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Exploding the Myth: Mr. Show was the Greatest Sketch Comedy Show of All Time.

December 1, 2010

I won’t be coy: we’re getting into, with seasons 2 and 3, the place that I think is the pinnacle of Mr. Show With Bob And David’s greatness, which means the pinnacle of greatness in the medium of sketch comedy of which American television has thus far been capable.

That quote is from one of Leonard Pierce’s recaps of “Mr. Show with Bob and David” for the AV Club. First off let’s all thank Pierce for not being coy. It might result in us mistaking him for a critic and not someone who has dreamed of giving David Cross and Bob Odenkirk a tongue bath since Freshman year of college.

As a tribute to his brutal frankness naked fanboyism, I would like to also dispense with the coyness up front. I’m not writing some kind of hipster backlash post about how “Mr. Show” sucks. “Mr. Show” doesn’t suck at all, in fact it’s pretty excellent. Mr. Show gave us this:

This:

And of course this:

But people aren’t happy saying Mr. Show was simply awesome. They want to go the Leonard Pierce route and talk about it as if it is far and away the greatest sketch comedy show of all time. Revisionist fans and pop culture critics talk about Mr. Show as if it was exempt from the greatest flaw that effects all sketch comedy: unevenness.

Mr. Show was just as uneven as the other two great sketch comedy shows of it’s era, Mtv’s “The State” and the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s “The Kids in the Hall.” It was as uneven as other second tier sketch shows from the same era like “Upright Citizens Brigade” and “The Ben Stiller Show.”

Exhibit A: Ronnie Dobbs

Ronnie Dobbs is a David Cross creation and he exemplifies many of the traits that make Cross unbearable in the eyes of many. Cross is a smart, well educated liberal who has a stinging sense of comedy that often dips into condescension for those on the other side. Personally, I find him hilarious, but I do see what the critics are complaining about. Ronnie Dobbs however, I do not find funny. I don’t get how anyone could. The character is made up of low hanging fruit and well worn territory. He’s a dumb redneck, ha ha freakin ha. Odenkirk and Cross apparently thought Ronnie was so funny he got his own movie, “Run Ronnie Run” which went straight to video and is loathed by fans and Bob and David alike (Odenkirk blames the editing but Cross has said “it is the movie we wrote”).

Exhibit B:

This is the pinnacle of greatness for American sketch comedy?

Exhibit C:

Granted this sketch gets good once David Cross’s pretentious character is introduced, but before that there’s a solid minute of awfulness.

From this point on can we all just agree that Mr. Show was great sketch comedy show with a lot of good sketches and stop the ridiculous hipster hyperbole?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2010 2:55 am

    Hi, Tim! Thanks for the link.

    I was far past my freshman year of college when “Mr. Show” debuted, but during my brief and unsatisfying stint in higher education, one thing I learned was reading for context. For example, if you accuse someone of propagating the “myth” that “‘Mr. Show’ was the greatest sketch comedy show of all time”, you might want to make sure that they actually said that. I, of course, did not. I said something similar, that it was (in my opinion, and an opinion, as a rule, cannot be compared to a myth by anyone who intends to make any sense) the greatest AMERICAN sketch comedy show of all time. This is called a “qualifier”, and is an important tool in the gearbox of we who pretend to be critics.

    Speaking of mistaking people for critics, I’m glad you don’t claim to be one in this piece, because if you did, I would be able to accuse you of failing to do a critic’s job. A critic, for example, does not go around “exploding the myth” that (something) is the best (something) of all (something) without presenting at least a slight counter-argument for what IS the best (s.) of all (s.). A critic also is required to make his case with an argument somewhat more robust than ‘people say these sketches are great, but I don’t think they’re great!’. That form of myth-explosion lacks, shall we say, a certain rigor.

    But kudos for waiting until your last paragraph to break out the meaningless word “hipster”, the deployment of which against an opponent is the surest possible sign that one is unserious and has nothing to say about a subject.

    Cheers!

  2. December 2, 2010 8:14 am

    Leonard,

    I’m afraid this reply is going to be as wishy washy as the original post. That’s at least in part to the fact that you’re right about a lot of what you just said. The post doesn’t really explode any myth. “Exploding the Myth” is the name of a feature we have here and though it wasn’t entirely applicable here I used the heading anyway. I figured my dozen regular readers wouldn’t care. They probably don’t.

    Secondly the post itself doesn’t necessarily express a very strong opinion. I was getting lunch with a friend yesterday and I told him I had just published a post with a weak premise that I wasn’t really proud of. So I’m not about to get on here and argue that I wrote something revolutionary or important. If you looked at every post since this site was started I doubt you could say that about a single one in fact.

    All of that said, your comment has a couple big flaws. Firstly, and by far least importantly, I “broke out” the word “hipster” in the second paragraph. I used it there referring to myself. I disagree with your notion that the word is somehow meaningless. I also disagree with the notion that it was used against you as my “opponent.”

    The entirety of your comment seems to mistake this post as being directed at you. In fact it was 80% people I have spoken to off of the internet and about 20% your AV Club recaps.

    Lastly, I agree with your notion that context is important. For example if someone who didn’t know anything about this site or me or you or the AV Club were reading this it might help them to know that you are a professional writer and critic for a website that gets thousands of views a day. I am a professional quality assurance auditor who writes blog posts for fun during his breaks at work and they are read by tens of people a day.

    Judging by your AV Club comments I guess I should expected you’d actually be up googling yourself and would take the time to come tell me what a horrid, unprofessional writer I am (facts I was already well aware of, trust me). That being the case I should’ve written more carefully, but again I had to get back to my boring job that doesn’t involve telling people which television shows are my absolute favoritist.

    In your time at the AV Club you’ve written exactly 1 interesting thing Mr. Pierce (your post on your custom Catan board introduced me to the game) which is exactly 1 more interesting thing than I’ve written on my site. So mazel tov! You win the internet. You destroyed a stranger who said something you didn’t like about you on his little read blog.

    You hipster.

  3. Benny D permalink
    December 4, 2010 4:17 pm

    Tim – you’re absolutely right, and thanks for the post. My old roommates at the U of M house I lived in were super huge Mr. Show fans. They were also huge liberal blowhards, a category in which I probably belong as well. I enjoyed Mr. Show, but never got into it that much. Bob and David’s sketches, nothing short of comedic brilliance at times, often sucked so, so hard. But Pierce has you on one point. You haven’t refuted the idea that Mr. Show is the best sketch comedy show ever, you’ve simply reminded us that it is, in fact, a sketch comedy show.

    Personally, I think nothing beats SNL circa ’88-89 thru ’93-94. Those years are estimates, but I mean to begin with early Phil Harman casts and end with the last Carvey/Meyers/Farley/Sandler cast, the season BEFORE the “new cast” in 1995. Every good SNL sketch from 1995 onward can be found on two DVDs entitled The Best of Will Ferrell. I remember that you were a big fan of The State, and I presume you might give that show the nod.

  4. December 12, 2010 1:45 am

    Thanks for the link. My two cents: it’s still the funniest American sketch comedy of all time, and the second-funniest sketch comedy internationally (SCTV is the first). As you say, they’re all uneven—so why let that disqualify it from being the greatest?

  5. Anonymous permalink
    May 9, 2012 5:26 pm

    I disagree, Mr. Show is my personal favorite show of all time. But then again I like things for what they are to me, not how hipster I can look by calling out other hipsters

  6. May 9, 2012 5:38 pm

    A guy boldly declaring Mr. Show to be his favorite show of all time and then calling out a hipster for calling out hipsters? Hang on while the irony meter explodes.

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