?Over the years MTV has had a history of innovative sketch comedy shows that has included everything from The Idiot Box to Human Giant. Of these, The State remains the most enduringly popular. The 11 members of the eponymous sketch comedy troupe originally collaborated with the network on the short-lived Jon Stewart comedy show You Wrote It, You Watch It. They wowed the suits with their work on that program enough to get a development deal, and The State soon followed. At first, audiences didn’t know what to make of the series’ offbeat humor, what with it including jokes about eating Muppets and shoes with piggies on them and all. The critical reaction was so negative that eventually the troupe mocked their viciously bad reviews in a memorable promo that was accompanied by The Bee Gees’ “I Started a Joke.”
Fortunately, MTV remained committed to the show and through word of mouth it eventually earned the success it so rightly deserved. While The State left the airwaves following an ill-fated leap to CBS in 1995, it helped spawn such shows as Viva Variety and Reno 911! as well as the Stella comedy troupe/series and the feature Wet Hot American Summer. As any self-respecting comedy nerd will be eager to point out, the group’s members — Thomas Lennon, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, David Wain, Kerri Kenney, Kevin Allison, Ben Garant, Michael Patrick Jann, Joe Lo Truglio and Todd Holoubek — are still heavily active in the entertainment industry. But what of the show that launched them all? Nearly 20 years later do you still wanna dip your balls in The State’s comedy? Of course you do, so start off by checking out this list of the show’s ten finest moments.
A quick note before we begin, due to Viacom removing most of the clips of the show from YouTube, the embedded videos featured in today’s Daily List aren’t up to the usual quality standards of what you expect from Topless Robot. So if you like what you see, be sure to buy the official DVD set to experience the series in all of it’s A/V glory.
10) Capt. Monterey Jack
?With their unhappy grunge music and nihilistic attitudes, kids of the 1990s needed some guidance. Unfortunately for them, Captain Monterey Jack was on the case. As portrayed by Michael Ian Black, Jack was a motivation speaker who presented tough talk about what he felt were the big issues of the day (the character only made limited appearances on The State, slightly predating Chris Farley’s Matt Foley on Saturday Night Live). In his greatest sketch, Jack taught a group of teens the importance of having properly tied shoes. Think that is an inconsequential problem? Tell that to the grieving families of anyone killed in a shoelace-related escalator accident. This one gets bonus points for the Doug cameo, easily The State‘s most popular character. More on him in a bit.
9) The Barry Lutz Show
As this sketch illustrates, not even superheroes are immune to the bullying epidemic that is sweeping our nation. While his colleagues in the Justice League are given tasks that are vital to maintaining the safety of mankind, Aquaman is mocked relentlessly. Still though, you’ve got to kind of side with Superman here, no?
7) Sea Monkeys
6) Doug and Dad
5) The Jew, the Italian and the Red-Head Gay
3) Louie and the Last Supper
2) $240 Worth of Pudding
1) Porcupine Racetrack
“I know that I’m a sinner, but I really need a winner or the orphanage will close” is just one of the overly dramatic lines in this Thomas Lennon-penned skewering of musical theater. Not only does it deflate Andrew Lloyd Webber-style self-important musicals, but it also is the perfect realization of the surreal flourishes that the troupe loved infusing their sketches with. Yet, like the songs of This Is Spinal Tap and Walk Hard, it also works as a legitimate tune (okay, a very goofy one, but still). Easily the most ambitious sketch that aired on The State, “Porcupine Racetrack” remains the group’s masterpiece.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.