Million Dollar Extreme

I love great sketch comedy, and as demonstrated on this site, I have tremendous nostalgia for the video industry of the 1980’s and ’90s. By nature I am protective of those things, out of love. I have little tolerance of exploitation of them.

I believe the modern peak of sketch comedy came with two shows; Mr. Show with Bob & David, and The Kids In The Hall (both on HBO). Since the 1990s, these programs set the gold standard. Inevitably, new sketch comedy shows are compared to them, and they seldom hold up. I don’t think The State gelled until they became Reno 911. Broken Lizard has fantastic moments; generally one or two per film. Too many comedy groups nowadays are post-UCB; all manic energy, no focus. That’s fine if the group is performing live for an drunken bar audience. TV is a different matter.

When I first discovered Wonder Showzen ten or so years ago, I was overwhelmed. It was everything I wanted to do in a TV cartoon. It was hilarious, but also felt dangerous. I watched Clarence the puppet wake up sleeping homeless in NYC to ask what they were dreaming about, and I thought to myself, “I’d better enjoy this before someone takes it off the air.” I crave that style of humor and always have. Sure enough, after a year or two Wonder Showzen became hard to find on the tube. I maintain that it’s one of the greatest television comedies in history.

Until I found Million Dollar Extreme, I thought Wonder Showzen could never be equaled or surpassed.

Allow me to get something out of the way, before we start.

Unless a person explicitly states that they are a Nazi, I do not believe that they are a Nazi, even if you claim they are. 

Unless a person explicitly states that they are a white supremacist, I do not believe that they are a white supremacist, even if you claim they are.

I have seen persons whom I know are not Nazis described as such on the Internet. Thus, unless a person plainly states that they are a Nazi, I will not make any assumptions that they are. I believe in personal accountability. I don’t believe in treating people like they’re hiding a life as a hooded hatemonger. That’s what resentful nerds do. They see someone with more than they have, and they assume their success must have come through evil means. It’s the motivation for 98.7% of all Internet blog posts.

My point is, calling people “Nazi” and “white supremacist” when they’re not is nefarious. It gives them justification to fight back. It gets the public on their side. It also gets people blacklisted.

I moved to Atlanta in 2002 with a dream of getting John’s Arm on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. In 2004, I got my rejection letter. Don’t feel bad; I wasn’t ready. Still, the salt in the wound was the slate of shows they chose instead of mine, which included Assy McGee and Tom Goes To The Mayor, from Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.

TGTTM made me livid. I hated it. In my view, the show broke the cardinal rule; there wasn’t animation. It was just static, mimeographed images of the actors. Why am I describing it? You know what it was like. I liked Sealab 2021 and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Why foul the classic line-up with this milk dud?

Simple; Tim and Eric are experienced commercial directors who can turn in material cheaply and on time. They filled the gaps left by laboring animators, with hours and hours of stuff. I grant you, there are great moments, but they are often brought to you by John C. Reilly, Bob Odenkirk or Will Forte. The general tone is shrill, with characters that go from believable to absurd in every instance, framed by deliberately glitched video artifacts and effects. There are recurring references to socially inappropriate behaviors and diarrhea.

I gave Tim and Eric chance after chance, but their work has always felt like something that wasn’t quite there, or that tried overly hard to be outrageous. Tim & Eric’s Million Dollar Movie just angered me with its wasted opportunities; the verisimilitude of the mall setting is squandered with bits like a used toilet-paper store, festooned with racks of shit-spattered tissue. Eric submits to a therapy that involves five young boys shitting diarrhea upon him in a bathtub. (Roger Ebert remarked “you know what? I didn’t enjoy it.”) The climax of the film is a cop-out so egregious you’d slug me for telling you about it.

Nevertheless, it’s a real movie, with fans, and it looks amazing and all that. I did kinda like Tim’s cooking show, too. But there’s a sticky wicket, as far as Adult Swim and Heidecker are concerned.

Million Dollar Extreme is a comedy troupe featuring Sam Hyde, Nick Rochefort, and Charls Carroll. Hyde is from Massachusetts; I think the other two are from Rhode Island. I was hesitant to check out MDE because people were raving about it, and I’d heard the name Sam Hyde associated with Lena Dunham. I prepared myself for disappointment, because I knew MDE had a show on Adult Swim. 

In entering the world of MDE, here’s what I learned;

  1. Sam Hyde’s association with Lena Dunham was that he challenged her to an MMA fight
  2. MDE‘s distinctive visual aesthetic is on par with Everything Is Terrible and looks utterly amazing
  3. The music is always incredible and you routinely find yourself looking it up afterward
  4. All three guys are crazy as fuck, can act up a storm, and improvise so well it makes your teeth clench in envy of how cool they are
  5. Million Dollar Extreme: World Peace might have been the best show ever aired on Adult Swim, and they killed it over political bullshit

Here’s a trailer for the show. It this was an actual movie, how badly would this make you want to see it? Put me down for VERY. It looks like the most awesome movie ever made, even with the fakey head shot at the end. The editing is fucking Oscar-worthy. 

MDE is the only comedy I’ve seen since 9/11 that feels like comedy used to be. It’s the midway point between Jackass and Bumfights, between Kids In The Hall and CKy. You can compare the three stars on screen to their previous vlog footage, and see that they took the gig at Adult Swim very seriously. Sam Hyde claims to have drank a gallon of milk a day to get his neck thick enough for the sketches. Two sketches (both shot in Atlanta) are honestly among the finest I’ve ever seen.

Here’s “Moms” (age-restricted video, alas). I’d forgotten that comedy could be this exciting and confrontational. That’s how Saturday Night Live used to feel; as though the circumstances were just barely under control. Like, maybe you’re not supposed to laugh. Do you know how rare that is? On television, it’s non-existent. 

Back when people enjoyed “dangerous comedy”, the following sketch would’ve been a smash. My only quibble is the subtitle; the “Faggot” kind of gilds the lily and makes it feel more like a bit from a GWAR movie (not a bad thing). Everything else; the acting, the improvising, the direction are all top-notch. Pay close attention to the actor playing the Sikh driver, when he reacts to the joke about his name. It’s perfection.

Oh, and Sam Hyde is incomparably funny in this. It’s Chappelle’s Show quality.

Have you ever seen anything like that?

I’ve been entertained watching Sam Hyde rant about Kickstarter projects on a webcam; he’s a legitimate natural. Rochefort and Carroll are as well; it’s a marvel to witness. I try not to think about the circumstances that caused these men to be cast out. If anyone were to ask me, and they haven’t, I would opine that MDE did everything Tim and Eric did, but much better.

Check out these transitions from MDE, and tell me they don’t scratch the vaporwave/antique video itch:

Watching MDE only makes me want to watch more. It makes me want to hang out with them. I wish they had an entire channel.

Look at this “Cribs” video. When it ends, how let down do you feel? Don’t you wish it would continue forever?

When I say that MDE was on par with Kids In The Hall, I’m not exaggerating. These guys can really act, and think on their feet. Here’s two sketches that actually aired, to show you what I mean. Once again, look at Sam Hyde. That’s him in the beginning! He’s the first guy!

If I hadn’t told you, would you have recognized him? That’s the kind of talent you reward with a healthy contract, is all I’m saying. You don’t fuck him up.

Remember: there was an executive at Fox who stated that Family Guy would never come back after cancellation. “Never gonna happen,” he said. How’d that work out?

Here’s a sketch from World Peace that I would call one of the best. Again; when was the last time you saw comedy with this kind of kick? All I can think of is KITH and Mr. Show.

I could go on and on. I haven’t even scratched the surface as far as Nick and Charls go. Charls Carroll has the same taste in jackets that I do, and I gnashed in envy every time he appeared in yet another cool one. Both Nick and Charls have done sketches that literally made me sick, and for that, they have my eternal admiration. Faking or referencing diarrhea never draws the same respect.

These guys smoke, they spit, and probably misbehave. They are what comedy has been lacking this century. That’s the harsh reality; comedy must be unsafe. It can’t be harnessed. It must be dangerous. I am struggling not to just post videos and kiss their asses. Look how incredible this is!!!

[I wish I’d noted specifically what it was before Turner yanked it from YouTube.]

Think of all the shitty Comedy Central shows over the past fifteen years. Is this not superior to them? I’m not even involved with the fucking thing, and I felt compelled to trumpet its many virtues here. The treatment the show received frustrates me. World Peace would have been right at home on cable in the ’90s.

The ones who lobbied to cancel World Peace produce shows that are merely derivative of old television programs. They don’t have jokes about school shootings, or religion, or any “controversial” material. They favor absurdity and silliness over anything thought-provoking.

It’s a shame; for the first time in fifteen years, I wanted to watch something on Adult Swim. Then they killed it, and salted the earth beneath it.

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Filed under Bad Influences, Nostalgic Obsessions, Unfairly Maligned