My Favorite 'Mr. Show' Sketches: Maynard Keenan, Sarah Silverman Sound Off

Fans, comedians and cast members weigh in on their favorite bits In honor of the cult sketch show's 20th anniversary

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Mike O'Brien

Writer, Actor (SNL), Comedian
I was working in the Second City Chicago box office while I was taking classes there, and a guy passed me videotapes of Mr. Show that he'd taped off of HBO…it wasn't even a complete set, because he'd have to live tape them, and thus I only saw the episodes that aired when he was at home. But I binge-watched these things before "binge-watched" was a term. It was this weird coming-together moment for me, because I was talking classes in long-form improv — and now here was this show that was doing something very similar to what I was learning, but on this whole other level.

People always compare them to Monty Python, and I love Python, but in a lot of ways, they're like the band that my dad likes, you know? [Laughs] Mr. Show was ours. It felt new and cool, which is how I imagine the earlier generation felt about those first few seasons of Saturday Night Live. Here was this new, subversive thing for the people who grew up in the 1970s, and now we had our equivalent.

The two sketches that jump to mind immediately are "Joke: The Musical," with Jack Black singing "don't stick your dick in these holes." Though it's the bit at the end that really got me, for some reason, when Bob shows up as a sad milk machine. I mean, who would do a musical version of the one about the traveling salesman, where you take the oldest joke and then heighten everything so it gets its own song — and then you add in a milk machine who claims he's just doing his job? [Laughs]

The other one is Odenkirk in a donut shop, taking an extremely long time to order a donut. "I … will … have … a … single … do … nut…" That's funny enough on its own, but for some reason, he has blood trickling out of his ear. That, to me, is just this little detail that somehow makes the sketch one of my all time favorites. I came up with this idea years later about a Blockbuster manager with blood coming out of his nose for no apparent reason, and I thought, oh, this is so good. Then I suddenly realized I was blatantly ripping off that Odenkirk character.

That's the same sketch where Cross plays a guy who's too cool for vinyl; he can only listen to music on a Victrola. This is a great example of how they could take fully realized characters who could hold their own in a sketch by themselves, and put them together, and still make it work. If I had to pick one way that Mr. Show influenced modern comedy writing, it would probably be that: You'll see people give a waiter one weird, funny line and suddenly, he's at the center of the next sketch. People were doing that before them, I'm sure, but the Mr. Show version of that…I see it everywhere now.

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