Bizarre (TV Series 1980–1985) Poster

(1980–1985)

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Very funny, racy original sketch show which spawned "Super Dave"
cinefan30 September 1999
This show ran for a few years on HBO and later went into syndication. Hosted by the great comedian John Byner (who was very prominent in the late '70s & early '80s - notably as "Detective Donoghue" on "Soap" - but rather forgotten today), it was most notable for two things: it was the first sketch comedy show to regularly feature nudity (busty topless women often figured as punch lines in racy blackouts - this was cable, after all); and, it was where gifted comic writer Bob Einstein (brother of Albert Brooks) created his popular character "Super Dave Osbourne," the daredevil with extremely bad luck. Indeed, Super Dave became a minor cult phenomena in the '80s, the character's existence extending even after "Bizarre" bit the dust (much as Cassandra Peterson's "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark" continued to flourish after "Movie Macabre" was cancelled). It was a very funny show which will probably never see the light of day again, but, if it pops up in syndication (with the nudity sliced out, of course), check it out - it's funny without bare breasts!
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Long overdue for a DVD release
Brian Thibodeau4 May 2005
Bizarre has aged much more gracefully than one might expect. Sure, it dates from a time when names like Bella Abzug, Henry Kissinger, Tom Snyder were punchlines in and of themselves (though barely, and more often because they simply sounded funny as punchlines), and sure, host/cast leader John Byner was probably given too many opportunities to run through a surprisingly (for his talents) limited range of impersonations that had been serving him well since the Sullivan show in the 60's (Paul Lynde, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Marlon Brando, Ed Sullivan, Johnny Mathis, John Wayne to precise, and usually in the form of "audition reel" sketches for famous movie and TV characters like The Godfather and Fantasy Island's Herve Villechaize), but having just transferred several season's worth of old Betamax tapes to DVD for safe keeping (and with a few more to go), I can safely say I still found myself chuckling at regular interview despite knowing much of this material from heart.

The show's writers, directors and cast had a remarkable collective ability to spin old jokes into seemingly fresh full length sketches that would usually feature heavy padding via Byner's antics and asides. Distill just about any sketch down to it's raw elements - minus sets, cast, and the usual digressions for time - and you've got jokes that had been done on any number of variety shows in the decade before this one - Bizarre reformulated the brew in large part by added healthy doses of cynicism, sexism and slapstick violence - and of course the naked women (an earlier poster was right in noticing a thankfully mute Ziggy Lorenc as a piece of furniture, but failed to point out she was wearing a bikini like four other "pieces" placed in a slum apartment rented out by crotchety landlord Byner).

The cast list here fails to give credit to the contributions of many bit players who went on to greater things, most notably Canada's own Mike Myers (as Byner's nephew in a show closer in which Byner reacts to a review that claims he stuffs the audience with relatives, only to learn that all but one audience member is family!) and future Crow villain Michael Wincott (look closely at the Mexican Nephew seated beside Luba Goy in the legendary Bigot Family sketches). Donnelly Rhodes, another Canadian mainstay who had a memorable run on the U.S. sitcom Soap, plays one of Super Dave Osborne's stunt coordinators in a second-season sketch involving a mechanical bull. There were others...Someone here earlier pointed out the early, popular appearances of a young Howie Mandel, though guest stand-ups were generally more along the lines of Willie Tyler and Lester.

In the first and, to a lesser extent, the second seasons, Bizarre would include sketches filmed outside of Toronto, including an amusing bit filmed in an L.A. cemetery in which "priest" Redd Foxx sends bad TV shows to their rightful resting places surrounded by a platoon of Let's Make A Deal contestants), and a peculiar filmed segment where a gorilla holds up a grocery store and speeds off in a stolen Mercedes.

When something clicked on Bizarre, viewers could rest assured the idea would be tweaked and repeated on a future episode. Witness the ever-increasing insanity of the Super Dave Osborne stunts, or the "Byner Originals," in which the host would claim to be introducing some new comedy creation - Boy John, Johnny Jackson - that were blatant ripoffs of actual personalities of the day which would prompt producer Bob Einstein to interrupt the sketch, calmly berate Byner, and then suffer a litany of insults in return ("it's called the wandering Jew and it'll be here in about 5 seconds", went one memorable line from a similar sketch). The aforementioned Bigot Family proved popular enough to fill several repeat sketches with well-delivered ethnic humor (although 90's syndication episodes oddly removed what few Asian gags there were and cut several watermelon gags). Other popular returning characters included the Reverend T.V. Seewell, who broadcast from the Enzlo Veal Animal Healing Pavilion (the location of which changed from bit to bit), a Yoga For Health instructor with fake stretchy legs who invariably closed his sketch to Devo's Whip It, and a perennially bottom-rated news team featuring a sportscaster who only favored black athletes, a drunken film reviewer (Saul Rubinek in some sketches) kept on a leash, a clueless weatherman (Don Lake) with an atrocious toupee and a lead anchor (Byner) who took exception to his female co-host's bitter digs by punching her out of her chair. Another great repeat gag was often played on regular Tom Harvey, who would be whisked from a sketch to correct a makeup problem, only to return to the re-shoot and discover doors nailed shut, breakaway furniture and real booze in the glasses. Audience members were often used to supplant "under whelming" actors, or to heap further indignity on Tom Harvey. And finally, long before Conan O'Brien thought he came up with the idea, the creators of Bizarre used the process of superimposing real lips over cardboard celebrity cutouts to often delirious effect (politicians of the time singing cheesy love ballads, for example)

Bizarre's peak seasons were probably 1982, 1983, 1984 and even most of 1985-86, after which other comedy shows on then burgeoning cable networks (and regular broadcast TV) started to steal their thunder, signaling and end to the sketch comedy format as many had known it throughout the 60's and 70's. Nonetheless, these shows represent one of the last bastions of political incorrectness in broadcast comedy, particularly for something shown on a major Canadian network during early prime time hours!

The show today, were it to be released on DVD, might not provide the hearty laughs it once did to those of us who were there to witness it during its initial run, but there are still many fondly recalled laughs to be savored.
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7/10
Do Not Adjust Your Boob Tube...
animal_8_512 March 2006
This was known as a vehicle for attractive female Toronto models to become big Hollywood stars, by baring their breasts on Cable TV. I never saw the cable version (CTV had a censored version on conventional Canadian network TV), but I can just imagine how happy John Byner was that he had fallen onto this great gig.

Actor Tom Harvey got regular work here outside of his usual Wayne & Shuster berth. John Byner and the crew delighted in bombarding Tom's groin with cream pies. Luba Goy was the Jewish daughter in the recurring "Bigot Family" segment, which while it wasn't politically correct by any stretch, was one of my favorite bits. Billy Barty, Billy Van, Super Dave Osborne and a host of others bumbled their way into our hearts each week. Seriously, one of Bizarre's bimbos, Sherry Miller, went on to become a legitimate news anchor on Global-TV. Only in Canada...

Many of the show's topless lasses ended up somewhere, but I don't know if any became stars. All I can say is that if Bizarre is any indication, Toronto could've been called "Hooterville" in the eighties.
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Great sketch show on cable from the 80s!
Jason10 April 2003
I wish I knew where to get a hold of this great sketch show hosted by the great John Byner. I remember watching this is a kid or at least trying to watch it, since it contained nudity, and was on late at night on HBO or Showtime, can't remember which channel. It was way ahead of it's time as far as having the finger on the pulse of what people liked in skits. It lampooned and spoofed commercials and TV shows like no other, which includes Saturday Night Live (which I also love). I think there was a sense of naughtiness that "Bizarre" reveled in that I liked. I don't think it's available on video, but I wish someone could find it on video and make it available. I think it would sell well! This show captured quite a lot during it's 30 minute running time and of course since this was pay cable, had no commercials to ruin the flow. If anyone knows anything about the original, uncut, unedited versions of this show and if they exist for purchase, please let me know! If I recall correctly, this show was also the launching pad for Super Dave Osborne (Albert Brooks real life brother) and I recall Howie Mandel appearing on it early in his career. It made sense since Mandel is

from Toronto and that is where "Bizarre" was taped. I could go on and on about what I recall from the show, but I think everyone gets the general idea. I fear that this show will remain a curio and remain in a time capsule somewhere. Someone resurrect "Bizarre"!
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"Bizarre" on DVD 2 volumes 10 episodes each!!
Jason13 December 2005
The hilarious sketch comedy show "Bizarre" is now available on DVD, completely uncensored and uncut. Each DVD contains 10 episodes hand-picked by the producers and packaged so that each sketch or episode can be watched separately. I have already watched both DVDs and they are great! I hope they release more volumes in the future. John Byner is great, as is the rest of the ensemble cast. Nudity and profanity abound!! It took awhile, but am certainly glad the show is now available. It can be purchased on amazon.ca Does anyone remember any other memorable sketches? I would be interested to hear anyone's remembrances of the show. To my knowledge, 50 episodes were recorded over the 5 year run of the show. It could be more though!
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A breath of fresh air....
law_rie11 January 2003
In our super-silly p.c. dreamworld of 2003, it's just great to go back to an era where one didn't have to bite one's tongue and/or stifle a laugh at classic comedy, where the genuine foibles of various ethnic groups and "lifestyle" choices were open to examination and, yes, even ridicule.

Only two other commentators here, one a Canadian who predictably trashes a program produced on his own soil, and an American who loved it (like me...although a Canuck).

John Byner was a GENIUS!!!!
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Most memorable crying fits of laughter!
Tracy Allard8 August 2005
Ah, it brings me back! I watched Bizarre on broadcast television between 1980 an 1983, my last years of high school. Eastern Quebec in those years was far away from cable, oh my! It was on black and white TV and it wasn't even a Quebec broadcast but some New Brunswick channel (CHSJ ?), that the antenna only received to 90%. I think we only got 3 channels back then anyway! Super Dave's antics always had me howling.

But I remember these 2 particular skits that counted as my first ever time laughing to tears (except at my teachers of course). They were both of the puppet show nature... for some reason, maybe cuz I was a young girl, maybe cuz my hometown was quite "liberal" I don't even remember topless babes, hmmm... But anyway, the 2 skits:

A simple down turned hand dressed as superman, with the 2 "peace fingers" as legs, flying around in front a black curtain, I don't know why, in print it sounds so lame, but the way it was done was just a riot. It was a really good spoof of Superman, which had to be one of my first satirical laughs, weeeee

The other was a puppet fly on a stick, bumping into a light bulb, in front of a black curtain, OVER AND OVER AGAIN, going bzzzzz bump, bzzzzz bump, bzzzzzz bump, bzzzzz bump. You know, in that same exact annoying way as when you're trying to quietly read a book at night with your ceiling light on and some dumb fly just don't get the message that it's pointless to fly to the darned light bulb.

They both made me cry, I loved the show entirely, as much as Benny Hill!
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Hilarious!!! I miss it!
kaiart712 December 2005
The sketches on this show were edgy for it's time. I saw most of the series when it aired on syndicated TV. They would bleep out the obscene words with a loud "honk" car horn sound which made it even funnier! The Bigot Family sketches always cracked me up. Even though it was a "racey" sketch it always ended with Byner as the Irishman saying "but we still love each other". Another one of my faves was the McDrive-thrus. Every show had a different one like: McJoke- in-the-Box, McSex-in-the-Box, & McCheech & McChong-in-the-Box. Super Dave was also great. He was like a human Mr. Bill. This needs to be out on DVD...soon!
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HUGE FAN
LUEXANA5 February 2003
I loved this show. It is sorely missed. I didn't have cable in the '80's so I remember watching this show on channel "9" in NYC. I don't know what show Mr. Martin was watching because everything about this show was just funny as hell. This show along with the Paul Hogan show were 2 of the funniest sketch comedy shows ever. Of course they all owe a debt to the incomparable Benny Hill.

Feel free to share your comments with me about any of your beloved shows. I am a huge TV and FILM buff.
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Only one word can really describe it
Raleon28 June 2003
This show is one of a kind. Though i don't really like the show myself, I have to admit there's something about it that keeps you glued. It's one of those shows you can watch and say to yourself "this is so stupid and disgusting... I'll just finish watching it..." it's great to have something so low brow and so politically incorrect actually work. Unfortunatley, it rarely worked since. BTW, if ány of you are still looking for it, get a satellite and get The Comedy Network. They still play it all the time.
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