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The Ben Stiller Show

By

The Ben Stiller Show
Photo courtesy of PriceGrabber

Aired:

September 1992 - January 1993

Episodes:

13 (only 12 aired)

Cast:

Ben Stiller; Janeane Garofalo; Andy Dick; Bob Odenkirk; John O'Donohue

Background:

The Ben Stiller Show was a sketch show on the FOX network that lasted less than a season. The first incarnation of the series aired on MTV from 1990 to 1991. In that show, Stiller and the cast would do short comedy sketches in between introducing music videos. It was canceled after 13 shows, and Stiller spent the next two years trying to get another sketch show off the ground.

The FOX Series:

Originally intended as a show for HBO, the new version of the show was picked up by FOX in 1992 and aired on Sunday nights opposite 60 Minutes. It was made up of short films introduced by Stiller and the cast, playing themselves "hanging out" around Hollywood. In these segments, Stiller was often joined by guest stars that included Sarah Jessica Parker, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dennis Miller and Colin Quinn.

In the sketches, Stiller specialized in spoofing celebrities, including U2 singer Bono, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Cruise. Many of these characterizations became trademarks of the series.

Noteworthy Sketches:

The series included a number of pop culture parodies and recurring characters or sketches, including:
  • "Melrose Heights 902102402," a parody of teen shows like Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210 that were popular on FOX at the time.
  • "Skank," a family sitcom starring an angry and offensive sock puppet.
  • "Ask Manson," where Charles Manson (Odenkirk) offers advice to fans from his jail cell.
  • "The Grungies," a Monkees-inspired sitcom about a group of deadbeat grunge musicians.

Legacy:

Though it lasted a short time, The Ben Stiller Show had an impact by launching the careers of its ensemble. Stiller became one of the biggest comedy stars in the world in films like Meet the Parents and Night at the Museum. Bob Odenkirk and show writer David Cross went on to create Mr. Show with Bob and David, a sketch comedy for HBO. Janeane Garofalo went on to act in films like Reality Bites (directed by Stiller), The Matchmaker and The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Andy Dick appeared in a number of television projects, including the popular sitcom NewsRadio and his own short-lived sketch project for MTV.

Where to Find It:

All 13 episodes of The Ben Stiller Show are available on a 2-disc DVD set released by Warner Bros. in 2003. The set includes audio commentary tracks by the cast and writers, as well as unaired sketches and clips from earlier incarnations of the show (including the 1990 series from MTV).

Additional Facts:

  • The show won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing for a Variety or Music Program in 1993 - after it had been canceled and was off the air.
  • Judd Apatow, a producer and writer on the series, became a successful comedy director with films like The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
  • The cast reunited for the Aspen Comedy Arts Festival in 1999.
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