Last week’s announcement of a fall comedy tour dubbed “An Evening with Bob & David (and Posehn)” got us feeling a little nostalgic. It’s perfectly understandishable for those of us who were adolescents in the mid-‘90s and had HBO. Mr. Show—the cult sketch comedy series starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross and featuring Brian Posehn—was, for many of us, our first water cooler show.
More importantly, we felt like it was sketch comedy for us. Saturday Night Live was tame by comparison (what our parents watched). The Kids in the Hall wouldn’t grab us until a couple summers later with reruns on Comedy Central. And Monty Python was, well, too goddamned British. Mr. Show was parentally disapproved and all ours, with a perfect blend of vulgarity and goofiness. David might break character and say, “Fuck, Bob, HBO spent more on Fraggle Rock than on us,” or Bob would record a giggling voice-over for Mr. Pickle’s Fun-Time Abortion Clinics: “We’ll bring out the kid in ya!”
Juvenile? Sure. In bad taste? Absolutely. But a perfect fit for a 13-year-old sneaking down to the living room to catch a late-night program his parents banned.
In retrospect, the show was groundbreaking. Each week, they managed to weave a sequence of live and pre-taped segments together, each sketch somehow feeding into the next. It’s where many of us first ran across comedians like Posehn, Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins, and Jack Black. And sketches like “The Audition” and “Pre-Taped Call-In Show” can hang conceptually with any sketch comedy out there (before or since).
But enough gushing. To celebrate this mini reunion, we picked out our 20 favorite Mr. Show sketches. Hey, everyone, it’s Bob and David!
20. Fuzz: The Musical
Featuring everyone’s favorite criminal, Ronnie Dobbs, this mishmash of Cops and musicals — dreamed up by Odenkirk’s British cameraman/composer, Terry — showcased Cross’s underrated vocal skills. And it of course led to one of the greatest moments in straight-to-video history when legend of stage and screen Mandy Patinkin sang the Ronnie Dobbs classic “Y’all Are Brutalizing Me” in the Mr. Show spin-off film, Run Ronnie Run. –Pat Levy
19. Mom & Pop Porno Shop
As Jimmy (Cross) finds out, there’s no shame in going into the family business—even if that business includes all-anal action video booths and big, black dildos. Leave it to Mr. Show to relocate Ward (Odenkirk) and June Cleaver (Jill Talley) to a homely porno shop. Now, take these quarters to booth two. I’ll let the video play a little longer for you. –Matt Melis
18. Marty Farty
“Marty Farty” is a classic case of approach informing content. The sketch, a parody of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, finds American President “Two-T” Fruitty under fire for farting at the crowded party of Dominican Republic Ambassador Marty Pharti. The stupid, stupid premise, which culminates with President Fruitty’s somber delivery of a rhymed fart joke, only works because everything about it is played completely straight-faced. By anchoring it on the flimsiest, most juvenile of jokes, the writers created a sketch that flays the mainstream media’s approach to the Lewinsky scandal without ever having to mention a blowjob, let alone a cigar. –Randall Colburn
Living in modern America means never having to admit your kid is a dipshit. After being sued by parents for encouraging their son’s suicide attempt with the song “Try Suicide”, metal heads Titannica visit the boy (Cross) in the hospital and write him a song: “Try Again”. Three cheers for Cross for one of the show’s most indelible visual gags and performances. “I’m the coolest kid in the world.” Indeed. –Matt Melis
16. Up Your Mother’s Ass
One of Odenkirk’s many strengths is his ability to maintain composure amidst perversion. In this particular sketch, which wound up acting as the episode’s closer, he plays a teacher to the most obnoxious, stuck-up class imaginable. Their suggestions for field trip ideas is where the whole thing takes a weird, weird turn for the best — recalling the likes of Stella. It’s stupid, but memorable, if only for Odenkirk’s commitment to character and the idea that they actually had to construct a set to look like the inside of an aging woman’s anus. Genius. –Michael Roffman
15. Ad Awards
Mr. Show loved to lambast pointless awards shows—see season three’s “Dewey Awards” or season four’s “Teardrop Awards”—and season two’s “Ad Awards” might be my favorite. In it, the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) attempts to rehabilitate their image with a hilariously earnest public service announcement set against twinkling music and a sunny outdoor setting. The frolicking men, each with black bars over their eyes, admit to being “productive non-violent members of the community, who, admittedly, like to molest boys” before culminating with the rallying cry: “We’re not killers!” It’s a nasty bit of satire delivered with a sardonic touch and, as is the Mr. Show way, not an ounce of fear. –Randall Colburn
14. Young People & Companions
This Newstime News sketch relies entirely on the humor derived from using two different words to describe the same thing as if they aren’t the same thing, and honestly, it works more than it should. Breaking news about missing young people (and their companions) has never been funnier. And the outtakes at the end of the sketch make me yearn for some to be included at the end of real news broadcasts. –Pat Levy
13. Gay Son
I imagine that coming out to your parents must be one of the hardest conversations imaginable. Wanna make that convo even more difficult? Try being straight and having your parents fiercely determined for you to be gay. That’s the twist in this sketch, which gives us the chance to see Brian Posehn in tight jean shorts and hear John Ennis holler, “You gay bastard. No gay son of mine is a not-gay. You better get gay, or I’ll make you gay!” It’s like an “It Gets Better” video gone terribly wrong. –Matt Melis
Scott Aukerman created the Earwolf empire and became the king of comedy podcasting. But it’s important to remember that these achievements would be impossible if not for his abnormally large taint. This Boogie Nights parody nails the Dirk Diggler story, and it ain’t for the faint of heart. Taint. There, I said it again. My college education in action, people! –Dan Pfleegor
11. Change for a Dollar
Few scenes so easily skewer the convoluted, layered bureaucracy of corporate America as “Change for a Dollar”, and it all starts with a joke about hair removal. Bob’s simple request for “change for a dollar…quarters mostly” escalates into a seemingly never-ending ladder of increasingly promoted Bobs and Davids hemming and hawing, needing approval from an even higher higher-up, but ready to disappoint a customer at a moment’s notice. Despite being portrayed by only two actors, each boss gets a unique vocal tic and quirky character trait, a testament to the duo’s character work. –Adam Kivel
10. Lie Detector
Bob Odenkirk has done it all, and a polygraph test will prove it. That’s precisely what happens in this sketch, with the mild-mannered Odenkirk answering in the affirmative to having done a series of acts that grow in absurdity as his inquisitors try to stump him. The kicker? We find out that he’s being grilled as part of the interview process to work in a shoe store. –Matt Melis
9. Jeepers Creepers
Of all of Mr. Show‘s parodies and send-ups, perhaps none is more over-the-top than “Jeepers Creepers”, Cross and Odenkirk’s rip on Rice and Weber’s famed rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Complete with dead-on spins of Rice and Weber’s music and pokes at the source’s set design, this sketch perfectly captures rock opera prog excess in all of its absurdity. And who could better parody the main character of a rock opera about the cult of personality than Jack Black? “Jeepers Creepers, slacker guy/ Just walks away without saying goodbye.” –Len Comaratta
8. Food Ads (Fairsley Foods)
Politics and cola wars have nothing on the battle between old-timey grocery store chain Gibbons’ Markets and supermarket behemoth Fairsley Foods. After Fairsley runs a series of attack ads, unnerved Len Gibbons (Cross) slowly sees his chain dwindle down to selling produce off the back of a pickup truck. It’s hard to blame consumers for opting for Fairsley, though. After all, at Fairsley’s, “you can shop comfortably knowing that your children will not be abducted, then shipped off to a Pakistani whorehouse, where they’ll spend the rest of their lives in homoerotic servitude. That’s the Fairsley difference!” –Matt Melis
7. Commercials of the Future (Globo-Chem)
The framing device has a few belly laughs—Pit-Pat, a magical, pansexual, nonthreatening spokes-thing!—but the real star of this season one sketch is the three commercials within. Each ad skewers well-worn commercial tropes, but ups the ante by having its stars casually swear for absolutely no reason. There are too many highlights to name—Janeane Garofalo’s dubbed-in “Help Me” is one I can’t neglect—but the look on Bob Odenkirk’s face at 2:42 takes the cake—er, the fucking cake. –Randall Colburn
Similar to The Kids in the Hall, so much of Mr. Show twisted likely scenarios into god-awful nightmares. The premise for “Goodbye” is something we’ve all encountered IRL before: the awkward farewell. None of us would have the charisma of Odenkirk to pull it off this long, though. Short and succinct, it’s always great seeing this one again. –Michael Roffman