DID YOU READ

5 weird sketch shows featuring totally unexpected casts

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Thanks to Twitter, forum apsecialthing, and those rare times where you co-habitate the meat-space to with your friends, there’s no shortage of opportunities to talk about comedy. But, eventually, those conversations can become overly sweaty because you are inevitably discussing the same handful of names over and over again — thanks, somewhat sincerely, to the prolificness of Matt Groening, Seth MacFarlane, and, oh, let’s say Jon Benjamin.

But, what if I told you there are old sketch shows out there that are long and buried, but still worth discussing? More specifically, to gush over them with befuddled excitement? Not only about their content, but also by virtue of the driving forces behind them? Well, as the headline for this piece and the last two paragraphs have indicated: I am not lying. I am, in fact, about to embark on a listicle with you, dear reader, letting you know about six bizarre sketch shows and the star power behind them that brought them to fruition.

As in, right now.


1. “Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show”

There are so many kooky-ass things going on with this show, that, somehow, the man behind Dr. Frasier Crane’s involvement in it somehow becomes one of the least strange things about it when you dig a little deeper. First off, this is a Grammer-produced port of an early 21st-century BBC show called, simply, “The Sketch Show.” In some cases, the Fox show (yes, it was on Fox) featured exact recreations of the British show’s sketches, like the “California Dreamin’” one in which the entire cast, basically, sings the wrong lyrics to The Mamas and the Papas’ classic song by the same name. The show was seldom laugh-out-loud funny — it seemed to aim more for just being amusing — and that is what’s the most shocking thing about it, because it was heavily stacked with Mr. Show heavy hitters (Paul F. Tompkins, Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Kaitlin Olson from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Grammer’s on-air involvement rarely exceeded a Laugh-In-style transition, where he’d appear onscreen laughing hysterically and then saying, “Now watch this!” The audience rarely did either.


2. “The Edge”

Another Fox sketch show with another absurdly impressive cast (Jennifer Aniston, Tom Kenny, Wayne Knight) and writing staff (Charlie Kaufman, “The Simpson’s” David Mirkin, who also created this show), “The Edge’s” was headed by Julie Brown. (It also was co-composed by Christopher Tyng, who composes for Futurama.) As in, Julie Brown, the stand-up who was in movies like “Clueless” and “Earth Girls Are Easy” and another short-lived comedy show, “Strip Mall.” What’s particularly noteworthy about this 1992 show is that while it didn’t pioneer it, it did beat “Mr. Show” by a few years in exploring sketches being inter-connected throughout an episode. It didn’t commit as hard as “Mr. Show” did, but, then again: It didn’t go quite as satirical or as silly as “Mr. Show” did, either. Still, it’s pretty weird to see Tom Kenny and Jennifer Aniston in the same room together, at all, and this show is probably the only time that would ever happen.


3. “Doggy Fizzle Televizzle”

Snoop Dogg’s short-lived 2002 to 2003 excursion into sketch comedy — which, for the record, is, as of this writing, is about as long as his excursion into reggae — may have been forgotten, but that’s not because people weren’t watching. And, as is the case with many of these oddball shows, they’re staffed with a lot of ringers. In this case, the show was co-created by Vernon Chatman and John Lee (“Wonder Showzen,” “Louie,” many other shows you’ve likely heard of). The show had more of a variety-style feel to it and a musical guest (think “Chappelle Show”), and the show didn’t take itself too seriously, which is actually why it’s kinda worth tracking down. Some of the better, though fairly dated, bits included a commercial for T-Bro: a more affordable version of TiVo, which is just “a brother who watches TV and tells you what you missed.” The show wasn’t picked up for a second season due to payment negotiation issues.


4. “Exit 57”

I wouldn’t say it’d come exactly as a shock to “The Colbert Report” fans that its host once co-starred in a mid-‘90s Comedy Central sketch show, but “Exit 57” is so rarely discussed or acknowledged, that I’d say it’s also possible that it could. More so that the show happened, not that Colbert, who came up through Second City and, of course, “The Daily Show,” dabbled in sketch. Nevertheless, this show, which also featured frequent Colbert collaborators Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello (both from “Strangers With Candy”), somehow seems to be largely forgotten. It’s worth tracking down if only because it trucks in a strange mix of gee-shucks Americana spliced with screwball satire. Sometimes, as in the video above, it’s not even clear what the show is mocking — more often than not, it’s sketches themselves in general, it seems. What else would you expect from a man who went on to be known as a fictional version of himself by the same name?


5. “Juiced”

Putting it as concisely as possible? “Juiced” is O.J. Simpson’s hidden-camera/prank show. Imagine “Punk’d,” if that show was much, much more morally reprehensible. One “Juiced” “bit” has Simpson trying to sell a White Bronco at a user car lot and tells a potential buyer that the car runs well and that it “…it helped me get away.” Yup. It’s on Netflix, and it should liven up some of those discussions you’re having with all your comedy buddies.

What is your favorite weird sketch show? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.