While it can be argued whether or not Mr. Show with Bob and David is the best sketch show of all time, I would certainly make the case that it was the best of the 1990s. For proof, take a look at this list of 10 of the funniest sketches from its four-year run. These aren't the only 10 -- three or four more lists could probably be made -- but it's a start.
Just as it would be impossible to pick the top 10 sketches from Mr. Show, it would be equally impossible to rank these sketches in order of quality. Instead, they're organized chronologically by season. Keep in mind that none of these are for the easily offended.
In only its second episode, Mr. Show
produced this hilarious sketch acting out a joke (told earlier in the show by a cranky senator) about a traveling salesman, a farmer and a milking machine. Catchy songs, sly references to Godspell
and an inspired attempt to make a musical out of something decidedly non-musical worthy all make this one of the best sketches of the first season. It also featured the first appearance of Jack Black on the show.
stars as performance artist "Spank," a hack
determined to shock people by doing something awful to the American flag. The sketch is a perfect example of Mr. Show
satire, as it simultaneously makes fun of how lame and self-important performance art is while at the same time satirizing the whole "flag burning" controversy. It also leads right into another excellent sketch in which past presidents and historical figures try to design a flag that won't be desecrated.
A regular feature on Mr. Show
was "historical fiction" sketches, where figures and events from American history were made up. This sketch, which chronicles the rivalry between two "megaphone crooners," seems like little more than a chance to reference the way early 1900s music is portrayed in our pop culture. But it's also a goof on the way somewhat insignificant people and events are often overly revered in documentaries. More than anything, it's really funny. Thank you.
I'm not one for drug humor, and luckily that's not what "Druggachusettes" is about. Instead, it's presented as a failed pilot for a children's show produced by Sam and Criminy Crafft (based on real-life '70s children's show creators Sid and Marty Krofft). Yes, there are plenty of drug references, but the real humor in the sketch comes from just how accurately Bob and David recreate a Saturday morning kids' show from the 1970s, and how thin the line really was between psychedelic children's entertainment and flat-out drug-induced hallucination.
From the same episode as "Druggachusettes," this sketch is just pure, absurd Mr. Show
greatness. It's a totally original sketch -- not satirizing or parodying anything -- centered on a job interview in which Bob Odenkirk
is hooked up to a lie detector and asked an series of increasingly bizarre questions. The sketch is a great example of how so many sketches on Mr. Show
could take surprising turns and constantly reinvent themselves as they went along, while still being truly hilarious. It also has one of the better punchlines of the show's four-year run.
Here's a sketch that starts out riffing on feel-good, "inspirational" musical groups (who often perform at schools, as this one does in the sketch) before evolving into something stranger and funnier. "Indomitable Spirit" is a band made up of handicapped members, including an armless drummer, and armless guitar player, a flute player who's just a head and a woman, played by Sarah Silverman
It was rare that Mr. Show
did direct pop-culture parodies, but "The Great Philouza" marks one of those instances. Spoofing Amadeus
-- but substituting the classical music of Mozart for marching band music -- the sketch, as with "Druggachusettes," demonstrates Mr. Show
's ability to pull the rug out from under something simply by make a single substitution. Plus, it's funny to apply so much weight and drama to something as annoying as marching band music. Odenkirk's simple-minded Philouza is one of the funniest characters he did.
8. "The Chip on the Shoulder Club" (Season 3, Episode 10)Ironically, Mr. Show was always good about targeting the very counterculture hipsters that made up much of its audience. Here, a bunch of cooler-than-thou young people come face to face with Odenkirk's endless optimism. Their compromise -- and the punchline to the sketch -- makes for one of the funniest moments in the third season.
Heavy metal musicians were also Mr. Show
favorites, from the employees of Nil's Guitar Shop to the grossed-out members of Titannica (another classic that didn't make this list) to Wyckyd Sceptre, my personal favorite in the show's long line of metalheads. The sketch focuses on a videotape that surfaces and features the band in a series of compromising positions -- with each other.
Here's a great example of how Mr. Show
excelled at clashing the highbrow with the lowbrow. This sketch, about a restaurant so uppity it doesn’t even have a restroom (requiring guests to defecate into a hand-crafted mahogany and velvet-lined box right there at the table), is on one hand satirizing the acceptable norms of wealthy upper-class society. On the other hand, it's just an extended bathroom joke.