Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson and Photo by Bonnie Schiffman/©HBO/Everett Collection
It is unbelievable kismet that, a week after Saturday Night Live aired what many believe to be one of its worst episodes in years, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross are returning tomorrow with Netflix’s With Bob and David, four more episodes of sketch comedy in the vein of their beloved 1990s HBO program Mr. Show. For those bored by SNL’s relentless topicality and notorious inconsistency, Mr. Show has proved to be something of a bottomless well of comedy, even nearly two decades after it first aired. Odenkirk and Cross’s work on the show is as mind-blowingly complicated as it is straightforwardly crude, and their near-unbeatable ensemble of future stars and comedy-nerd heroes cohered perfectly to produce some of the most ingeniously hilarious sketch comedy in, well, forever.
Mr. Show’s four seasons were meticulously constructed and, at times, full of inconsistencies; there are great sketches buried in otherwise-meh episodes, and vice versa. As with many cultural artifacts, the strongest highlights have survived on YouTube, and many of them are still effectively isolated from their context. So we’ve decided to rank all of Mr. Show’s sketches, from least funny to funniest.
A few notes before we begin: For the sake of coherence, we’ve excluded all monologues, cold opens, closing bits, and extremely brief connecting threads (save for a few extremely notable exceptions) — so that means that beloved characters and moments such as Kedzie Matthews, Senator Tankerbell, “What’s a gagortion?,” and so on have been left on our cutting-room floor. If that strikes you as tragic, just watch the whole series — even at its low points, Mr. Show is still some of the funniest comedy around.
157. “Rap the Musical” (Season 2, Episode 2)
“The fun of rap, without all that rap!” The idea of this sketch — what if rap was sanitized and reduced to stereotypical signifiers? — is decent enough, but something just feels off about the execution. Perhaps because it’s hard to tell what’s actually being made fun of: cultural cannibalizing for mass consumption, or, you know, just rap in general.
156. “Hate Group” (Season 2, Episode 5)
After a bout of poor planning and crossed wires, a hate group devolves into a self-help session — and even though the sketch has a somewhat triumphant ending, it never quite comes together.
155. “Drunk Cops” (Season 2, Episode 3)
A brief, Cops-spoofing interlude that, following the previous season’s Ronnie Dobbs sketch, comes across as little more than reheated leftovers.
154. “Emergency Psychic Hotline/Dalai Lama/Monk Academy” (Season 4, Episode 5)
A trio of interlocking sketches that stand out amid Mr. Show’s final season only for their dip in quality — and that’s not taking into account the extremely cringeworthy n-word dropped by Cross in the middle of the triptych. Seeing Odenkirk attempt to rap (“Rap rap rap, rap rap rap”) is kind of funny, but also more proof that any time Mr. Show got even close to examining rap as a cultural artifact, the results were far from successful.
153. “Recruiters” (Season 2, Episode 5)
Proof of Mr. Show’s influence: the conceit of recruiting preteen basketball players to invest in their future recently reappeared in slightly different form as a business model on the third season of Nathan for You. The sketch itself lands somewhere between funny and sad, but doesn’t really possess enough force in either direction to feel truly effective.
152. “Santa’s Workshop” (Season 3, Episode 2)
A mercifully brief sketch about why, exactly, Santa Claus continues to keep doing his job (hint: it’s not because he likes it).
151. “Fashion Forecast/Fashion Documentary” (Season 3, Episode 4)
Some of the “impressions” done by Mr. Show cast members come across as a tad cringeworthy 15-plus years later, and Cross’s “gay voice” in this pair of interconnected sketches is a tough watch. Regardless, the overall concept — taking your prognosticator as a lover, and the issues that result from that — is certainly entertaining enough to distract from the dated stereotypes at play.
150. “New San Francisco” (Season 2, Episode 4)
In which Mr. Show’s fictional mega-corporation Globo-Chem “cleans up” San Francisco and, along with their efforts, mounts a musical touting New San Francisco’s “family-friendly” image. A sketch that’s long on ideas and even longer on running time, this one wears out its welcome a minute or two before the credits begin to roll.
149. “The DeLongpre Dannon Show” (Season 3, Episode 3)
This parody of outlandish talk-show guests is, at best, well-worn fodder for sketch shows of all stripes — even if the notion of multiple people suffering mistaken-identity disorders all at once is faintly amusing.
148. “Marty Farty” (Season 4, Episode 7)
Essentially a playground rhyme refashioned as a breaking news story — not exactly A-grade stuff, but it does the trick well enough.
147. “Pallies” (Season 4, Episode 4)
A brief, extremely straightforward Goodfellas parody riffing on edited-for-broadcast versions of profanity-filled movies. Medium-funny, slightly unnecessary.
146. “Menocu Blind House/Racist in the Year 3000” (Season 4, Episode 2)
A pair of sketches reinforcing late-series Globo-Chem stand-in Menocu — both executed with a level of tedium uncommon to late Mr. Show. The relative flatness of “Racist in the Year 3000” is particularly disappointing since exploring what racism would look like in the future is a pretty plentiful concept! Maybe they’ll revisit it for Netflix …
145. “Soul Singer (Larry Black)” (Season 1, Episode 3)
Almost any sketch where Odenkirk unleashes his so-bad-it’s-kind-of-great singing voice is guaranteed to be extremely funny. Note the “almost” there — his singing in this one makes for most of the gag and is unable to support the somewhat weak concept.
144. “VTV/Break Thru Weekend” (Season 3, Episode 4)
A mildly forgettable rip on insecure rock stars and how they deal with their own personal pain. The cheery-in-corpse-paint angle is later done better in the show’s final season, too (“Marilyn Monster Pizza Parlours”).
143. “Men’s Club of Allah” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Personally, I know this sketch deserves to be in the bottom half of this ranking because I’ve seen it countless times as a lead-in to the highly superior “It’s Insane, This Guy’s Taint” and can never quite remember what the point of it is. A sketch that feels like it goes on too long, even though it’s relatively brief.
142. “The Last Indian” (Season 3, Episode 9)
A highly biting sketch about the United States’s erasure of Native American people and their culture, “The Last Indian” is extremely clever at points — but not all that funny in the end.
141. “Civil War Reenactment” (Season 4, Episode 8)
Sometimes Mr. Show’s extremely complicated sketches hit hard in their dizzying confusion; sometimes they don’t. This one — about a Civil War reenactment, and the problems that arise when “two Lincolns” show up — falls toward the latter.
140. “Swearing Preacher” (Season 3, Episode 5)
He’s a preacher, and he swears — that’s about it for this brief segment. It’s well-executed, but forgettable as soon as it ends.
139. “Fuzz: The Musical” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Two seasons after his Mr. Show debut, serial felon Ronnie Dobbs returns — and perhaps presaging the critically maligned post–Mr. Show feature film Run, Ronnie, Run, the overall quality of the sketch suggests that Ronnie’s returns are, at best, diminishing.
138. “News Family Anchors” (Season 2, Episode 5)
This brief sketch marks the second time in Mr. Show’s second season that family dynamics and TV news combine (see also: “Peterson Family News (KPFN)”). This one has a nice-enough setup, but it doesn’t quite land a working payoff.
137. “Night Talk Senate Committee” (Season 3, Episode 9)
A brief late-night-TV-themed sketch mainly notable for a Jon Stewart cameo and the return of two Mr. Show recurring characters: Blueberry Head (and he brought props!) and Senator Tankerbell.
138. “Jeepers Creepers” (Season 2, Episode 3)
Mr. Show loves musical numbers, but said numbers don’t always land. This Jesus Christ Superstar spoof is pretty spot-on in execution, but in terms of laughs-per-minute, it’s not as successful as other attempts (but not as bad as, say, “Rap the Musical” or “New San Francisco”).
135. “Prenatal Beauty Pageant” (Season 4, Episode 3)
A decent idea executed pretty well, mostly worth watching for Odenkirk’s character claiming that finishing school is “where they teach you how to finish.” I always believed the same thing!
134. “Popemobile Chase/News/Trial of the Millennium/Expert Truck” (Season 1, Episode 4)
A Pope-themed O.J. Simpson–trial riff runs through the majority of season-one episode “Who Let You In?” The jokes might be slightly dated in 2015, but even topicality couldn’t make this concept come across a little stronger.
133. “The Great Hemingway” (Season 4, Episode 8)
What if Ernest Hemingway couldn’t stop writing about his balls? That’s pretty much the entirety of this sketch, and even if it’s not the funniest one in the show’s history, I’d still read a Hemingway novel in which he can’t stop writing about his balls.
132. “Law School” (Season 4, Episode 1)
Odenkirk’s an extremely incompetent teaching assistant at a law school — and he carries a dark, dark secret with him. Unfortunately, not dark enough to make this sketch feel complete and thought-out by its close.
131. “The Dewey Awards/Bob Lamonta” (Season 3, Episode 2)
The first of this pair of interconnected sketches was a full decade ahead of Tropic Thunder’s satirization of actors portraying developmentally disabled characters as awards-season bait. The second, a short film about a high-schooler with developmentally disabled parents, is a particularly heartless sketch even for Mr. Show’s PC-combatting attitude—but it’s also pretty funny, too. So while “The Dewey Awards” is cutting, ripe satire, “Bob Lamonta” is undeniably divisive. You’ve been warned!
130. “Local World News” (Season 3, Episode 10)
Another TV-news spoof — this time, with the approach that small-time local news is covered with the same vigor as the in-the-moment passion of world news. This sketch is clever, but medium-funny at best.
129. “Hunger Strike” (Season 3, Episode 5)
In which we learn what people staging a hunger strike really want, deep down inside: food, of course.
128. “New Son/Red Balloon” (Season 2, Episode 2)
What happens when your adopted family abandons you after adopting you as a grown man? Why, just follow your balloon, no matter where it leads — down a well, straight to hell, etc.
127. “Vendetta” (Season 4, Episode 10)
The literal last sketch to air on Mr. Show — and sadly, it’s just okay. Basically, this is a funny-enough situational sketch involving a man, his wife, and the men who won’t stop fucking the wife and making money from it.
126. “Gus Kryzinski, Night Janitor” (Season 3, Episode 10)
What do night janitors do when no one’s watching? As this sketch suggests, they light up the world, one lonely hallway mop dance at a time.
125. “Fartin’ Gary/Second Wind” (Season 2, Episode 5)
This is a series of sketches that is almost entirely comprised of fart jokes. That’s not a bad thing! Fart jokes are funny. There could be something in here about how we, as a society, are also easily amused by the most simple and juvenile of humor. But let’s face it, who has time to think when you’re laughing at fart noises? Not me, and not you, either.
124. “The Devastator” (Season 3, Episode 1)
Can you survive “The Devastator”? More important, can you hold your breath for over two minutes? No? Hmm … can’t lie, it’s not looking good for you.
123. “Lifeboat” (Season 4, Episode 1)
Another talk-show riff, this time with a bunch of survivors in a lifeboat — and it’s only slightly funnier than previous attempts to nail this particular satirical approach.
122. “Writer in Audience” (Season 1, Episode 3)
There’s some truth in this brief bit — specifically, that giving your friend notes on their writing is something of a nightmare for twenty- (and thirty-) something creatives the world over. Unfortunately, the conceit doesn’t make for gut-busting comedy in the end.
121. “Deprogramming/Heaven Tour/Crazy Religious Beliefs” (Season 3, Episode 1)
A trio of interconnected skits that starts with some thinly veiled (and, in late 1997, extremely timely!) jokes nodding to cults like Heaven’s Gate, ending with the truism that assholes will make fun of anyone’s beliefs. Pro-cult? Anti-religion? Theistic? Eh, I’m thinking too hard about this. Perhaps if they’d thought a little harder, too, this series of ideas would’ve been a little more fleshed out.
120. “The Return of the Curse of the Creature’s Ghost/Chip on Your Shoulder Club/Up Your Mother’s Ass” (Season 3, Episode 10)
In terms of interconnectivity, this trio of skits fit nearly perfectly with each other: The Ed Wood–esque corniness of the first bleeds into a sketch about jaded, cynical slackers, and a literalist approach to slackerdom leads the characters, well, straight up your mother’s ass. A few dead moments comedically, but points for elegance of construction.
119. “Third Wheel” (Season 1, Episode 3)
A peculiar honeymooning situation turns into a tent-revival sing-along opportunity — as well as a sketch that, despite its capable twists and turns, goes on a little too long.
118. “Cloning Hitler” (Season 4, Episode 1)
Everyone’s talking about killing baby Hitler lately — but what if you cloned Hitler? As Cross memorably says in this sketch, “Get used to it, Hitler.” Bonus points for featuring a small, Hitler-mustached appearance from Mr. Show writer and future Comedy Bang! Bang! host Scott Aukerman.
117. “Jack Webber” (Season 3, Episode 8)
In which a McCarthy-esque figure apologizes for all those pesky times he convinced people to drill holes in their kids’ brains to free the red menace controlling their minds. If only McCarthy himself had such humility! If only …
116. “Ice Cream Flavors” (Season 3, Episode 9)
An extremely brief bit acting as proof that literally nothing is safe from Mr. Show’s satirical target — not even your favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor.
115. “Scams and Flams” (Season 4, Episode 1)
A 180 on the “Help Me Howard” model of investigative local news reporting: What if the reporter investigating scams was himself being investigated for possibly scamming others? It sounds confusing, and it is — but it’s also very funny.
114. “Blowjob” (Season 3, Episode 10)
What does it take to get ahead in today’s highly competitive rat race? Just look at the sketch title, man — and remember, I went to college with your father.
113. “Date With Queen” (Season 4, Episode 7)
Who says social obligations weren’t complicated in medieval times? This sketch about a queen mischievously negging her subjects — only to have the plan fall apart in her face — has the hilarious-misunderstanding vibe of a solid sitcom episode.
112. “Medieval Science Film” (Season 3, Episode 1)
Here’s a question: How do scientists know they’re right? “All facts begin as dreams, dreamt by a wizard.” In this educational film from medieval times, the “modern” mind can only handle asking three questions — so you only got two more. Make sure they’re good.
111. “Mayostard/Mustardayonnaise/Mustmayostardayonnaise” (Season 3, Episode 5)
The most disgusting thing about this triumvirate of combined-condiment advertisements is that there’s actually products like this out there. Still, I personally am happy to free myself from our two-jar overlords.
110. “Weeklong Romance” (Season 4, Episode 10)
This is Mr. Show’s take on Ross and Rachel’s “We were on a break!” argument. Of course, this being Mr. Show, the “break” includes Christian new-wave bands, blowjob contests, and a Tex-Mex cooking class that doubles as a mark of betrayal.
109. “Kissing Booth” (Season 1, Episode 3)
This sketch where Odenkirk sends away for a mail-order bride to take Cross’s place in a sketch about a kissing booth ultimately isn’t as funny as playing a who-wore-it-better with the blue-and-white (NOT black-and-gold) dress that Cross and Sarah Silverman don. Tough choice!
108. “Hail Satan” (Season 3, Episode 1)
This sketch about a 700 Club–esque show for Satanists is a simple concept made a little stronger by the notion of people actually greeting each other with, “To Hell with you.” I could get behind that!
107. “Earth Shoes” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Eat your heart out, Dr. Oz. This sketch examines a particularly curious claim — are we really in danger of running out of earth to walk on? — from a doctor whose quackery is of a high enough quotient, you can practically feed him bread as he glides across a pond.
106. “Siamese Twins” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Much of Mr. Show’s genius comes from comedic concepts so obviously clever that it’s surprising no one came up with them before. This sketch, about a pair of conjoined-twin brothers who undergo detachment and end up desperately wanting to be reattached, is a great example of that.
105. “Marriage-Con and Boat Show” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Fact: After watching this sketch, you have no excuse afterwards if you don’t own a boat or aren’t newly married.
104. “Culture Hunt/Frankly Anne” (Season 3, Episode 8)
An extremely spot-on Road Rules parody gives way to a particularly awkward situation we all know too well: How do you carry a conversation at Anne Frank’s house while you’re looking for a secret beanbag? Happens to me all the time.
103. “Most Trusted News Team” (Season 4, Episode 8)
Another TV-news spoof, this time with extremely old people as the anchors. One of the funnier TV-news spoofs, if only because Cross is exceptionally good at playing a doddering old fool.
102. “Those Amazing Actors” (Season 4, Episode 5)
A serviceable Crocodile Hunter–esque sketch that treats actors (literally) like animals. Initially this one seems like it’s skewering Hollywood, but it’s really just making fun of how stupid actors can be sometimes.
101. “Talking Junkie” (Season 2, Episode 2)
Who says there’s no such thing as a talking junkie? Cross proves all the naysayers wrong in this sketch that’s basically Mr. Ed — only, instead of a horse, it’s a talking junkie. Get it? Got it? Good.
100. “Biosphere” (Season 3, Episode 9)
This sketch first aired a year after the Pauly Shore vehicle Bio-Dome hit theatres, and it is indeed much funnier than Bio-Dome, exploring what happens when you can’t find a date while working in a biosphere. (Hint: Beastiality is involved.)
99. “Blind Girl” (Season 4, Episode 5)
Mr. Show does Neil LaBute, kind of. A blind woman is courted by two men who aren’t blind — but, in the spirit of another filmmaker, there are a few twists here that spin the whole thing on its head.
98. “Wyckyd Sceptre” (Season 4, Episode 2)
A sketch that starts with an exploration on “gay panic” (“It’s not gay, it’s a party!”) ends with hard rockers Wyckyd Sceptre finding a new audience, and a new sponsor (thanks, King Royal Butt Plugs).
97. “Directions” (Season 3, Episode 1)
Anyone who’s ever been the bearer of their own bad news — only to find out that the recipient is more interested in talking about themselves — will find this sketch deeply familiar. Plus, we learn an important lesson at the end: Never share sad information with someone who’s driving you somewhere.
96. “Mr. Show Boys’ Club” (Season 4, Episode 2)
An opening riff on sexism in comedy blossoms into a literal boys’ club run by Mr. Show. You know, like the Boys & Girls Club, if the girls were made to sit by the garbage the whole time. Funny! Also, constantly relevant!
95. “Indomitable Spirit” (Season 3, Episode 4)
You don’t kick out a no-armed band member because he’s been doing drugs — you kick him out because he can’t play his instrument. Sarah Silverman has the big moment (or lack thereof) here, as what seems like a delayed pause on her part turns into a brilliant punchline-by-omission.
94. “Victor & Dylan” (Season 3, Episode 5)
The pretentious I-don’t-own-a-TV Dylan, from second-season skit “Donuts,” returns here briefly and somewhat less memorably, though he does leave us with the lasting and effective epithet “Jupiter’s Thunder!”
93. “Nil’s Guitar Shop/Imminent Death Syndrome/History Museum” (Season 1, Episode 4)
A fairly acerbic (and fairly funny) narrative thread taking aim at human nature’s instinct to sugarcoat the truth — or do away with the truth entirely — when dealing with those who are less fortunate (or, in this case, constantly on the brink of death).
92. “Stealing News” (Season 4, Episode 2)
How do breaking news stations, well, break news? Do they occasionally steal news from each other? How is that even possible? This sketch, one of the better TV-news riffs the show ever did, attempts to answer all these questions (and more).
91. “Marilyn Monster Pizza Parlours” (Season 4, Episode 10)
A sketch that will be all too familiar to anyone who’s done time working at a chain restaurant. Getting written up is the pits — but wearing a bloody diaper? Man, that’s a step too far.
90. “Downsizing” (Season 2, Episode 4)
A satisfying loop-de-loop of a sketch capturing the doublespeak nonsense that comes with being a cog in the corporate machine.
89. “Peterson Family News (KPFN)” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Important lesson to learn here: Never expect your siblings to deliver breaking news reports live on the scene — family drama will always get in the way.
88. “Sarcasmo” (Season 3, Episode 9)
A brief sketch that teaches an important lesson about sarcasm: Nobody will get that you’re being sarcastic, especially if you’re attempting to convey it through the written word. Genius idea, guys. (That was my attempt at sarcasm — but really, it is!)
87. “Hit By Truck” (Season 1, Episode 1)
A simple concept (everything is changing, constantly) with a surprise ending that, as the title suggests, comes at you fast.
86. “F.F. Woodycooks” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Odenkirk gets some more mileage out of his “Thrilling Miracles” getup in this true-crime rip about a security guard whose sensitivity (and loudness) works to his extreme advantage.
85. “Supermodel Hotline” (Season 1, Episode 3)
What if the people at the other end of phone-sex hotlines called you back — and never stopped? A genius concept that maybe could’ve been given a little more time to develop. Mr. Show would go on to do phone-sex hotline humor much better in later seasons.
84. “Child Labor Writers’ Room/Bhopal” (Season 2, Episode 4)
That old adage about a bunch of monkeys with typewriters turning out Shakespeare? Well, imprison a bunch of overworked children in a dirty room, and bam — you’ve got an episode of Mr. Show. We’ll never know what really happened to Bhopal …
83. “Speakers” (Season 4, Episode 6)
You know that guy who always has the hookup? Well he’s got a line on some mashed potatoes — primo shit. 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy once said, “Never follow a hippie to a second location,” but “Speakers” suggests the opposite: Good things come to those who follow.
82. “Money Warning” (Season 4, Episode 10)
A competent “there are too many warnings on things!” sketch — but celebrity has-been Josh Fenderman’s repetitive dance, played endlessly for effect, is the show-stealer here.
81. “Evil Genius Telethon” (Season 3, Episode 5)
Lesson learned: If you don’t want an evil genius to vaporize the planet, maybe you shouldn’t tell racist jokes in front of him. Evil geniuses have feelings too!
80. “Asshole At Party” (Season 1, Episode 1)
How far would you go to satisfy a friendly bet? Yes, you can take the banana out of your ass now.
79. “Cock Ring Warehouse” (Season 3, Episode 2)
A faux-mercial most memorable for the ingeniously vague types of cock rings dreamed up in the writers’ room. Would you “wear” Pheasant Under Glass? Wait, don’t answer — keep it to yourself.
78. “Protesters” (Season 3, Episode 8)
The notion that you can protest your way to achieve anything is extremely cynical — in other words, the perfect Mr. Show concept, and if you don’t believe it, I have a protest chant that you just might like.
77. “Landlords” (Season 3, Episode 5)
The question this skit asks — when you move apartments, does your old landlord get jealous? — is funny enough, but it’s the “we are friends again” chant that Cross and Paul F. Tompkins engage in at the end of this sketch that truly brings the laughs.
76. “Watch Us Have Sex” (Season 3, Episode 1)
A sketch about how everyone has their own peculiar sexual hang-ups. I’m sure there’s someone out there who gets off on the sound of Bob Odenkirk exclaiming, “The incredible, edible … RUMP ROAST!” Hey, it’s not unimaginable.
75. “Fad Three” (Season 3, Episode 5)
Mr. Show tackled the Beatles in the episode previous to this with a brief A Hard Day’s Night parody, but this take on Beatlemania is far more robust, centering on a legendary British band who took some of the most famous band photos of all time.
74. “On the Spot News” (Season 3, Episode 8)
Of all the breaking-news send-ups that Mr. Show attempts, this sketch, in which the reporters literally make the news themselves, hits the hardest (and is kinda prescient, too!).
73. “Books For Seniors” (Season 1, Episode 2)
As Mr. Show would later teach us, the oldies are decidedly not goodies — but, hey, even the geriatric set deserves their own line of culturally backward reading material.
72. “Marriage Announcement” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Men react really strangely (and violently) when their friends tell them they’re getting married — or do they? We never find out what makes Odenkirk’s “friends” beat the living shit out of him in this sketch, and never knowing the “why” is part of why it’s funny, naturally.
71. “Phone Sex” (Season 4, Episode 3)
Demanding phone sex from a friend as part of a bet is one thing — but what if your friend’s really, really good at giving phone sex? Peppermint may or may not be more of a woman than you’ll ever be, but he definitely knows how to make that hotline bling.
70. “Fat Survivor” (Season 4, Episode 8)
We’ve all asked ourselves how long we could survive in the wild before resorting to cannibalism — right? Uh, anyone here? — but this sketch takes it one step further and introduces us to a character who really lays into it with the cannibalism business, giving new, horrific meaning to the term “well-fed.”
69. “Video Complaints” (Season 1, Episode 3)
Odenkirk and Brian Posehn provide the hilariously indignant highlights of this brief sketch goofing on people who love to fill complaint boxes with, well, complaints.
68. “Toenapper” (Season 4, Episode 2)
The notion that a hapless kidnapper would somehow bungle cutting off his victim’s toe — even after he has the victim in his possession — is incredibly dark, and makes for some very funny material, too.
67. “Mom & Pop Porn Shop” (Season 2, Episode 2)
A solid concept — a porn shop run with the same homey sense of family as your local grocery — that’s sustained and effective even as the sketch it’s attached to threatens to run a bit long.
66. “No Adults Allowed/No Slackers” (Season 2, Episode 3)
A capable satire of talking-to-teens propaganda that takes a headlong turn into absurdist territory, with the stuck-up adults finding out how the other half (that is, slackers) really live.
65. “Titannica” (Season 3, Episode 10)
This sketch sends up people who blame rock bands for making music that influences them to do terrible things — and the central visual gag is, without a doubt, one of the grossest things Mr. Show has ever put on screen.
64. “Clumsy Waiter” (Season 4, Episode 4)
What is “creamy steak suasée”? Is that even how you spell it? This sketch has made me obsessed with this quandary for years, and I’m not sure I’ll ever find the answer, either. Oh well.
63. “Iguana” (Season 2, Episode 3)
A slice of sublime physical comedy, with Odenkirk in a supertight green bodysuit doing such a good cold-blooded-reptile impression that you might just want him as your own household pet.
62. “Ronnie Dobbs” (Season 1, Episode 1)
Serial low-level criminal Ronnie Dobbs is a notorious character in the Mr. Show universe, having been the focus of the critically maligned post-Mr. Show feature film Run, Ronnie, Run. This sketch in which the character is first introduced to viewers runs a bit long — perhaps a hindrance of early Mr. Show episodes — but the conceit is genius, and Ronnie himself is almost, well, lovable in his rise and fall (damn you, entitilitus) as a famous felon.
61. “Young People & Companions” (Season 3, Episode 4)
So much of comedy is the effectiveness of repetition, and every variation of the phrase “young people and their companions” uttered in this sketch is increasingly, gut-bustingly effective. Priceless line from the parents of the missing young person in the sketch: “He’s a wonderful son — and, I’m sure, a great companion.”
60. “Skrewballz” (Season 1, Episode 3)
One of a few Mr. Show sketches where you might find yourself asking early on, “Where are they going with this?” is also a dead-on examination of the logistical horrors lurking underneath the depths of dating shows. Ahead of its time, too, since there are now TV shows where the entire conceit rests on two people having sex on a studio set.
59. “Inside the Actor/Lost Inside the Actor” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Hate to say this, but this is one instance where Saturday Night Live has Mr. Show beat: Will Ferrell’s James Lipton imitation is just a smidge funnier than Cross’s here. Some points awarded, though, for the Land of the Lost–esque second connecting skit, bringing things back to the realm of Drugachusetts.
58. “Pharmacy” (Season 4, Episode 1)
For plenty of Americans, buying medical marijuana in 2015 is as easy as going to the grocery store for a pint of milk, but this sketch ably imagines the experience as similar to hanging out with your local weed dealer. You just want your stuff, man, and you don’t want to hear that song again, either.
57. “Ad Awards” (Season 2, Episode 3)
At the very least, a convincing argument that even NAMBLA can be the recipient of an award-winning ad campaign.
56. “Army Scene” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Never leave a man behind in the killing fields when he’s been taken down — that is, unless he’s totally annoying and getting on your nerves. In that case, it might be cool to look the other way. You do you; we’ll reserve judgement.
55. “Bugged Drug Deal” (Season 4, Episode 8)
Look into my magic sombrero — which most definitely doesn’t have a secret camera embedded inside it — and tell me this drug-bust sketch isn’t as funny as it is aggressively obvious.
54. “Debate” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Perhaps the current crop of presidential contenders could take cues from this sketch, in which a struggling candidate in a debate finds the perfect way to win over the crowd: find the most unfortunate-looking person in the room and never stop making fun of them.
53. “Borden Grote” (Season 1, Episode 3)
Mr. Show’s character names are often just ridiculous-sounding enough to be solid gags in and of themselves, and devoted method actor Borden Grote is no exception. Besides ripping on the fatuousness of professional acting, Cross pulls off some amazing physical comedy in this sketch about an artist who goes a little too far for his craft.
52. “Massage Cream Commercial/Anders’ Press Conference” (Season 3, Episode 8)
A solid bit about children experiencing high levels of stress (don’t I know it, buddy, I’m ranking 157 sketches) gives way to a Satanist-spoofing bit that’s stronger than earlier season three sketch “Hail Satan.”
51. “Good News” (Season 1, Episode 2)
This conversion therapy-spoofing sketch gets a little tired as it goes on, but the moment when Cross’s character looks into the wrong camera is a solid, gut-busting gag.
50. “Ewww Girl Video/Video Soul/Homage Awards” (Season 2, Episode 2)
In which the Mr. Show audience is introduced to Three Times One Minus One, perhaps the first alt-R&B act in existence (take that, the Weeknd). Featuring ballads catchy enough to almost make you forget they’re about suicide, as well as a riff on cultural appropriation that lands more effectively than most thinkpieces (take that, internet).
49. “Time Capsule/Drugachusetts” (Season 3, Episode 3)
This Sid & Marty Krofft–inspired trip of a sketch is as much an homage to the Land of the Lost creators as it as an outright spoof of the source material’s hallucinatory lunacy. Anyone who’s ever even touched a magical flute (if you get my drift) will relate to the paranoid exclamation, “THEY KNOW!!!”
48. “Intervention” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Interventions are always stressful, but what about when you have to give your friend an intervention for staging too many interventions? Cross wears one of the worst fake bellies ever seen in this sketch, but it does seem great for storing pretzels that you’re not quite finished with.
47 .”Goodbye” (Season 4, Episode 10)
A fitting title for the second-to-last sketch in Mr. Show’s running order, which serves as an exploration of what happens when you want to say goodbye, but you just can’t. Like, can’t get rid of the person. What I’m trying to say is, things get awkward.
46. “Old Folks Home/Deprivation” (Season 2, Episode 5)
How did the world’s most successful people achieve such a high level of prominence? Oh, just some long-term child abuse from their parents, of course. Rough stuff comedically — one of a few Mr. Show sketches that, were it 2015, would probably come with a trigger warning attached — but it’s worth viewing just to see Odenkirk as Abe Lincoln claiming, “My father touched my butthole. That’s why I’m on your penny.”
45. “God’s Book-on-Tape” (Season 4, Episode 7)
The notion of God recording an audiobook of his memoirs is ridiculous enough, but Odenkirk’s seen-it-all-celebrity delivery is what really puts this sketch over the top.
44. “Spunk” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Get your mind out of the gutter! This sketch features a guy who can’t help but keep getting fired, even as his co-workers are awarded countless promotions and raises for being assholes to their boss. Tough times out there, man.
43. “The Burgundy Loaf” (Season 4, Episode 3)
What’s the furthest you’ll go for good service? While you have a think on that one, Rudy will await your foundation.
42. “Spank/Founding Fathers” (Season 1, Episode 4)
A fairly brilliant pair of connected sketches that dare to answer the question, “Why is it so hard to take a shit on the American flag?” Tom Kenny’s inexplicable accent while portraying Abraham Lincoln is the type of deliciously absurd detail that makes Mr. Show so endlessly rewatchable.
41. “Dream of a Lifetime” (Season 3, Episode 8)
There are start-ups of all stripes founded to compete with existing corporations, but as this sketch suggests, taking on the Make-A-Wish foundation might not be worth it if you don’t have the money, power, or influence.
40. “McHutchence vs. Greeley III” (Season 4, Episode 8)
What can possibly unite two warring rich white guys? How about an ostentatiously holier-than-thou pastor? Yeah, actually, that’ll do the trick.
39. “Mountain Dougie” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Sometimes, just one line can make or break an entire Mr. Show sketch — and Cross’s decent second-season separationist character is practically cemented in memory after uttering the inexplicably hilarious line “Sizzlin’ steaks and creamy cakes.” Just say it out loud — it’s funny!
38. “Rapist” (Season 4, Episode 4)
My name is Larry, so hearing someone say “My name is Larry and I’m a rapist” multiple times in a sketch is, uh, pretty upsetting. Still a great sketch, though — one that might have possibly inspired a similar bit in Curb Your Enthusiasm episode “The Message,” years later.
37. “Shampoo” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Two crusty bros return from a trip to Amsterdam with a whole lotta … shampoo? An extremely well-constructed sketch with a punchline so potent that, upon delivery, it feels like a time-tested standard.
36. “Age War/Elderly Taking Over/Goin’ on a Holiday” (Season 3, Episode 6)
If you don’t enjoy this series of sketches imagining a dystopian future where the elderly terrorize the general population (“The oldies are not goodies!”), then perhaps you deserve a testicular electrocution of your own.
35. “The Hanged Man” (Season 3, Episode 3)
The ethical quandary presented in this sketch — what happens if you try to kill someone, they don’t die, and they continue living down the street from you? — is funny, but not as funny as hearing Odenkirk read the phrase “Baby loves headrub” from the TV Guide in the sketch’s opening minutes.
34. “Music Offer” (Season 4, Episode 9)
“Yes, Bach, get him too.” A good play on Time-Life boxed set ads, envisioning an alternate reality where the Time-Life folks are asking you to send them music. It would be a lot easier these days — guys, just use Dropbox!
33. “Our Secret Love” (Season 3, Episode 6)
The concept for this sketch starts simple enough: A couple’s having an affair with other people — wait, make that the same person, behind each other’s backs, simultaneously. If you think that’s convoluted, just strap yourself in for this one, a great example of Mr. Show taking one idea and driving it off a cliff in the most glorious fashion.
32. “Don Pratt” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Odenkirk is often at his best at playing haplessly endearing half-wits, and Not-A-Lawyer Don Pratt is a perfect example of him excelling with this particular archetype. This sketch is just like Don Pratt himself: enjoyable while it’s there, and just when you’re afraid you’re going to get sick of it, it disappears. It doesn’t overstay its welcome!
31. “I’ll Marry Your Stupid Ass” (Season 4, Episode 7)
A series of escalating dares take two men on the emotional and romantic journey of a lifetime. Mr. Show is often — nearly always — funny, but the surprisingly, absurdly touching chord struck by this sketch is rare and impressive territory for the show to explore.
30. “Jesus & Marshal (The 13th Apostle)” (Season 1, Episode 2)
What if there was a 13th apostle? And what if he was an incredibly irritating TV infomercial pitchman? Let’s find out!
29. “Thrilling Miracles/Ernie Flies” (Season 2, Episode 1)
An abusive infomercial host and a magical saucepan come together to teach an invaluable lesson: “You shouldn’t try to fly, and you shouldn’t listen to British people.”
28. “Subway” (Season 2, Episode 6)
What goes on in your mind? Who’s in charge of what’s going on? And who’s in charge of that person who’s in charge of what’s going on? Mr. Show is often at its best when exploring pretzel-logic concepts, and so this proto-Inception sketch is loopy in its brilliance.
27. “Ventriloquists” (Season 3, Episode 3)
An East Coast–West Coast ventriloquist turf war? This obvious riff on hip-hop culture certainly fares better than “Rap The Musical.” Series regular Karen Kilgariff gets the best line in this one, which is also the corresponding episode’s title: “Oh, you men.”
26. Senator Tankerbell (Season 1, Episode 2)
Bob Odenkirk is genius in the role of a censorship-happy senator who opens first season episode “We Regret to Inform You” with a filthy barnyard joke and ends up in an illicit tryst with a wooden stick puppet. Ol’ Limber Legs, we hardly knew ye.
25. “Superstar Machine” (Season 4, Episode 3)
Mr. Show had some great original songs during its run, and Cross’s bathroom-mirror solo cut that makes waves through this sketch is one of the best songs the writing staff ever came up with. OOOOH! EMOTION LOTION!
24. “The Fairsley Difference” (Season 4, Episode 4)
When a supermarket conglomerate comes to blows with a mom-and-pop shop, who will win? You probably know the answer already, but it’s the ruthlessness of the competing businesses (“Come with your kids, leave with your kids — that’s the Fairsley difference”) that makes this sketch especially hilarious.
23. “SMC/Streakers/Streak Dome ‘97” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Bare Ambition, a Vision Quest-esque 1970s inspo-drama about how one young man found success through streaking: pretty funny concept. The futuristic-streaker sequel that bookends this series of sketches is hilarious, too, but the money shot (pardon the pun) comes when Cross’s bigshot streaker Coco Robins shames Odenkirk’s streaker underdog Jimmy Montello by making him get dressed in front of everyone. Ooh la la!
22. “Announcements” (Season 1, Episode 2)
Short-and-sweet joke depository stuff, as Odenkirk rattles off a bevy of capable one-liners as a voiceover artist and seemingly threatens to break character at a specific line’s audaciousness (“We’ll bring out the kid in ya!”).
21. “Entertainment 4 Every 1” (Season 3, Episode 3)
An extremely brief bit made instantly classic by the presence of “Choo-Choo” the Herkey-Jerky Dancer, practically a GIF before GIFs even existed.
20. “Change For a Dollar” (Season 1, Episode 1)
Mr. Show is often at its strongest when satirizing the ineptitude of corporate culture, and so this sketch in which great lengths are gone to just to make change for a dollar is as comedically brilliant as it is painfully frustrating to watch.
19. “Worthington’s Law/Value Magazine” (Season 3, Episode 7)
A brief, pitch-perfect segment built on one simple concept — the amount of money you make is directly related to how smart you are — that hits hardest when Cross exclaims, “Shut up, Caruso!”
18. “Donut” (Season 2, Episode 6)
Nowadays, saying “I don’t even own a TV” is much less a statement of snobbery and more an admission that you’ve been watching things on your laptop instead. That doesn’t make this short-but-sweet riff on snobbery any less funny.
17. “Van Hammersly” (Season 2, Episode 4)
Three things make this faux-infomercial with Odenkirk as an instructional billiards whiz a brief, nonsensical burst of hilarity: the conceit itself (GED prep by playing pool? Who knew!), the clapping motion that Odenkirk makes at the end of every “lesson,” and the list of fictional horses’ names that ran in the 1974 Kentucky Derby (Batman: The Horse! Krystallnacht! Ol’ Felcher!).
16. “Teardrop Awards” (Season 4, Episode 9)
This might be taken as silly hyperbole, but fuck it: “A Mouthful of Sores,” sung by Odenkirk’s Brian Wilson–aping Willups Brighton, ranks up there with most classic Beach Boys songs. I stand by it! Great sketch, mercilessly skewering Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” to the point of cruelty — but hey, don’t stand over nature’s onions if you aren’t ready to shed some tears laughing.
15. “Car Wash Change Thief Action Squad” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Essentially an expanded — and completely brilliant — take on the motifs of “Scams and Flams,” or what happens when one man’s quest for justice drives him to utter madness.
14. “Commercials of the Future” (Season 1, Episode 2)
It’s getting harder to shock people these days — but luckily, two ad pitchmen have the solution to staying ahead of the curve, and that solution involves a lot of cursing. Aside from the introduction of Globo-Chem as a gag faceless corporation and the stupid brilliance of Globo-Chem mascot Pit Pat (“Take it from me — I love you!”), “Commercials of the Future” aggressively wields profanity like a blunt object and lands every attempted blow.
13. “The Joke: The Musical” (Season 1, Episode 2)
Senator Tankerbell’s bawdy barnyard joke from the beginning of “We Regret to Inform You” gets the full-blown musical treatment, and the results are glorious. Best not be drinking a glass of milk when Odenkirk takes the stage as “The Hated Milk Machine,” the white stuff might shoot clean out of your nose.
12. “Gay Son/Grass Valley Greg/GVG Cleans” (Season 2, Episode 4)
The just-OK “Gay Son” sketch ends up providing a perfect lead-in for this thinly veiled critique of Steve Jobs tech-entrepreneur types, which was spot-on when it first aired (1996) and even funnier and more biting now. It’s an endlessly quotable sequence that peaks with Cross, sitting on the floor surrounded by a gaggle of goats and exclaiming with total sincerity, “All these goats are retarded.”
11. “Monster Parties: Fact or Fiction?” (Season 4, Episode 7)
“The werewolf was drunk and loving the funk!” This Unsolved Mysteries spoof examining the veracity of actual monster mashes would’ve already been genius if it had stopped at the inane question asked by voiceover in the opening seconds: “Do mysteries really exist?” Bonus points for Odenkirk’s Dr. Demented–esque figure, Dr. Retarded.
10. “It’s Insane, This Guy’s Taint” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Pound for pound, this iconic sketch is almost as effective of a retro-porn mockumentary as Boogie Nights (yeah, I know Boogie Nights isn’t a mockumentary, just roll with me here). The taint stuff in here is unbelievably funny, but there’s just so much gold besides that too: “Gary! More popcorn!,” Odenkirk’s chain-smoking high-school principal, and the thrilling conclusion that will blow your head clean off (literally).
9. “Philouza” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Amadeus came out in theaters 13 years before the airdate of “Philouza“‘s corresponding episode, “Bush Is a Pussy” — but clearly it stuck around in Bob and David’s heads for all that time, as this marching band–centric homage to the film is as accurate in its hat-tipping as it is ridiculous in Odenkirk’s titular noisemaking, marching-band-music-composing genius.
8. “Photo Shop/Blowing Up the Moon” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Minor quibble (and, yes, I know this is sketch comedy): Why is NASA getting “space photos” developed at a one-hour-photo shop? And, hey, remember when people had photos developed? Good times! The second of these interconnected sketches, “Blowing Up the Moon,” is pure absurdist gold. I would personally watch an entire sketch focusing exclusively on Odenkirk’s proto–Toby Keith country singer C.S. Lewis Jr.
7. “Megaphone Crooners” (Season 2, Episode 6)
A totally delightful, terrifically unique concept with a perfect finish. A word of advice if you end up catching Dickie Crickets and Kid Jersey on tour: Remember to say “Thank you!” at the end. Kid Jersey would want it that way.
6. “Greenlight Gang/Coupon: The Trial/Coupon: The Movie” (Season 2, Episode 6)
The case could be made for “The Velveteen Touch of a Dandy Fop,” the finale to Mr. Show’s second season, as the greatest single episode in the series — and the epic tale of Coupon: The Movie is its crown jewel. Obviously, the shallowness and unoriginality of Hollywood is in Mr. Show’s crosshairs here (and in today’s reboot-obsessed climate, it still carries a lot of truth), but it’s just as easy to marvel at how movie-looking the fake trailer for Coupon: The Movie really is. Warm … and mandatory.
5. “Bad News Breakers/Mafia Mathematicians” (Season 3, Episode 7)
The adorable “Bad News Breakers” appear several times throughout the series, and here they provide the perfect lead-in for one of Mr. Show’s most bafflingly brilliant sketch concepts. By combining ridiculous Italian-American stereotypes with some seriously flawed mathematical arguments, “Mafia Mathematicians” lands itself in the top, oh, I don’t know, 24 sketches that Mr. Show ever did.
4. “Lie Detector” (Season 3, Episode 3)
A great example of Mr. Show taking a simple idea — what if you gave someone a lie detector test and all they did was tell the truth? — and pushing it to its most illogical extreme, with a punchline that’s equal parts hilariously corny and genuinely genius. I cannot tell a lie: This is, without a doubt, one of the most essential Mr. Show sketches.
3. “The Audition” (Season 4, Episode 3)
The “Who’s on First” of modern comedy, and a bit so maddeningly funny/just plain infuriating that you’ll never think of the phrase “Can I use this chair?” the same way again.
2. “Pre-Taped Call-In Show” (Season 3, Episode 10)
A pre-taped call-in show — what could go wrong? Everything. Everything could go wrong. And it does, as this legendary sketch plays to Mr. Show’s expert sense of pacing: The conflict escalates, steadily, before exploding so grandly and gloriously onscreen that it’s practically comedic fireworks, a conceptual payoff that’s as trippy as it is inspired.
1. “The Story of Everest” (Season 4, Episode 4)
The best sketch in Mr. Show’s overall run can be taken as some pretty harsh commentary on the nature of sketch comedy in general — specifically, the ever-present potential to take a decent concept and run it into the ground. “The Story of Everest,” then, takes an extraordinary piece of slapstick comedy — Jay Johnston as a hapless traveller, having returned from scaling Mount Everest, constantly falling into a collection of thimbles and knocking them all over the place — and runs through it again, and again, and again, and AGAIN. It is somehow funnier every single time, to the point of tears, which speaks to the fact that the best comedy transcends “commentary” — it makes you laugh until you cry. Watching a guy fall down a ton of times will definitely do that to you.