Comedy Central's TV Funhouse
Most of us can remember those carefree days as children when we would wake up hours before our parents. We would grab a box of cereal and head for the living room to watch some Saturday morning television. Usually among the cartoons the local stations would have some sort of show that featured an adult host surrounded by puppets. He would introduce the cartoons and other features as well as put on sketches for our youthful amusement. If you take one of these beloved shows from our childhood and gave it a massive does of some psychotropic drugs you would wind up with ‘Comedy Central's TV Funhouse’. It looks and sounds like one of those old time shows but the content is definitely not for children. In fact it is sure to insult or upset a good portion of the adult population. This is rude, crude and socially unacceptable. It is also extremely funny in a perverse kind of way. The series is from the warped mind of Robert Smigel. If you are a regular viewer of Saturday Night Live, Conan O’Brian or Comedy Central you are familiar with his work. For SNL he created the first variation of TV Funhouse with regular features like ‘The Ambiguously Gay Duo’, ‘Fun with Real Audio’ and ‘The X Presidents’. His work with Conan gave us one of his most memorable characters ‘Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’. This cigar chopping hand puppet is so insulting that people have tried to hit him as if he was real. For Comedy Central Smigel took the basic premise he created for SNL and ran with it. He made a full blown parody of the old Saturday morning series as twisted as possible. It is noted on the DVD box set that no material used in SNL is present in this collection. The basic concepts of weird cartoons and psychologically disturbed superheroes are in here. Also included are a bunch of animals that are deeply deranged.
The human host for this madhouse is Doug Dale, known simply as Doug the Host. he plays the role as if he was back in the fifties and this was a real kids show. In some ways this is reminiscent of ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ only ramped up (or down) several notches of depravity. Each episode usually has some sort of theme or special day like ‘Western Day’ or ‘Caveman Day’. If you think seems harmless then you have never seen this show. Along with Doug are his pals the ‘Anipals’. They may look cute and cuddly but they are the most disgusting, over sexed creatures ever imagined. Occasionally there are some real animals added to the mix. While no animals were harmed in the making of this series there is no guarantee about the humans on set. There were only eight episodes made and broadcast and this set has them all. The DVD box looks like something from a fifties kid show or a comic book. Please, consider the mental health of any children in the house and do not leave this DVD set within the reach of children. You will have to pay for their therapy for many years to come.
The first episode is ‘Western Day’. The cartoon opening has parents coming into a little boy’s room while he is still sleep. The pull him from the bed, hardly awake, push a bowel of cereal in his hands and plop him in front of the TV. Yes, back then parents didn’t need day care or a sitter, there was Saturday morning TV for the little tikes. Doug goes out and buys a box labeled ‘Western Day’ and goes back to the brightly colored playhouse. He is now dressed in the most outlandish fifties children cowboy outfit ever with huge chaps, hat western shirt. The Anipals are less than thrilled about donning their cowboy hats. Chickie the roster is having problems at home. His wife is having her period and won’t have sex with him. Okay, you were warned that this is not for the kids. The Anipals decide they would what go to Tijuana for a good time. The first cartoon Doug shows is ‘Wonderman’. The style is exactly like the old thirties Superman cartoons. When Wonderman is not fighting crime he is using his x-ray vision to look under women’s clothing and get women t have sex with his secret identity. Down in Mexico Chickie winds up at a cock fight against some pretty intense competition and is basically torn to pieces. There is also a fantastic parody of the fifties school films we used to have to sit through in class. The one here was on mnemonics. The music and grainy picture is just how we all remember these ‘educational’ film strips. Some of the mnemonic devices they come up with border on the obscene.
Each episode in the set goes through the same format with the expected variations in which cartoons or features are shown. There is one that makes Oprah’s boy friend, Stedman, into a cartoon hero. The sketches with the Anipals are the dirtiest and often the funniest around. There is a scene where the cat gives birth to a puppy and the dog in the crew has to confess to what he did. In this one a real puppy is shoved out between the legs of the felt cat puppet. The last episode has human guest stars; John Ritter and George Wendt. Besides the sexual situations and language there are plenty of jokes about getting stoned. One sketch is called ‘The Baby, the Immigrant, and the guy on mushrooms.’ It is widely off beat and hysterical. Triumph the Insult dog makes an appearance and has a fight with another one of the Anipals over a prostitute. In another segment the Anipals are sold for animal testing in a lab; very gross.
Part of the basic premise of this series is demonstrated by the opening sequence. Our parents would just sit us in front of the TV and go off about their day. Most didn’t really know what we were watching. There were no parental watchdog groups back then and if something like this was on the moms and dads would never find out. It is like the old kids show with Soupy Sales. He told the kids watching to wait for their parents to go asleep and take the green paper out of their wallets and send it to him. He also managed to sneak the spelling of the infamous ‘F’ word in one of his shows. The parents just were aware of the content of children’s television. This is what made this series so brilliant. It looks and sounds right but is completely inappropriate for the kids.
It only lasted for the eight episodes here but now they are on DVD through Comedy Central and Paramount Home Entertainment. This is a riot and if you don’t mind the content is extremely funny to watch.