Warning: Incoming '90s nostalgia! In a good way.
In the early 1990s, there was a comedy explosion, due in large part to the formation of what is now known as Comedy Central. Standup comedians blew up like rock stars, many of the biggest names nabbing their own sitcoms, selling out entire stadiums, and overdosing on whatever drug happened to be lying in the cracks of their nightly groupies. The downside to that uprising (besides that whole death thing) was that it saturated everything, making the good shows harder to find. You had to dig through a sea of Larry the Cable Guys and Carrot Tops to find the Patton Oswalts and Bob Odenkirks.
If you were persistent enough, you found and cherished some genuinely genius work like The Kids in the Hall, The State, and In Living Color. I'm not going to try to act all cool and mask my nostalgia for those shows. I wish many of them were still around, producing new material. And if you're anything like me, you'll be ecstatic to know that some of them totally are. Online ...
#4. Mystery Science Theater 3000
If you count its pre-Comedy Central days, MST3K ran for 11 years. Created by Joel Hodgson, it did what many of us were already drunkenly doing in our own homes on a random boring Tuesday night: riffing on crappy movies because nothing else was on and we were too bombed to find the remote. Only they did it much, much better than any of us ever could because I'm convinced they were all demons. Comedy demons.
Starting on a small UHF station in Minneapolis, Minnesota, they were eventually signed as one of the first two shows on the newly formed Comedy Channel, and quickly became a staple. On Thanksgiving, they would run 30-hour marathons of the show, and until it was finished, I refused to change the channel ... and that's how I found out who my true friends were. The ones who said "I wish they'd quit talking over the movie" were immediately kicked out of my house and then set on fire with punch friction.
Or at least had the cast give them the group shame stare.
Halfway through Season 5, Joel left and was replaced by Michael J. Nelson (who has written articles for Cracked), and he instantly became one of my favorite comedians of all time. Eventually, Comedy Central canceled MST3K, and it was picked up by Sci-Fi for its final three seasons. And that's the last anyone ever heard of them. Because they were all murdered.
But Wait, They're Still Around!
OK, maybe they weren't murdered. Mike started RiffTrax sometime around 2006, and the whole idea is fairly genius. See, when they did the original TV show, they had to be careful about what movies they used because MST3K didn't have a huge, sprawling budget. That's why many of the films were heaping bowls of shit -- those didn't have copyright restrictions, or the licensing was so cheap, they were considered the ramen noodles of the movie industry.
I couldn't imagine Truck Farmer demanding much more than a hot meal and a cigarette.
The beauty of RiffTrax is that they're only selling you the audio track of them riffing. You supply the movie. In doing that, they're finally able to take on huge titles like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and The Lord of the Rings.
But even better, one of my favorite things about MST3K was the episodes where they'd riff on old educational videos from the 1940s and '50s. As it turns out, most of those are in the public domain because their copyrights have expired (or they never had one in the first place). That means RiffTrax can sell you the movie and the audio, prepackaged.
And the kicker? Mike doesn't just do this by himself. He's got Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Bill Corbett (Crow T. Robot) helping him out. So get your ass over there and support some true comedy genius.
Otherwise, Mike gets angry. And you wouldn't want to see him when h- actually, he's not very threatening either way.
No, wait! Read the rest of the article first ...
#3. The Sifl and Olly Show
The Sifl and Olly Show was the '90s for me. MTV ran the series from 1997 to 1999, which is actually saying quite a bit, considering that the whole premise was two guys using sock puppets to just act stupid for our entertainment. That's not me being insulting -- Sifl and Olly was stupid for the sake of being stupid. We wore that shit like a badge back then, and Liam Lynch and Matt Crocco were goddamn masters of it. For instance, here's them talking to regular character Chester, who can't get through the interview because he thinks the word "pegasus" is funny.
The show was always like that. Just random, goofy, off-the-cuff exchanges, followed by completely made up "rock facts" and ridiculous songs like the awesomely stupid "United States of Whatever."
Unfortunately, it didn't even make the millennium. MTV, being notorious for only airing shows that are accidentally dumb, canceled it and then promptly set fire to an animal shelter.
But Wait, They're Still Around!
Liam and Matt still make Sifl & Olly episodes. Or at least they did until April of this year.
For a while, they were hosted by Machinima, but then moved over to Nerdist because ... honestly, I don't care why. All I care about is the awesome funny that Liam and Matt vomit out of their comedy holes. And if you need more than that, Liam also has a whole shitload of podcast episodes called Lynchland featuring the characters.
Unfortunately, I haven't heard anything new about them since April, but that's because Liam and Matt either have something in the works or both died of sleep deprivation. Regardless, I'll be waiting patiently for them to release some new material, getting amped on Dunkin' Donuts coffee with my Chester mug until they return.