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The State
TheStateTVlogo.gif
The State title card.
Genre Sketch comedy
Starring Kevin Allison
Michael Ian Black
Robert Ben Garant
Todd Holoubek
Michael Patrick Jann
Kerri Kenney
Thomas Lennon
Joe Lo Truglio
Ken Marino
Michael Showalter
David Wain
Opening theme "Boys and Girls – Action" by Craig Wedren
Country of origin USA
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 26 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Jonathan K. Bendis
Steven Starr
Producer(s) Michael Patrick Jann
Mark Perez
Jim Sharp
David Wain
Running time approx. 30 minutes per episode
Broadcast
Original channel MTV
Picture format 4:3
Original run December 17, 1993 – July 1, 1995
Chronology
Related shows Viva Variety
Reno 911!
Stella
Michael & Michael Have Issues
External links
Official website
Production website

The State was a half-hour sketch-comedy television show, originally broadcast on MTV between December 17, 1993 and July 1, 1995.[1] The show combined bizarre characters and scenarios to present sketches that won the favor of its target teenaged audience. The cast consisted of 11 twenty-something comedians who created, acted, wrote, directed, and edited the show.

Several memorable characters were created for the show, and for a short time their catch-phrases entered into the vernacular. Often, the cast would appear as themselves and address the audience to promote fake "contests" or to deliver mock public service announcements. Much like Monty Python or Mr. Show, The State's sketches were sometimes "linked" to each other in some way: a punchline or image that ended one sketch often provided a lead-in to the next.

After years of legal issues related to the soundtrack to many of the episodes, the series was released on DVD on July 14, 2009. A State film featuring all of the original troupe members is in the works, but was delayed by 2007-2008 screenwriters strike, and no release date for the project has been announced.[2]

Contents

History

The State was founded, as "The New Group", by Todd Holoubek at NYU in the late '80s when he grew dissatisfied with the structure of other local comedy groups. Holoubek attracted film and acting talent by advertising this group as one where every member had "their own window". It was a free form idea wherein the group lacked central leadership and encouraged to act as a collective. Applicants came largely from the drama and film departments on campus. As they honed their talents, members were added and dropped until they eventually ended up with the cast that is familiar today. The State began performing locally and on campus where they garnered their reputation, followed by an off-broadway run of "Molt", produced by Jonathan K. Bendis and Steven Starr. MTV offered the group a collaboration with Jon Stewart on a show called You Wrote It, You Watch It, which was followed by a six-episode commitment to The State show.

After three seasons with MTV, The State began talks with ABC to air opposite Saturday Night Live, but the deal was eventually dropped. CBS then offered a series of specials with the promise that, should they be successful, the show would be picked up as a regular series. CBS initially wanted to develop the show in hopes that they would target a late-night younger audience, but controversy arose when Details Magazine reported that The State's network executive allegedly made racist remarks about the late-night African American television audience. The executive was subsequently fired, and despite rave reviews, with an unsupportive network and lack of advertising, the show was a ratings disaster. The CBS special marked the final new episode of The State to be aired.

Members of The State remained close and went on to contribute to other projects including Viva Variety, Reno 911!, Stella, the films Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten and the audio podcast RISK! About half the members went on to direct films and the entire cast remains active in Hollywood.

Cast members regrouped for the first time in 14 years in January 2009 for two performances in San Francisco on January 24, 2009 followed with a Q&A at The Clay theater where they screened Wet Hot American Summer. The following day they had a retrospective at Herbst Theater in San Francisco where they answered fan questions and discussed the history of The State.

About the show

The State is not only the name of the television program, but also of the comedy troupe that made up the cast of the show, as they have continued to successfully work together on film, television and in the world of journalism in various groupings. A book, State by State With the State was published in April, 1997 but is currently out of print. An album titled Comedy for Gracious Living was recorded for Warner Bros. but was shelved for unknown reasons.

The show's style of humor revolved mainly around the cast members' character acting and high energy, and featured a broad range of comedic styles from satire to forays into absurdism, although the absurdist element wasn't played up as much until the third season. Notable examples include "The Animal Song" and "The Howard Report". In addition, a common theme of the show's humor was to introduce a sketch with a "straight man" character caught in a ridiculous premise, then turn the sketch around by making the premise turn out to be correct. A prevalent example of this is the "Nazi War Criminals" sketch, in which a quiet suburban family is accosted by the FBI on suspicion of being Nazi war criminals (despite seemingly being well under 30) due to information given by the family's nine-year-old son. However, when the boy claims that "moon people" are about to invade earth, it is revealed that everything he has said is in fact true, and the family drops their ruse in light of the impending danger.

Despite being limited by having only one female member, Kerri Kenney's energy and acting range (portraying anyone from an average housewife to Nancy Spungen) led the cast to describe her as "the only girl we need". In sketches that called for more than one female role, Kenney would usually portray the character that needed to appear the most "feminine", and the other roles would go to male cast members who would wear drag, in the spirit of other sketch comedy troupes such as The Kids in the Hall – playing the roles straight, rather than in the shrieking falsetto used by Monty Python. In a number of sketches with a female character, Kenney does not appear. During the "James Dixon: Power Priest" sketch, James weds a young couple in which the bride is played by Michael Ian Black, and on the DVD commetary for this sketch, the cast jokes that "this is another instance of 'why didn't Kerri play the girl?'". In one unaired sketch, "Drag Dad", Kenney actually played a male character, but it was done purposefully as part of the running joke of the sketch.

"Contrary to popular belief", says the troupe's official FAQ, "the show was never canceled."[3 ] For a variety of reasons, including network television politics, The State decided to pursue other interests and "establish ourselves as an entity that exists apart from any particular employer or TV Network."[3 ] However, CBS optioned to buy the show after its second year on MTV in hopes of increasing viewership among younger demographics and potentially providing competition against NBC's Saturday Night Live. CBS intended to test the waters with The State's 43rd Annual All-Star Halloween Special, which aired in prime time in 1995. The special received generally good reviews (including some from critics that gave them harsh ones earlier), but due to little promotion, it received low ratings. The show was not picked up for further broadcasts.

The entire cast was featured (or made a cameo) in 2007's David Wain-directed film, The Ten. On March 15, 2008, most of the cast reunited for a special reunion sketch show at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles.

The State DVD release

The State was heavily promoted by devoted fans of the series for a DVD release. However, MTV remained hesitant for many years to distribute the show until a complete DVD set was released on July 14, 2009.

One of the factors that delayed the release of the series was that the troupe used many popular songs as background music in the original broadcast versions of nearly every episode. The State was produced during a period when MTV had deals with various record labels, via which the network could easily use many songs that had a video aired on the network in their original programming without having to pay royalties to the labels; The State used popular music as the background music for countless sketches, utilizing hits like The Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!", The Breeders' "Cannonball", Liz Phair's "Supernova" and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing".[4] Due to the large royalty fees each company would likely demand, the soundtrack as originally aired would have cost many times the amount that video sales would recoup, so The State was forced to re-record much of the backing music with different, sometimes sound-alike, songs.

The first season of The State, digitally re-mastered along with a new musical score, was made available on Apple’s iTunes store on September 26, 2006. Several episodes were also made available on Amazon Unbox as well as the Xbox Live Marketplace.

On March 10, 2007, David Wain announced at a screening of The Ten at SXSW that a DVD of The State was in production. At a later Philadelphia screening, he claimed it would be available in the fall of 2007. On May 18, 2007, during the 24-hour Human Giant marathon on MTV, Michael Showalter announced that a DVD set containing the entire series would be released by MTV sometime that year. He stated the set would contain every episode (some re-scored), commentaries, extras, and some sketches that never made it to the air.

The State's official website reported in November 2007 that the DVD set was completed, but that their distributor, MTV, has "chosen not to release the set at this time. We don't know why."[5 ] On January 29, 2008, Showalter confirmed that MTV was still delaying the release: "They have it. We've made the DVD, and it exists. It's out of our hands, and I know who has it, but I don't know why they're waiting... we've done the commentary and the deleted material and all that stuff, but I just don't know when it's coming out. "[6]

In 2009, some episodes of the series were made available in a free streaming format on the video website Joost.[7] As of mid-April 2009, three episodes were added to the site.

In an April 2009 interview with scifiwire.com, Thomas Lennon reported a final DVD release date of July 14, 2009; a date which thestate.mtv.com also verified. To promote the release of the series on DVD, Comedy Central, MTV, and MTV2 all aired select episodes of The State.

Reviews

TV.com says many of The State's "sketches remain funny to this day and — unlike most shows of the age — would not be considered dated or stale... Even the few mediocre sketches on the show are better than 99% of today's sketch comedy."[8 ] In response to MTV's apathy towards releasing the series on DVD, TV.com says, "If you have copies of this show on tape, back them up, digitize them, preserve and cherish them."[8 ]

The State film

The State are "reuniting for a movie about American history" for Comedy Central, but the movie has been delayed "because of the writers' strike", so a release date is not yet available.[6]

Cast list

The 11 members of the cast from 1994.

Theme song

The opening sequence was set to "Boys and Girls – Action" by Craig Wedren of Shudder To Think and Eli Janney of Girls Against Boys. The song is built around a sample of the Nation of Ulysses song "The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken By Storm".

Recurring characters

The cast (most notably David Wain) have repeatedly said that they were not interested in creating recurring characters, but were repeatedly pressured by the network to emulate Saturday Night Live in this manner.

Doug
Played by Michael Showalter. A high school student who is a wannabe rebel. His usually pointless struggles against surprisingly permissive and understanding authority figures. Doug's catchphrase is a wan "I'm outta heeeerrre." A memorable sketch has Doug's father Don (Lennon) questioning him on his drug use. Doug replies "Drugs?! Hey man, I'm Doug, not Bob Dylan." His father asks him if he even knows who Bob Dylan is. Doug replies "No...but I know he died of drugs." Doug's father then tells him Bob Dylan is alive and well, and that he in fact produced his last three albums, to which Doug replies, "Oh, you mean Uncle Robert?" He would often be followed by a group of friends (usually played by Ken Marino, Kerri Kenney, Michael Patrick Jann, and Joe Lo Truglio), who would inevitably find the authority figure cooler than Doug and decide to hang with them instead. Doug's father, Don, is played by Thomas Lennon and appears in the "Doug" sketches in 102, 204 and 305.

Appearances: 102: "Doug & Dad", "Captain Monterey Jack: Lights", 103: "Captain Monterey Jack: Shoes", 106: "Doug & Principal", "Captain Monterey Jack: Cheese", 204: "Doug III", 302: "Kabuki Doug", 305: "Doug IV"

Louie
Played by Ken Marino. One of the more ironic characters on the show, parodying sketch comedy characters who rely on catchphrases. Louie is a genial fellow with a strong desire to dip his "balls" (actual golf balls, although the innuendo was certainly intentional) in various things. His catchphrase, naturally, is a very enthusiastic "I wanna dip my balls in it!" One of the more memorable Louie sketches placed him at The Last Supper, in which Louie and his catchphrase distract the Twelve Apostles from Jesus' speech concerning his fate. Louie would often tire of the gag halfway through the sketch, because he feels that it has "been done", but would be encouraged by the loving crowd to continue. The punch line was that Louie would tell them they knew what he was going to say, they would say they didn't but would then shout it along with him. According to DVD commentaries, "Louie" was originally a recurring character who would only appear one time. MTV wanted a recurring character with a catchphrase, and the sketch was a "fuck you" to executives. According to a DVD commentary, "Louie" became a recurring character because "We liked it!"

Appearances: 102: "Louie", 103: "Louie II", 302: "Kabuki Doug", 303: "Louie & the Last Supper", 305: "Doug IV"

Barry and Levon
Played by Thomas Lennon and Michael Ian Black, respectively. Suave swingers of ambiguous sexual orientation. Their most notable moment was a sketch in which they had purchased and prepared $240 worth of pudding, which sat in a pile that they proceeded to sweet-talk and dance with. This is another sketch which fell victim to a compromised soundtrack when released on iTunes. It was originally accompanied with "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye. It would also appear that the music was played on camera, as the dialogue between Barry and Levon looks like it's been overdubbed. According to a DVD commentary, "$240 Worth of Pudding" was written by Black and Lennon.

Appearances: 106: "240 Dollars Worth of Pudding", 203: "Barry and Levon", 302: "Kabuki Doug", 303: "Deathfight 5000", 306: "Planet Groovy"

Old-Fashioned Guy
Played by Thomas Lennon. A country man who clings to antiquated, sometimes primitive beliefs, which seem absurd in modern society. "Call me old fashioned ... but I think we should worship the sun and moon as powerful gods, and fear them."

Appearances: 102: "Old Fashioned Guy 1", "Old Fashioned Guy 2", 106: "Old Fashioned Guy", 107: "Old Fashioned Guy"

James Dixon
Played by Thomas Lennon. A conniving, hard-driving ex-Hollywood agent who lands himself very unlikely careers (high school guidance counselor, Catholic priest, Jedi talent agent) and applies his showbiz tactics to his new positions. "You can't bargain with God. But you can bargain with me, and I can bargain with God." According to DVD commentaries, the character was based on the group's agent, James Dixon.

Appearances: 107: "James Dixon: Guidance Counselor", 201: "James Dixon: Power Priest", 313: "Dixon: Jedi Talent Agency"

Barry Toink
Played by Joe Lo Truglio. An extremely wordy high school jock. He is the focus of the season 2 sketch "Bookworm" in which he tries to find the word for "one who loves books" so that he can make fun of a nerd in the cafeteria. He is one of the recurring characters, along with Doug, Louie, and Barry and Levon, featured in "Kabuki Doug."

Appearances: 103: "Antonio", 203: "Bookworm", 302: "Kabuki Doug"

Captain Monterey Jack
Played by Michael Ian Black. A nonsense-spewing motivational speaker, a parody of similar anti-drug or alcohol abuse spots aired on MTV at the time). "And remember, bbbbring, bbbring... Hello, cheese? NO! Cheese can't dial a phone." Doug (see above) made his first appearances in the Capt. Monterey Jack sketches.

Appearances: 102: "Captain Monterey Jack: Lights", 103: "Captain Monterey Jack: Shoes", 106: "Captain Monterey Jack: Cheese"

The Jew, the Italian, and the Redhead Gay
Played by David Wain, Ken Marino, and Kevin Allison, respectively. Good-naturedly broad stereotypes, introduced after an announcement from The State that in the future, they would "try to avoid stereotyping of any kind". The three are at first roommates, later crime-fighters in the style of Charlie's Angels who track down villains based on additional stereotypes (they succeed in catching an Irish criminal after finding him at a bar). According to a DVD commentary, the original sketch was written by Marino, Allison, and Wain.

Appearances: 301: "The Jew, the Italian, and the Redhead Gay", 308: "Jew II, pt. 1", "Jew II, pt. 2"

Inbred Brothers
Emmett played by Thomas Lennon. Lyle played by Ben Garant. Two very stupid inbred hillbilly brothers who spend a lot of time hitting themselves on the head. What would have been the first "Inbred Brothers" sketch was shot for season one but never aired. Catchphrase-( Emmett:) "What am I doin'?"

Appearances: 205: "Inbred Brothers", 311: "Inbred Brothers - Army"

Memorable sketches

Some memorable one-off sketches include:

  • Blueberry Johnson, a behind-the-scenes veteran in the television industry (Showalter) who happens to have a high squeaky voice a large blue afro, and is shaped like a blueberry. He pitches his new show called "Blueberry Muffins in the Morning... with Blueberry Johnson" to his producers, but they unanimously decide that he would not be a good host for a children's show. At his wits end, Blueberry exclaims to one of the producers, "I'M A FREAK OF NATURE, BRUCE! I can not honestly believe that you're being this much of a moron. I have a decade of experience in children's television, I'm a tireless worker, kids love me, and to top it all off, I LOOK LIKE A FUCKING BLUEBERRY! Whoa! whoa! whoa!" After a little more "persuading", Blueberry leaves the pitch meeting feeling victorious. However, once he's gone, they decide someone else would be perfect for the show... Richard Dreyfuss. According to the DVD commentary, the sketch was written by Showalter.
  • The Bearded Men of Space Station 11, in which the titular men attempt to convince their commanding officer that men can grow beards in space, and that they are thus not aliens. According to a DVD commentary, the sketch was written by Showalter.
  • The Luckiest Man In The World, after Showalter's character "Doug" is described as "the second luckiest guy in the world", we are shown a clip of the actual "luckiest guy in the world" (Marino), a family man who is revealed to be having an affair with a woman named Jill who shows up at his house distraught and announces the affair to his family. Despite this happening, he is somehow able to defuse the situation entirely simply by telling Jill that his wife is dead (despite the fact that she is clearly sitting at the table) and convincing her to wait at a motel for him, then telling his wife that "Jill" does not exist and that he doesn't know what she's talking about, despite mentioning her several times and even giving her the number at the motel to call if she needs him.
  • Porcupine Racetrack, a short musical in which the slowest porcupine in town attempts to win a race and thereby save an orphanage. During the introduction, Thomas Lennon claims that MTV specifically asked the cast not to perform this sketch, and the reason later becomes clear: the sketch has no actual jokes, it simply describes the events that take place. The DVD commentary states that, while, Lennon had written the intro and sketch at the same time, and the intro was originally just a joke, MTV actually didn't want the group to do the sketch.
  • The Barry Lutz Show (aka "Monkey Torture"), in which scientist Thomas Lennon describes his experiments involving the torture of monkeys to interviewer Barry Lutz (Black), saying that he has proven that "They hate it." On the DVD commentary, it's hinted that Lennon wrote the sketch. (Lennon states that "Barry" is a name he would frequently use, and that "I think my name is 'Martin Crank.'")
  • Kabuki Doug, an adaptation of Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s The Love Suicides at Sonezaki (Sonezaki Shinjū 曾根崎心中) for many of the show’s recurring characters including Barry and Levon, as well as Louie, performed entirely in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • Mean Ass Sal (Joe Lo Truglio) and Frankie the Pig (Showalter), a pair of elderly men who like to sit by the freeway and wave to cars driving by, but they sit too close to the highway. According to the DVD commentary, the sketch was written by Trugilo and Showalter.
  • Barry Toink (Truglio) and Gil Noonan (Showalter), a young high-school jock on a quest to find the word for "one who loves books" and his dysfunctional guidance counselor. "Have you tried Bibliophile?" Barry also appeared in "Antonio" (first appearance) and "Kabuki Doug" (last appearance).
  • Grandma's Potato Chowder: after their friend (Truglio) mentions he enjoys his grandmother's potato chowder, three friends (Marino, Lennon, and Showalter) make constant sexual innuendo. Their jokes are halted when their friend freely admits, "Yes, I go to my grandma's and eat soup. And yes, then I have sex with her." After a beat, the friends ignore the revelation and continue making fun of him.
  • Sid and Nancy on $7,000 Pyramid: Garant and Kenney portray Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. The notorious punk couple participate in a game show (hosted by Lennon). However, they cannot wrap their minds around the concept and fail miserably. Memorably Nancy recalls a dream in which the couple owns a puppy that they "loved so much, that we ate it." Later, Sid cannot remember lyrics to Sex Pistols songs and they lose. The sketch was taped for the shows pilot, and, according to the DVD commentary, was a "trunk sketch" from the group's stage performances.
  • Pants: Michael Ian Black plays a man unlucky with love until Garant lets him in on a little secret. He will have a better chance meeting women if he were to try wearing pants, a concept Black has previously not heard of. Upon visiting a clothing store, the salesclerk (Kenney) introduces him to life with pants. Notably, this sketch was accompanied by the song "Cannonball" by The Breeders. It was one of the several sketches whose soundtrack was compromised when MTV did not secure the rights to the original music.
  • Mouse Problem: Kenney and Showalter portray housewives who are tormented by Slash (played by Marino), at the time most famous as the guitar player for Guns N' Roses. They chase him throughout the house, eventually capturing him by placing a bottle of Jack Daniel's in a giant mouse trap. Again, the original soundtrack has been removed from the iTunes and DVD release as the sketch climaxed with the end solo of Guns N' Roses' "November Rain". Two weeks later, Kenney's character discloses to Showalter that Slash is finally gone but now they have fleas, which of course turns out to be Michael "Flea" Balzary, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  • The Laupin Variety Show, the skit that forms the basis for the offshoot comedy series Viva Variety. This skit is a spoof of variety shows from the Eastern Bloc of Europe.
  • MTV Sports with Dan Cortese features the MTV Sports' boisterous and obnoxious take on a mild sport such as golf, where normally sports which were extreme at the time such as extreme Frisbee and mixed martial arts were covered. Truglio plays the unfortunate golfer who is hassled by Dan Cortese (played by Allison).
  • God, Please Kill This Boy: a controversial sketch which begins with a family praying at dinnertime, when the little girl starts praying to God to have her brother (Todd Holoubek) killed. Soon after, more and more people including the town pastor (Allison) and Jesus himself (Michael Patrick Jann) start showing up in the family's dining room all praying to have that boy killed. The boy later asks to be excused from the dinner table when Jesus then says "watch your back". In an ironic twist, the boy says offside to the audience "what they don't know is that me and God are like this", then "God" appears as a biker, with whom the boy rides off.
  • Service With A Smile (aka "Burger Hut"): a fast-food cashier (Garant) is polite and professional with his customers, but loudmouthed and abusive to Carl (Holoubek), his sullen assistant. When a customer (Lo Truglio) complains, the manager (Allison) and owner (Marino) prove to be equally psychotic; the owner beats up the rest of the staff before leaving.
  • Monkeys Do It. Four Italian-American teenage friends - Joey (Lo Truglio), Tony (Marino), Anthony (Showalter) and Joseph (Black) are hanging out in Tony's basement, bored on their summer vacation. Joseph suggests they go to the zoo to watch the monkeys "do it." They go on to get in some digs at Anthony's sister (a "beautiful girl with a very hairy face") and debate over whether or not penguins are "natural" (Anthony claims they were chemically man-made "like The Incredible Hulk" and that the Bible never mentions penguins). Tony's sister Gina (Kenney) and her best friend Sherry (Holoubek) come downstairs, demanding that the boys take them along or else Gina will tell their mother about Tony's "perversion." Gina and Tony bicker, then everyone else starts shouting, until Gina and Tony's mother (Lennon) comes down to see what the ruckus is. After Gina tells Ma that the boys were planning to go to the zoo to watch the monkeys "do it," Ma insists they all have "dirty minds" and that the monkeys don't "do it" - rather, they "make love." She then describes how the monkeys would do such a thing, then asks Tony to grab her video camera and Joey to get her car so they can go to the zoo and "watch the monkeys make amore." The characters were reprised later that season in a Thanksgiving-themed sketch, with several additional characters. According to the DVD commentary, the original sketch was written by Marino, Black, and possibly a forgotten co-writer/co-writers (possibly either Truglio or Showalter)
  • Sea Monkeys: When a homeowner (Allison) is about to go on vacation, he asks his friend Dan (Truglio) to take care of his house, and the sea monkeys he has had since he was five. As Allison goes to check last minute things, the sea monkeys, the size of full grown men (Marino, Garant, and Black), try and take revenge on Dan, who accidentally spilled his sea-monkeys when he was a kid. At the end, Allison invites the sea monkeys along with him on vacation.

Other shows featuring the cast

See also

References

External links








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