The Ben Stiller Show: Manson/Cape Munster/The Legend of T.J. O’Pootertoot’s

Sometimes, horror-comedy can be found in the strangest of places.  The Ben Stiller Show (FOX, 1992-93) is a case in point.  The Ben Stiller Show, a top early-1990s destination for Andy Dick and Cops parodies, had its share of horror/sci-fi sketches throughout its brief run.  Three of the sketches shall be featured in this entry.

No, I don’t consider Ben Stiller and Andy Dick horrific in and of themselves.  Quit asking!

“Manson” is from the tenth episode of The Ben Stiller Show.  Charles Manson is a recurring character on The Ben Stiller Show, something I can type with impunity.

Keep in mind, the show originally aired Sundays at 7:30 PM ET/PT.  Why FOX thought 7:30 PM was a good time slot for edgy sketch comedy, I don’t know.  Perhaps the show was intentionally buried.  In any case, The Ben Stiller Show would occupy that night’s 10:30 PM ET/PT slot by December 1992, fading from view early in 1993.

The Manson sketches are always the same – Manson (Bob Odenkirk) talks crazy.  Here, the recurring segment is stronger, as he’s the Lassie in a Lassie parody.  I’m still not fond of this sketch, given how one-note the premise is.  At least Andy Dick’s playing against type.

More X-meets-Y wackiness from The Ben Stiller Show, this time a parody of 1991’s Cape Fear remake.  Eddie Munster (Stiller) is the Max Cady stand-in.  Guess what this sketch is called.  No, seriously, it’s “Cape Munster!”  Ha ha!  This is from the premiere, since Cape Fear references are a good fit for the Sunday family hour.

This sketch is a little more to my liking.  It’s not a better sketch than “Manson,” but at least it’s a standalone.  Stiller isn’t bad as Munster.  He’s not great, but then, Stiller’s never been a great comedian.  The sketch is well-directed by Stiller, given that he’s aping Martin Scorsese.

I know I’ll catch shit for preferring “Cape Munster” over “Manson.”  In my mind, “Skank” is The Ben Stiller Show‘s best recurring character.  Now SHUT YOUR STINKIN’ TRAP!!!

“The Legend of T.J. O’Pootertoot’s” is one of the best sketches from The Ben Stiller Show.  This is from the final aired FOX episode (its twelfth), and is written by David Cross.  Cross and Odenkirk would go on to create Mr. Show (HBO, 1995-98), which wisely stuck to “T.J. O’Pootertoot’s”-style absurdist pieces and Tom Kenny.

As of this writing, “T.J. O’Pootertoot’s” has been removed from YouTube.  The extant Ben Stiller Show episode is on, which is geoblocked outside the United States.

“The Legend of T.J. O’Pootertoot’s” meets Gravedigger’s Local standards, as T.J. O’Pootertoot was a surviving member of the Donner Party.  The sketch takes its cue from Soylent Green – which means I’ve given the main punchline away, but the sketch has much more to offer than a Soylent Green riff.  I wish Cross had worked on The Ben Stiller Show longer, but the foundation for Mr. Show had to start somewhere.

If/when I find more video links, I’ll post “Cops in Salem, Mass.,” “Low-Budget Tales of Clichéd Horror,” “Woody Allen’s Bride of Frankenstein,” “Bad Twist Ending Theater” and/or “Leslie Chapman, Actor/Dancer/Zombie.”  I’ll even post the “Ask Manson” segments, if I’m feeling masochistic.  If Charles Manson’s albums have taught me one thing, it’s that a little Manson goes a long, long way.

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