?If you had to characterize Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’ sketch comedy series Mr. Show in one word, that word would probably be “bitter.” Sure, it was funny, but man, did Bob and David hate capitalist society, celebrity culture, organized religion, and TV — or, more specifically, the abuses, indignities and stupidity they could foster. Mr. Show’s three seasons, which ran on HBO from 1995-98, mocked these and more with a vicious, brutal wit.
While the show was too dark and/or weird for everyone, for many it was the best sketch comedy show ever made other than Monty Python (which Mr. Show was clearly inspired by, especially in its sense of the absurd and the ways it transitioned between sketches). Some of the sketches are so classic that all I have to do is think about
them and I will laugh hysterically, even if I’m at work or in a library
or at a close friend’s funeral. For your edification, here is a list of
10 of those sketches, with
YouTube proof to back it up.
10) Globo-Chem Commercials (Ep.102)
Corporate America and advertising were two of Bob and David’s favorite targets, but they never nailed it any better than they did with this sketch, which takes multiple gags that other sketch shows would stretch out into 10-minute sketches on their own – swearing in commercials, cartoon mascots for huge corporations, ad pitchmen trying to kill a CEO with screaming, a corporation that started as a slave trading company – and crams them all in to one five-minute sketch that just kills. The “no shit” in the Bag Hutch commercial always gets me.
9) The Joke: The Musical (Ep. 102)
One of the best things about Mr. Show was how each episode had a theme, which led to sketches which (mostly) transitioned pretty smoothly between one another. Maybe the best example of an episode really coming together was the second one they ever did (which, incidentally, included the Globo-Chem sketch). It starts with a Southern U.S. senator mouthing off about how art is bad and telling a joke about a traveling salesman who encounters three holes in a barn one night. By the end of the episode, that joke is a full-blown musical with Jack Black as a farmer and one adorable, but hated milk machine in the closing number.
8) Take Back the Streets (Ep. 201)
Mr. Show is probably best known for its sketches that commented on some political goings-on of the day or media phenomenon, but every once in a while they’d just be flat-out silly, like in this sketch where Bob Odenkirk plays the mustachioed host of a true-stories crime show, who also just happens to own an ice cream store (apparently the character is based on a real guy who had a similar show on Chicago-area TV for years). I dare you not to laugh when F.F. Woodycooks invites you to “shake the crime stick at two cuckoo birds.”
7) Megaphone Crooners (Ep. 206)
Sometimes, it’s hard to explain exactly why something is funny. It just is. And, by God, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross singing songs about inventions into megaphones is funny as hell. Maybe it’s because every song has the same tune and is about 10 seconds long? Man, I just don’t know.
6) Titannica (Ep. 303)
If you’re not terribly familiar with it, but you’ve seen a clip or a still image from Mr. Show, odds are this was it. And it’s inescapable that David Cross with a tiny Stretch-Armstrong-like body burned up by acid is one of the most memorable visuals in the show’s four seasons. But that’s only part of what makes this sketch great. The band’s reactions to the disfigurement and their ultimate response to it – the punchline, if you will – is just pitch-perfect black humor.
Yet another sketch (okay, three sketches) focusing on advertising, this takes a pretty basic comedy conceit and expands it into a beautiful satire of TV commercials in general, from the machine-gun toting Lincoln spokesman to the dad who was too busy making sandwiches to make it to his daughter’s death.
4) Pre-Taped Call-In Show (Ep. 309)
It’s probably best-known for its wild ideas and great writing, but Mr. Show had some terrific acting moments in it, too, like in this sketch where David Cross just beautifully plays a man who’s so frustrated with the idiots who don’t understand the way-too-complicated format of his call-in show. Bonus points for the subtle build back to the show’s very first episode, where he’s a calm and collected TV guy.
3) The Story of Everest (Ep. 404)
The first time Mr. Show regular Jay Johnston falls into his mom’s huge display of thimbles, it’s funny. By the fifth or sixth time it happens, it’s genius.
2) Camp Monk Academy (Ep. 405)
Here’s all I have to say about this one: Bob Odenkirk’s rapping, and Professor Murder’s reaction to said rapping. Also, his bald cap. Also also: David Cross murdering a fat kid on behalf of Tibetan monks.
1) The Teardrop Award (Ep. 409)
Only Mr. Show had the balls to take on those schmaltzy mid-’90s songs by the likes of Eric Clapton that reaped huge profits from personal tragedy. And bonus, we got an amazingly funny Brian Wilson parody about mouth herpes.