The Sifl and Olly Show

A time slot on a major cable network is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you couldn’t ask for a larger audience. On the other, you’re the property of the company store, and you bend to their whim.

For example, MTV aired Beavis & Butthead, but to pad out the episodes to sitcom-length, they inserted music videos with Mike Judge doing commentary in character. At the time, I could appreciate the necessity of this, being that ink-and-paint animation takes time to create. Still, it was obvious that the idea was cribbed from MST3K, and much of the music was unlistenable, or not worth the mockery.

MTV pulled the same jazz when they aired the extraordinary sock-puppet comedy The Sifl and Olly Show, from 1997 to 1999.

Videotape artifacts are subconsciously comforting.

Videotape artifacts are subconsciously comforting.

No other television program has as many fantastic songs as Sifl and Olly. I hate when TV characters break into song, unless it’s Sifl and Olly. Then it’s always great.

If you’re unfamiliar with S&O, I’m gonna blast your funny bone to splinters right off the bat. You ever seen a vomiting sock puppet?

Sifl is voiced by Matt Crocco, and Olly is Liam Lynch, who also arranged and performed the music. Lynch is operating both puppets, in post-production, lying on his back with a green screen on his gut. I’d call that video the best thing MTV ever aired.

The show is deceptively low-tech. It used dissolves and wipes like a bizarro public-access program. For stoners, there were three running bits that couldn’t be topped for bong-infused belly laughs.

The first: “Calls From The Public”.

The intro alone has me in stitches, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. It was a warning shot that you were about to see something funny enough to knock you out. It didn’t even matter what the hell these puppets were using to communicate. Whatever it was, it made cohesive visual sense.

The second gem is Chester.

I’m pretty sure that Matt Crocco voices Chester, and that his eyes are rimmed with the same plastic flowers from a doormat in front of my house in 1987. His body is some weird orthopedic sock, and he sounds like another Media Play stockperson I knew in the 90s.

His intro is like the others; so hilariously catchy you can’t wait to see it again.

This was literally the funniest show on MTV.

The third bit was the “sponsor” of S&O, a Home Shopping Network clone that sold dangerous products, under the endorsement of an old sock.

His name was Precious Roy. Every S&O fan knows and can sing his slogan:

Precious Roy
Precious Roy
Making lots of suckers out of girls and boys!

Sometimes the callers or the poor quality of the merchandise would cause spokesock Olly to have a breakdown. Notice how Olly will occasionally sport different “sweaters” (sleeve). Sifl generally did the show nude.

It must be said how wonderful and surreal it was to watch this show on TV. It felt like transmissions from a parallel universe. My friend George was the one who hepped me to it, with a VHS tape he’d compiled. (The same tape that had the uncut video for “Smack My Bitch Up” on it, as seen in the Prodigy strip.)

Even one-shot puppets were hysterically funny. A rubbery elf named Paul Rogers tried to lecture about the “functions of the family”.

There’s something delightfully Lynchian about the offscreen voice pleading “PAUL? PAUL?” How funny is that shit?!?

There was a snooty striped puppet called Grout, who was superior in every way:

The intro to the show was a discordant joy to experience, again and again. See below, which includes the “Breakfast Cereals” sketch, honestly the equal of Monty Python.

This show set the bar that Adult Swim does their damnedest to reach. What seemed like random nonsense would turn out to be a peek into a living, sock-scented, craft-store universe. I don’t know what’s funnier about the following bit; the stupid way the worm says “wow”, Chester’s rage over being deceived, or the sound the robots make when their plug is pulled. This clip is an onslaught.

I haven’t even scratched the surface as far as the songs go. Liam Lynch is a musical prodigy; anything he records is worthy of your ears. I’m not exaggerating. These songs are as good or better than what was on MTV at the time. What seems like an inexpensive puppet show is actually a top-notch variety program.

In one episode, an evil sock named Stealth appeared, threatening to kill Olly for vague reasons. Watch how the duo gamely maintains their performance of “Cindy’s A Hostess”, as Stealth growls devilish verses and threats. S&O really salved the ache in my heart left after Kids In The Hall ended.

Speaking of Monty Python, if there existed annals of llama humor, Sifl and Olly would reside there alongside them.

You didn’t know pandas were bloodthirsty monsters, did you?

Even bears have heart attacks!

Despite Sifl and Olly’s relatively short run, there’s much more great stuff out there like this. MTV has announced an upcoming channel wholly devoted to their beloved 1990s schedule, which I hope includes S&O, and I pray they don’t pull down all the YouTubes. I didn’t just stick all these videos on this page for you, you know?

Comments Off on The Sifl and Olly Show

Filed under Faint Signals, Nostalgic Obsessions, Thousand Listen Club