It’s not easy loving the State. For a couple of years in the early Nineties, these jokers were on MTV all the time, with absurd skits about grunge dating, monkey torture or Sid and Nancy going on The $25,000 Pyramid. (“Eating, breathing, fucking . . .” “Things you do on ‘eroin!”) Then they disappeared, never returning in reruns, never getting the DVD treatment. But now, after a decade in exile, the State are back. You can finally catch their long-lost first season on iTunes (plus their first new show since 1996) and see why these guys have a cult following. Many of the skits don’t hold up, and many bombed in the first place. But when they were good, they were brilliant. They had Louie with his catchphrase: “I wanna dip my balls in it!” They had the sitcom “The Jew, the Italian and the Redhead Gay.” They had Thomas Lennon and Michael Ian Black as Barry and Levon, two gigolos in perms and velour suits, making love to the camera with $240 worth of pudding: “We had the $240 — we had to have the pudding.”
When you watch The State now (start with the fourth episode), what hits you is the sheer Nineties-ness of it all. There was nothing exotic or underground about them — just eleven fresh-faced suburban kids playing to the grunge-era youth-culture explosion. We all thought they would be huge stars, and so did they. They lasted three seasons on MTV before heading to the networks, hallucinatorily believing they would keep a fraction of creative control. They went down in flames. The State had a cool idea, took it to the Man and watched it get beaten to the ground — what could be a more Nineties story than that?
Ever since the State fell apart, it’s been tough worshipping them. It means shelling out for eBay bootlegs and praying for DVD compilations. It means getting excited over Kerri Kenney’s Cascade commercial, Thomas Lennon’s one-line role in Memento, or the Ken Marino sitcom where he played a ROLLING STONE reporter (“Nice job on the Strokes cover”). We go see them in good movies (Wet Hot American Summer) and bad ones (The Baxter). We cheer for State alumni projects like Stella and Reno 911. We get pathetically overjoyed at the news that all eleven members are reuniting for the Reno 911 movie. We say things like, “Aquaman — go talk to some fish,” or “Medium head boy!” Nobody has a clue what we’re talking about. That’s OK. It’s just part of loving the State.