, and I made my best friend a sweater!” Ronnie would reappear in a sketch later in the series, “Fuzz: The Musical,” and would be the title character of his own movie “Run, Ronnie, Run!” He is essentially the mascot for “Mr. Show,” thereby making no list complete without him.
6. “The Civil War: The Re-Enactments”
Just for sheer creativity and execution alone this sketch is quite memorable. Coupled with how hilarious it is, this is easily one of the best in my opinion. From the use of music, narration, editing, and pictures, almost mirroring exactly Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” paired with ridiculous photos of two Lincolns, the scene where the Re-enactors argue with the Trekkies and Ren-Festers. Not to mention many brilliant quotes such as “Lamar was a two time state yelling champion. Who had dreams of someday finding a box of money,” make this one of the best sketches the series ever produced, and a high watermark for sketch comedy in general.
5. “Take Back the Streets”
This is just crazy, and I love every bit of it. The sketch follows F.F. Woodycooks, a crime stopper/ice cream salesman who shows in a video how to stop crooks from winning the day. Using tactics like, crying, screaming, and “playing the nap card,” you too can “shake the crime stick” in the faces of illegality. It amazes me that this old timey John Walsh is actually based off a real person, according to Paul F. Tompkins on the DVD commentary. Regardless this sketch is funny, weird, and strange which makes it a welcome addition as a “Mr. Show” classic.
4. “Why Me? The Bob Lamonta Story”
Now, this sketch does first seem like they are making fun of the mentally handicapped, but it’s more a dig at sports movies, and over dramatizing athletes rise to greatness. The butt of the joke is not the parents but more Bob, especially after the video, when it proves Bob isn’t dead but making money off lies, this was cut off in the YouTube video. Yes, I do feel a little dirty laughing at this, but who doesn’t love the line “They gave me some beer and some frozen peas,” I dare you not to laugh at that scene.
3. “Jeepers Creepers”
This was the biggest sketch “Mr. Show” ever did. Big musical numbers, Jeanne Tripplehorn’s random cameo, and out on location in the same desert where Krik fought the Gorn on “Star Trek,” makes for one of the most ambitious shoots for the series. Also, being an excellent note for note satire of Jesus Christ Superstar doesn’t hurt. Fun fact: Sarah Silverman accidentally gets hit by a stone in this scene, and completely ad libbed falling down saving the shot. For one of the more elaborate and unique sketches check this one out, at the very least for David Cross’s hilarious dance he breaks into randomly.
If any sketch would get a NSFW for language this would be it. In any case, “Globochem” starts off as a basic pitch to a board of directors meeting, into profanity laden commercials, and finally a weird elaborate ending I won’t spoil for you. Nonetheless, this is a classic sketch bending the rules of the format and allowing for more unique twists in the scene that no one sees coming. My personal favorite line is by far, “Pit-Pat! A magical pansexual non-threatening spokes thing!”
1. “America Will Blow Up the Moon!”
The most requested by the fans I asked, this is a perfect example of a “Mr. Show” sketch. The ridiculous concept, the wide array of characters involved; the Americans love affair with blowing up the moon, and even the country star C.S. Lewis Jr. Saying “You don’t mess around with God’s America!” supporting destroying a hunk of rock. I especially love how a monkey asks the simple question, “Why?” This is a great satire and a hilarious example of the best of the series. If anything I took away from this I learned, “We’re Earthlings, let’s blow up Earth THINGS!”
That sums up my top ten list of The Greatest Mr. Show Sketches. I strived to combine my favorites as well as the fans I have asked to give a wide array of tastes and hope you enjoyed it. For those completely new to this series check it out if you are a fan of comedy this should be right up your alley. There is a DVD box set out now containing the entire series as well as individual seasons so there is no reason not to discover this show like so many others have.
by Michael Curran