The Ben Stiller Show

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The Ben Stiller Show
Ben-Stiller-Show-titles.png
The Ben Stiller Show logo
Created by Ben Stiller & Judd Apatow
Written by Ben Stiller
Judd Apatow
Robert Cohen
David Cross
Brent Forrester
Bob Odenkirk
Sultan Pepper
Dino Stamatopoulos
Starring Ben Stiller
Andy Dick
Janeane Garofalo
Bob Odenkirk
Theme music composer Dweezil Zappa
Opening theme "Groove Holmes" by Dweezil Zappa
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 13
Production
Running time ~23 minutes
Production company(s) HBO Independent Productions
Broadcast
Original channel Fox
Original run September 27, 1992 – January 17, 1993

The Ben Stiller Show is the name of two sketch comedy television shows that aired on MTV from 1990 to 1991, and then on Fox from September 27, 1992 to January 17, 1993. The Fox show stars Ben Stiller, Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo and Bob Odenkirk. Character actor John F. O'Donohue also appeared in every episode. It featured numerous filmed comedy segments, many of which parodied mid-1980s to early 1990s pop-culture. Despite mostly positive reviews, Fox canceled the series after only 13 episodes, due to low ratings.[1][2]

Unlike most sketch comedy shows, The Ben Stiller Show did not use a studio audience or a laugh track. This was the only Fox sketch comedy program not to use a laugh track. The semi-spinoff, The Andy Dick Show, used the same format.

After cancellation, the series won the 1993 Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program.

MTV series[edit]

The original MTV version of The Ben Stiller Show aired in 1990-1991 and ran for 13 episodes. It is not available on DVD, although excerpts from the program are featured as a bonus on that release. Produced by Jim Jones, who would go on to produce the Fox series and starring Ben Stiller and co-writer Jeff Kahn, it was a self-effacing show-within-a-show format. Part of MTV's experimental Vid-Com season, it was interspersed with music videos that Ben and company would introduce in their short comedy sketches. Regulars included Harry O'Reilly and Ben's sister Amy Stiller. Guest stars included Ben's parents Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, as well as John F. O'Donohue, Run DMC, Melina Kanakaredes, Al Lewis and MTV regular Martha Quinn.

Stiller and Kahn used this show as a means to introduce and hone many of Ben's characterizations, some of which would later be seen on the Fox network production. They also took huge leaps in assuming the audience would "get it" by layering characters in a complex sandwich of sub-referencing. Ben did satirical portrayals of William Shatner as Star Trek's Captain Kirk, Al Pacino, Arsenio Hall, U2's Bono and Yakoff Smirnoff. His portrayal of Tom Cruise was a major signature, spoofing several of Cruise's late 1980s film characters. He would then insert these characters into each other's famous performances, sub-referencing on many levels.

Skits included "The Eddie Munster Comeback Special," where Ben plays an all-grown-up and angry Eddie Munster, complete with widows peak, who gets into a shouting match with Al Lewis (actor) playing the role of Grandpa from The Munsters while trying to stage a serious moment from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. In an odd wink to his future, one episode was dedicated to showing the FOX network that Ben and Jeff could play all the characters in the 1990 Fox primetime lineup, spoofing COPS, Alien Nation, Booker, and Married... with Children. "The Star Trek Show" spoofed William Shatner and Bono and the inevitable demise of the red-shirted security officers beamed down to an alien planet, portrayed by Ben and Jeff's characters "Howie and Jordo," two college-age underachievers that were constantly in trouble. Through multiple layers of sub-referencing, Howie and Jordo jump through a time portal and end up at Woodstock and sing the "Time Portal Blues", while still wearing their Star Trek uniforms. Another multi-layered Star Trek reference is made in an episode where Stiller runs through multiple episodes of satire, playing Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, but having hijacked The Enterprise, speaking through Uhura with Leon (played by Jeff Kahn) who is his boyfriend who needs an alien change operation. He does the same kind of stunt playing Captain Kirk in the character of Tom Cruise in Rain Man with Kahn playing Dustin Hoffman's savant character in the makeup and dialogue of Mr. Spock. Stiller and Kahn were constantly sub-referencing into thicker layers of characterizations, making for very funny experimental gags that were mostly misunderstood by the teenage audience of MTV. In one episode Ben plays a radio host who is cruel to people who call in which is exactly the same thing his father did in the episode "The Devil's Advocate" from 'Tales from the Darkside.

The series' major underlying gag was of the battle of talent between Ben and Jeff, and their antagonistic treatment of each other during their "show's" production. Jeff is convinced that he is a greater talent then Ben, and spends most of his time either trying to prove this to the "MTV Head" Doogie Herzog, a pre-teen boy, or by publicly embarrassing Ben on-screen. In the series finale, Jeff and Harry O'Reilly finally convince the MTV Head that they are the real talent of the show, and they get their own series. Ben is forced to leave the set crying.

Fox series episode list[edit]

  1. The Premiere
  2. With Bobcat Goldthwait
  3. With James Doohan
  4. On Melrose Avenue
  5. With Colin Quinn
  6. With Sarah Jessica Parker
  7. With Rob Morrow
  8. With Flea
  9. With Garry Shandling
  10. With Dennis Miller
  11. At the Beach
  12. The Last Fox Episode
  13. The Lost Episode (not part of the original run)

DVD release[edit]

Warner Home Video released all 13 episodes of the Fox version of The Ben Stiller Show on DVD in Region 1 on December 2, 2003.[3][4]

DVD Name Ep# Release Date Additional Information
The Ben Stiller Show: Complete Series 13 December 2, 2003
  • Audio Commentaries by Ben Stiller, the entire cast and writers for the show on 7 key episodes
  • Featurette: A Brief History of The Ben Stiller Show including alternate versions of the pilot and two early parodies made for MTV
  • Deleted scenes: 5 unaired sketches with optional commentary
  • Outtakes
  • TV Special: An E! "Behind The Scenes" Special
  • Easter Egg

Reunion[edit]

In 2012 there was a reunion at the New York Comedy Festival with the original cast members.[5][6] Apatow hosted the reunion which featured Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick and staff writers Robert Cohen and Jeff Kahn. Bob Odenkirk also appeared via Skype video chat.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The New York Comedy Festival Announces Additional Shows To 2012 Schedule - New York Times". Markets.on.nytimes.com. 2012-09-21. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  2. ^ "The Ben Stiller Show | DVD Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  3. ^ "The Ben Stiller Show : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  4. ^ Wolk, Josh (2003-12-05). "Stiller Standing". EW.com. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  5. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (2012-09-21). "'Ben Stiller Show' Reunion Is Set for New York Comedy Festival - NYTimes.com". Artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  6. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (2012-09-22). "ARTSBEAT - Reunion at Festival For 'Ben Stiller Show' - Brief - NYTimes.com". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  7. ^ Luippold, Ross (2012-11-12). "Janeane Garofalo Forgot She Was Married For 20 Years". Huffington Post. 

External links[edit]