Squirrel!

If you’re like us, you have short comedy attention spans.  With hundreds of ludicrously funny TikToks scrolling before us in any given free moment, when is there time to savor the comedy gold of our not-so-distant past?  Let’s hop in Doc Brown’s DeLorean, catch a jolt of lightning, and revisit comic greatness that has been criminally forgotten.  

Aziz Ansari, Swagger Coach to the Stars

Aziz hosted the 2010 MTV Movie Awards at a time when maybe that was a fun gig.  It must have been at some point, right?  In addition to the usual monologue jokes and snarky between-award banter, he pre-taped a bunch of goofy bits, including one where Taavon (Ansari) tries to teach swag to the definitively unswaggerific Zach Galifianakis.

It makes one long for the days of Human Giant, the now-nearly-impossible-to-find sketch comedy show that Aziz did with Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel, all of whom went on to bigger but not necessarily better things. 

This sketch plays like a long-lost bit from that show, with the extremely hairy Galifianakis seeking swagga help so he doesn't end up like Justin Timberlake. The coaching must have worked -- Zach took home one of those little popcorn bucket trophies for Best Comedic Performance in The Hangover.

Flunky, the Late-Night Viewer Mail Clown

The sheer number of running bits on the early days of Late Night With David Letterman is staggering.  We could have chosen any number of Chris Elliott’s recurring characters -- The Guy Under The Seats, Marv Albert, The Fugitive Guy.  But instead, let’s take a look back at fan fave Flunky, the Late-Night Viewer Mail Clown.

Flunky was your typical depressive clown -- chain-smoking and despondent, a sufferer of prostate problems prone to those in the circus arts. Played by writer Jeff Martin, Late Night viewers could always count on Flunky to dump a bucket of ice water on whatever fun might be commencing. The only reason Flunky got into clowning at all was to meet babes, but “it turns out most women think clown makeup looks kinda gross, especially when you sweat.”

Martin went on to write for The Simpsons, presumably penning episodes that featured Krusty, another chain-smoking clown with a bad attitude.  Krusty appeared before Martin joined the staff, but after Flunky debuted on Letterman. Coincidence? We’ll let the Reddit boards fight it out. 

Andy Richter’s Little Sister Stacy

 

Years before she found fame on Saturday Night Live, even before she was on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade, 22-year-old (!) Amy Poehler showed up now and again on Late Night with Conan O’Brien as Andy Richter’s little sister, Stacy.  The preteen with prodigious orthodontic gear was primarily known for her massive, obsessive crush on Conan.

Stacy’s fixation with the late-night host is a problem for the Richter family, who recognizes that her “innocent’ infatuation may border on the psychotic. Beware the wrath of the tween scorned, because she just might return … AS A COBRA!  (Seriously, who could watch this and not predict Poehler was going to be a star?)

Don’t feel too badly for Stacy. She often showed off new boyfriends, like Kyle, who knows the capitals of all the states, and Justin, her new beau from Christian camp. We can assume she found non-Conan love somewhere down the line. 

Forgotten TV Funhouse

 

We assume most people have a vague memory of TV Funhouse, the cartoon bits that comedy writer Robert Smigel used to sneak in between Saturday Night Live sketches. If nothing else, the image of a cartoon dog ripping away a picture of the host persists, with an angry cartoon Lorne Michaels screaming “Come back here with my show!”  But individual Funhouses are definitely worth a rewatch, like Anatominals – a rework of old cartoons as if the characters were equipped with fully functioning anatomy.  In other words, “all the equipment to make love and pee!”

More gems are out there for the mining, including Shazzang, the tale of a kid-friendly genie who grows increasingly more sadistic as he takes out the bad guys; Fixed Cartoons, with government-mandated modesty updates for cartoon rabbits, and Am I Hot? with Lorenzo Lamas dissecting the sexiness of classic comic characters.  Our childhood memories are always a good target for deranged defacing -- Smigel does it with glee.

The series eventually got cut because turning around weekly cartoons was pretty dang expensive. But it was fun while it lasted. I couldn’t believe I had a gig like that,” says Smigel. “I was the only person in the country who could make a cartoon about whatever I wanted that was broadcast on such a big platform.” 

NicoTeens

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show used to throw so much satirical genius at us on a nearly nightly basis that it’s easy to forget how funny the individual bits were.  Before she parted for Full Frontal, here’s a reminder of how sadistically funny Samantha Bee could be with the right target.  Kids legally working sunup to sundown on tobacco farms?  Yeah, that ought to work. 

Comedy Central

If you wrote Kentucky Senator (and real-life tobacco farmer) Paul Hornback as a comedy villain, someone might have told you to tone it down a bit.  How does a politician recover from something like this?  (OK, they do it all the time, but still.)  It certainly kept Kentucky op-ed writers busy, complaining that Hornback’s defense of child workers gave fodder to those that believe Kentucky is just one junta short of becoming a third world country.”

The three teens who tell Bee about their horrific work days and likely nicotine poisoning eventually wear down her character.  “You’re making it very hard for me to ironically support child tobacco labor.”

 For more ComedyNerd, be sure to check out:

15 Times Community Paid Homage To Other Shows & Movies

13 Cult Classic Comedies That Failed At The Box Office

15 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Pee-wee's Playhouse and Big Adventure

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