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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse shorts were a recurring highlight on
Saturday Night Live for over ten years (!): from September 1996 to
March 2008, but disappeared without a fanfare after the WGA strike,
owing to a cut in the show budget (thanks for the info Wikipedia).
Granted, the Toons had lost some of it's fun by then, but this
collection brings together some of the most hilarious and best
remembered Funhouse segments in one place.
From Disney & Hanna-Barbera to the US Presidency and Saddam & Osama, no target is safe from the wit of Smigel and friends. And the animators produced quite impressive copies of the animation styles of all the cartoons spoofed (how they got away with including all those actual Disney clips I'll never know). They even featured a couple of painstakingly hand animated stop motion peaces a la Rankin-Bass. However, over an hour's worth of Smigel & co's biting humor can be a bit of an overload. With so many rapid fire jokes packed into each single Funhouse, this compilation is a non stop animated attack on the viewer's brain. And with the segments spanning over a decade, it's hard keeping up with all the pop culture being referenced (anyone remember Anna Nicole Smith's reality show).
This is probably why the entire cast of the then current 2005-2006 season makes an appearance interacting with hosts Ace (voiced by Stephen Colbert) and Gary (Steve Carell's voice) aka The Ambiguously Gay Duo. This is unlike any of the other 'Best Of' specials which usually only collect archive footage (as IMDb would categorize it). The running gag here is that Ace and Gary are obsessed with former cast member Jimmy Fallon, who lo and behold also briefly appears during the end credits. Another typical weird Smigel gag is that Bill Hader (who was still a featured player at the time) is the only one credited up front and still gets the least screen time of them all. Even Lorne Michaels and Don Pardo have more lines to say.
There are a surprising number of segments devoted to Christmas, two adventures of the Ambiguosly Gay Duo, one with The X-Presidents (also billed as musical guests) and a whole lot of Fun with Real Audio. And this is just the version aired on TV I'm talking about, the DVD version most likely has even more Funhouse for your bucks. Still I prescribe caution before watching it all in one go: it might make your head explode with laughter and/or outrage. TV Funhouse, much as I love it, is better served in small doses.
8 out of 10
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