This Week in Comedy Essentials
In 1995, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross were relative unknowns; Odenkirk was a regular on Fox's critically acclaimed (and swiftly cancelled) Ben Stiller Show, while Cross was a writer. (And occasional featured player—"Pooter balls are people!" Yeah, good times.) Today, neither is a comedy mega-star on the level of a Williams or a Carrey, or even their old buddy Ben (though Cross is an invaluable member of the Arrested Development ensemble)—but in a way, that's how we like it. Among fans of alternative comedy, the duo are legends; sure, we bitched during the three years that their spectacular sketch program Mr. Show With Bob & David ran on HBO about how they never seemed to get the respect and recognition they deserved (Particularly from the network, who seemed to meekly tolerate them. Idiots.) But we like having our little secret, though with all four seasons of Mr. Show being released in a box set this week, we might be tempted to let you in on it.
Like in the days when Monty Python's Flying Circus aired on PBS to a passionate audience who quickly grew tired of having to explain to their clueless friends just what was so goddamned funny, Mr. Show justifiably garnered fans for its snappy writing, riotously offensive (in the best, most equal-opportunity way) brand of humor and seamless format. (Not unlike Python, each episode's sketches weave in and out of one another.) What it never gained was a mainstream audience, though sketches such as one about a performance artist who sues the American flag because he developed constipation while trying to shit on it aren't exactly common-denominator fare. But holy hell, it was good—not only showcasing the strengths of Odenkirk (most resilient everyman since Phil Hartman) and Cross (who has yet to find a freakshow character he can't sell), but featuring appearances from the likes of Sarah Silverman, Jack Black, Tom Kenny, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Brian Posehn, Paul F. Tompkins . . . the list goes on. The box set, by the way, is essentially the previously released editions packaged together, but who needs more extras? It doesn't get any better than this.
Also recommended this week: Dead Poets Society: Special Edition; Good Morning, Vietnam: Special Edition; Junebug; The Old Grey Whistle Test, Vol. 2
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.