Drops of Gold is usually music related, but today I am writing about comedy. The two have close associations for me. You'd be surprised how many folks in bands are quite funny and some even do stand up, like Hutch Harris from The Thermals. Beyond that, most musicians I know just seem to like offbeat, smart comedy. Perhaps it is the tour boredom that comes from hours in the van or waiting around for soundcheck, but talking comedy, doing voices, and quoting movies ends up being a great way to pass the time and get to know each other. Over the years, the show I've bonded with the most people over has been Mr. Show with Bob & David.
Back in the 90s, HBO took a chance on a sketch comedy show from two mostly unknown comic writers, Bob Odenkirk (SNL, The Ben Stiller Show) and David Cross (also The Ben Stiller Show). Bob wrote for SNL during my formative years of watching it and I feel like I can see his influence now, he wrote the "van down by the river" sketch for Chris Farley. Full disclosure, I've been a big Odenkirk fan for a long time, so I was quite excited when he "directed" the music video I starred in for Rogue Wave's "Chicago x 12" back in 2007. That was a career highlight for me, even if my improv with Bob didn't make the final cut.
Anyhow, Mr. Show was an absurd and revolutionary sketch comedy series that lasted 4 seasons and then slipped into obscurity before the days of Youtube. It probably didn't help that it aired Mondays at midnight, or that it was smarter than anything else going on at the time. Most people who saw it didn't get it. But those who did fell in love.
I saw a few episodes when they originally aired. They didn't blow me away at first, but they stuck with me. A few years later, I bought a bootleg set of Mr. Show VHS tapes on ebay when I moved to California in 1999. I watched them and shared them with friends until they were almost unwatchable, no amount of tracking adjustment would help. I actually even made a little notebook where I cataloged all the episodes and scenes. Eventually, in the 2000s, they were reissued on DVD, they reunited to do a small tour, and a book on the whole story was published. Read that if you want more information on one of the best comedy shows of all time.
In the 16 years since, Bob, David, and most of the rest of the writers and cast have gone on to become influential forces in comedy, on and off screen. Jack Black, Brian Posehn, Sarah Silverman, Tom Kenny (Spongebob), Jilly Talley, Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang Bang), Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Jay Johnston, Paul F. Tompkins, Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Jerry Minor... I could go on...
Once you're familiar with the writing and the actors, it's not hard to see Mr. Show's sensibility showing up all over the internet, movies, and television. "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" and "The Birthday Boys" are 2 of the more obvious examples since Bob was involved, but there are others. The way they tied the sketches together in each episode in so many different ways was astounding, and their avoidance of any subjects too topical gave the show a broader, more timeless feel. I was able to watch them with my parents without having to explain references, and I know that was a conscious decision on their part. I always loved that my Dad really liked Bob's line from the Blow up the Moon sketch, "Yes, and we'll be doing it during a full moon so we make sure we get it all." It definitely owes debts to The Jerk, Monty Python, and SCTV, but they created something all their own that was ahead of its time -- it was before HBO had The Sopranos, or any other non major networks were doing original shows -- which is probably why it only lasted 4 seasons. I don't think even HBO got it at the time.
I've been waiting for this since it was announced. So, of course I watched them all this morning as soon as I woke up. They are wonderful. It isn't Mr. Show, and it shouldn't be. It is just what Bob and David and that crew do when they get together. It is easily as funny and clever and stupid as anything they've ever done. I don't want to talk too much about it at this point. I'm just going to enjoy these over and over again. The feelings are still there.
Even more heartening for me was that after the 4 episodes went by so quickly, the hour long "making of" episode came next. I've seen some writing room footage of them in the past, and there are glimpses of it on the DVD commentaries and in the David Cross Tour Documentary (also directed by Lance Bangs) "Let America Laugh", but this one really shows how they work together. It was mostly how I always imagined it, part screen writing, part just trying to make your friends laugh. That kind of balance is rare and a joy to watch. They even admit that it is not how most shows are written and they know it is something special. It really is. I'm so pleased. I don't have much more to say than that. I'm going to go watch them again now.