Reviewed by David Williams (September 2, 2003)
Bob: Every time a cast member swears, they have to put a nickel in the swearing jar.
David: [dropping a nickel into an already full jar] The money goes to ‘Swears For Cares’, a non-profit organization committed to raising money through swearing.
Bob: So hopefully, we'll make a little difference.
David: [holds up a nickel] A little *fucking* difference.
How do you describe Mr. Show to someone who has never seen it? Well, how can you describe the Rocky Mountain Range to a blind person? Nine Inch Nails to someone who’s deaf? Kinda hard, isn’t it? Well, that’s the way Mr. Show is – it’s very hard to explain to the uninitiated – you simply have to see it and experience it for yourself. Here’s the way stars Bob Odenkirk and David Cross explain it on their website, www.bobanddavid.com:
The show is a whirlwind of both live scenes and pre-taped video pieces which effortlessly flow into each other. When one live scene ends, a new set of characters may walk onto the set to lead the show into the next piece, or a commercial may come up which then goes into a whole new area. Each show moves undeterred through controversial topics both new and old, in a continuum of comedy goodness. Anything can happen, as long as it's funny and inexpensive to produce.
The whole “sketch comedy” genre was created by two entertainment giants – Sid Caesar and Milton Berle. The duo brought elements from vaudeville and radio and turned it in to something huge and something that was uniquely television. However, in the early 1960’s, sketch comedies and variety shows lost their top billing to other, more “reality” based shows, like sitcoms and Westerns. Things pretty much remained dormant until Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In burst on to the scene with psychedelic colors and an irreverence not seen before on television. Suddenly, sketch comedy was hip again. Around the same time, Monty Python’s Flying Circus was becoming huge overseas, and on our continent, Saturday Night Live was just getting ramped up, as was SCTV. At some point during this rash of marvelous entertainment, two young kids, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, were quickly coming under the spell of boob tube sketch comedy. They loved it so much, they decided to pursue careers in it as well.
Odenkirk was born in Naperville, Illinois and was the second of seven kids. He found his way to Chicago when he started performing stand-up and working as a comedy writer. When fellow comedy writer and good friend, Robert Smigel, got a job writing for SNL, he was key in bringing Odenkirk along as well, as he was hired by SNL in 1987 and worked there until 1991. He worked with cast member Chris Farley to create the “Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker” character that later became a staple of Farley’s SNL stint and even won his first Emmy as a writer for the series. After leaving SNL, Odenkirk worked on Chris Elliott’s short-lived series, Get A Life and then moved on to write and perform for the all-too-short and very, very funny The Ben Stiller Show, where he captured his second Emmy award. Before teaming up with partner David Cross for Mr. Show With Bob & David on HBO in 1995-1998, he played a recurring role on HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show, as Larry’s obnoxious and coke-sniffing agent, Stevie Grant.
David Cross was born in Atlanta, Georgia and studied film at Emerson College in Boston but quickly found out that it was a lot more fun doing comedy than it was attending school. He formed a comedy group, Cross Comedy, and performed quite a bit until he got a call from good friend Janeane Garofalo to hop on a plane and become a writer for The Ben Stiller Show. Cross was part of the group that received the Emmy award and it’s there that he also met Odenkirk. The duo formed a successful relationship that would turn out some of the most alternative and funny comedy to ever hit a television screen.
While the boys didn’t immediately hit it off as best friends, they were two members of a very small fraternity that performed at some of the hottest clubs around the country – including L.A.’s Diamond Club – and they both ran in the same, small circles. After the two developed a relationship, the Diamond Club is where, with $18,000 of their own money, the duo financed a series of comedy showcases that were the prototype for the subject at hand, HBO's Mr. Show With Bob and David.
After seeing that the run of shows was successful, execs at HBO decided to offer Bob and David an initial run of four shows for their first “season” on HBO. The initial run was such a critical success that they were granted a second season of six more shows from HBO that started running in November of 1996. (HBO’s first two-disc set of the series covers these initial two seasons in all of their unedited glory.) The show ran for a total of four seasons on HBO and was more often than not, ignored by the general public, but beloved and revered by the somewhat large cult following (which includes me) that it obtained during its all too short tenure.
Describing exactly how the show runs is like trying to explain a drug/alcohol-induced dream. For the uninitiated, each half-hour episode of Mr. Show starts out with Odenkirk and Cross coming out on stage for a quick monologue, as Mr. Show With Bob and David doesn’t rely one bit on recurring characters or big name guest stars. All of a sudden, the monologue goes sour and this launches us into a different direction/dimension/sketch “inside” of a sketch. One or more characters from the first piece are used to segue into the next and on and on it goes. Much of the material is done live, in front of an audience and on a stage, while other aspects of the show may be taped segments that are used in order to form some sort of coherent/semi-coherent story line that consists of live and pre-taped sketches.
During the show’s tenure, the pair dealt with such subjects as medical marijuana (drugs play a big role in the show), an operatic version of Cops starring the now infamous Ronnie Dobbs, a war between East Coast and West Coast ventriloquists, a television ad campaign for NAMBLA, and even defecation on the U.S. flag – proving that there are no taboo subjects for the boys of Mr. Show.
HBO, after a little bit of delay here and there, has finally prepped season three of Mr. Show With Bob & David for a DVD release. This latest set covers the third season of the show and is split over two discs and below, you’ll see a run down of the show, the date it originally aired, and the order in which the skits ran. I’m not gonna try and break down each show since the skit titles do a pretty decent job of it and quite simply, it wouldn’t do the show justice. Mr. Show was made to be viewed, not broken down and summarized by someone like me.
- DISC ONE -
#1: Heaven’s Chimney (Premiere Date: September 9, 1997)
Up Heaven’s Chimney Led by “The Bob” | Deprogramming | Life After Mr. Show | Crazy Religious Beliefs | “Watch Us Have Sex” | The Devastator | Directions | The 12th Annual Educational Film Festival: The Limits of Science | Hail Satan Network
#2: Peanut Butter, Eggs and Dice (Premiere Date: September 19, 1997)
A Very Special Episode | David Comes Out | Off To See The Ratings Man | Santa’s Secret | Tatiana, The Weather Hermaphrodite | Cock Ring Warehouse | Best Friend’s Marriage Announcement | “Fuzz: The Musical” | The Brave Choice Awards | “The Bob Lamonta Story” | Everyone’s A Winner
#3: Oh, You Men (Premiere Date: October 3, 1997)
”Who Wants A Banana?” | Taping “The Lost Episode” with The Mayor of Television | Entertainment 4 Every 1 Productions | East Coast / West Coast Ventriloquist Feud | Watch More TV | The Hanged Man | The Delongpre Dannon Show | Ol’ Fisherman’s Sticky Pads | Lie Detector | Tee-Vee TV: The Time Caplet with Sam and Criminy Crafft | “Drugachusettes” | Losing “The Lost Episode” | “Who Wants A Bananna?” Reprise
#4: Flat-Top Tony And The Purple Canoes (Premiere Date: October 10, 1997)
Mr. Show Morning Show: The Womyn’s Solidarity Collective | “Got A Good Thing Going” – The Beetletown Players | V-TV Presents “Smoosh” and “Norma Jean Monster” | Young People And Their Companions | Nooz 6 Bloopers! | Wee-Time Toddler Wear Sales Meeting | Predicting The Future Of Fashion With Nostradamus | Indomitable Spirit | Apocalypse Drill | “Smoosh” On The Moon
#5: Please Don’t Kill Me (Premiere Date: October 24, 1997)
The Swearing Jar | “Swear To God” With The Reverend Winston Dupree | Landlords | The Fad 3 | Hunger Strike | Mustard and Mayonnaise | The Dr. X Annual Save The Earth Telethon | Mustmayostardayonnaise
- DISC TWO -
#6: Goin’ On A Holiday (Premiere Date: October 31, 1997)
Our Families Are Here Tonight | The Coming Age War | A World Run By Old People | Secret Love | Photo Shop | “America Will Blow Up The Moon” | You’re Fired | Don Pratt | “Seventies Movie Classics: Bare Ambition & Streak Dome ‘97” | Goin’ On A Holiday | A Kinder, Gentler Mr. Show
#7: Bush Is A Pussy (Premiere Date: November 7, 1997)
Kedzie Matthews Understudies For David | David Fires Bob And David | The Value Of Human Worth | Value Magazine | The Ex-Siamese Twins | Bad News Breakers | 24 Is The Highest Number | The Great Philouza | Mediocrity | Kedzie and Dr. Katz’s Couch
#8: It’s A No-Brainer (Premiere Date: November 14, 1997)
Puny Devil Knee-High Socks | Protesters | Channel 6: We Make The News | “Culture Hunt” | Jack Webber | Dream Of A Lifetime | Catholics & Satanists United | “Let’s Get Sloppy”
#9: A White Man Set Them Free (Premiere Date: November 28, 1997)
Viewer Hate Mail | The Mr. Shoe Cracker Barrel | The Misunderstood Letters Of Sharwood Lish | Marriage–Con & Boat Show | Biosphere | Corporate Ice Cream | The Last Indian | Dying Asshole In Vietnam | Night Talk With The Senate Subcommittee | All-Star Salute To The Last Indian | Les Balloons Sportif
#10: The Return Of The Curse Of The Creature’s Ghost (Premiere Date: December 5, 1997)
Guidance Counselor Moe Phelps | Gus Kryzinski, Night Janitor | Local World News | Blowjob | Titanicca | Pre-Taped Call-In Show | The Return Of The Curse Of The Creature’s Ghost | Chip On The Shoulder Club | A Trip Up My Mother’s Ass | The Moe Phelps Guide To Classical Acting
The shows are great, they’re consistently funny, they end too quick, and when you’re done with both discs, you want more. What more do you need to know? This is definitely one set that will get multiple spins on my player, as the material just never gets old or less funny.