This comedy/variety show specialized in parodies of movies and television shows and commercials. Often, they would also have a special guest (e.g., a TV actor) join them in the comedy ... See full summary »
This comedy/variety show specialized in parodies of movies and television shows and commercials. Often, they would also have a special guest (e.g., a TV actor) join them in the comedy sketches, with hilarious results. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
The show won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program after it had been canceled. See more »
The timestamps on Ben's video diary segments never increment, even though the individual segments usually last more than a minute. This is probably due to the fact that they were added in post-production, and weren't a result of a real camcorder's time/date stamp. See more »
In the closing credits, John F. O'Donohue was listed as a guest star although he appeared in every episode. See more »
A Decent Sketch Comedy Show That Still Has a Definitive Freshness To It
Before Fox became the #1 most watched network with shows like "American Idol" and "Glee", it was best known for offbeat shows, especially comedies, that came and went. Although shows like "Married With Children" and "The Simpsons" went on to become among the longest-running sitcoms of all time (With "The Simpsons" recently taking the #1 spot in that category), countless other shows on Fox got the ax early, thereby establishing Fox as a second-rate network for nearly 20 years.
"The Ben Stiller Show" was indeed offbeat, and it had a laid-back quality to it that made it fun. Many other reviewers are crying out that it should not have been canceled, but the main cast members of this show went on to bigger and better things. Ben Stiller is now an A- list comic actor, Janeane Garofalo went on to become a household name, Bob Odenkirk created "Mr. Show" for HBO and is now sure to get an Emmy nomination for his role as Saul Goodman in "Breaking Bad", and Andy Dick . . . well . . . was funny on this show before becoming victim to his own demise. And of course, the co-creator of this show, Judd Apatow, would go on to create "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" among other memorable comedies.
Sketch comedy shows were nothing new at the time this show premiered, but Odenkirk came to this show after a four year stint as a writer on "Saturday Night Live", whereas Stiller came after a four episode stint (literally). The 1994-95 season, considered even today to be among SNL's biggest drought of funny material, was awaiting Garofalo. It's too bad too, because I thought she was among the stronger members of this show. Meanwhile, these guys put together a solid show that even today seems fresher than SNL and more free.
Like many other sketch comedies, the sketches themselves were hit or miss. I didn't think the recurring sketches with the sock puppet Skank were very funny, personally, but I loved the Amish Dating Game, the "Tonight Show" auditions (with Apatow doing the best Jay Leno imitation I've ever seen, and Garofalo gut-bustingly hilarious as Sinead O'Connor), and Woody Allen's version of "Bride of Frankenstein" to name a few.
In fact, in the latter sketch, Andy Dick did a dead-on impersonation of Allen that was among the best I had seen. It surprised me because Dick is now a second-rate comedian and actor, and I expected him to be the weakest link when first purchasing the DVD set of this show. However, in most sketches, he proves to be a solid cast member who works well off the remainder of the cast. The same was true for him during the six year run of "NewsRadio". However, since "NewsRadio" ended, he's been better known for his inappropriate antics and excessive drug use than for his comedy. In this show, he was completely void of obnoxiousness, and (surprise!) he was actually funny!
More than the sketches, though, I actually liked the in-between sections with Stiller talking to the writers, or introducing cast members. It really emphasized the show's freedom, and helped to avoid the "in your face" feeling of other comedy shows. These segments felt as though Stiller was welcoming you into his world, and such efforts felt sincere.
In fact, it may have been these efforts that coaxed many guest stars to make appearances on the show. It's great to watch the show in the 21st century and see celebrities who were stars at the time such as Roseanne and Tom Arnold (who were then married), Garry Shandling, and Mark Wahlberg (back when he was "Marky Mark"). It's even more exciting to see some people before they were stars make appearances, such as Judd Apatow, David Cross, and Jeanne Tripplehorn.
So there were a lot of noteworthy qualities to this comedy show. The fact that it aired at 7:30 on Sunday nights opposite "60 Minutes" on CBS and "America's Funniest Home Videos" on ABC was probably not a good sign. Still, while this show may not have been meant to last, it lives on thanks to reruns on Comedy Central and a much-deserved DVD release. In fact, I hope Andy Dick re-watches these episodes so he will see what he did correctly in his career, and hopefully change his obnoxious ways.
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