In Mr. Show, the titular Bob (Odenkirk) and David (Cross) took a talented cast of actors willing to do just about anything for the sake of comedy and made them do just about anything for the sake of comedy. Each episode begins with Bob and David addressing a live audience ("We've got a great show for you tonight, lots of funny jokes..."), and I loved this slightly confusing conceit, which always made me wonder about what layer of meta I was seeing: was I watching a sketch comedy show or a sketch comedy show about a sketch comedy show? I also loved that each sketch is linked to the next one in some way. These links can be anything from a song being played on a mini Victrola to a minor character in one sketch becoming the focus of the next one. Sketches don't always have a traditional punchline, and a lot of the fun of the show is in the appropriateness or absurdity of the transitions.
And what of the sketches themselves? Oh, my. Given that the show comprised hundreds of sketches, it's astounding how many of them are comedy gold, full of quotable lines. Maybe the best way to do this review is simply to link some of my favorite sketches.
"The Joke: The Musical" is one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen. They took a dirty joke and turned it into a musical: and it's actually kind of good. It's ridiculous how well it works. Mr. Show had lots of great musical moments (let's not forget "Rap: The Musical"), including an extended parody of Jesus Christ Superstar, but this one from the second episode (featuring a pre-fame Jack Black) indicated that there were things this show could pull off I was not even prepared for. And it's even better in context, as it ties the whole episode together (in addition to the links between sketches, episodes themselves often had themes, with recurring characters or ideas popping up throughout the episode).
Oh, "Coupon: The Movie." I do love a good movie trailer parody, and Mr. Show excelled at parodies of styles or concepts, frequently slapping two unrelated things together just to see how many jokes they could get out of it, as in "Dickie Crickets, the King of Megaphone Crooners." And, hey, did you see the end of that sketch? YOU SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE?
The premise of "Pre-Taped Call-In Show" is right there in the title, and it's executed flawlessly by David Cross. This sketch is basically perfect, with a stepwise build to one of the most brilliantly hilarious gags I've ever seen. Seriously, just watch it, and you'll want to watch the whole show.
"The Audition" showcases David Cross once again, but it also highlights two of the show's strengths: its penchant for metahumor (an actor auditions with a monologue about an actor auditioning with a monologue) and its ability to press a joke for so long that even if it slips into not being funny for a short while, it loops back to ridiculously hilarious, like in the classic "The Story of Everest."
I am incredibly fond of "24 Is the Highest Number," which takes an absurd concept that is right there in the title and just runs with it to its inevitable conclusion. Mr. Show truly committed to its absurdity.
"The Fairsley Difference" is a great example of another Mr. Show standby: TV commercials. From rivaling grocery stores and political candidates to, er, rivaling combination condiments, Mr. Show pulled it off with aplomb.
Another frequent well of humor was the news, as shown in "Young People and Companions," which, in true Mr. Show fashion, takes one idea and puts spin upon hilarious spin on it.
I know comedy is subjective, but if you don't think Mr. Show is hilarious, you're wrong.