The State (TV series)

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The State
THESTATEMTVLOGO.png
Genre Sketch comedy
Starring Kevin Allison
Michael Ian Black
Robert Ben Garant
Todd Holoubek
Michael Patrick Jann
Kerri Kenney-Silver
Thomas Lennon
Joe Lo Truglio
Ken Marino
Michael Showalter
David Wain
Theme music composer Craig Wedren
Opening theme "Boys and Girls – Action" by Craig Wedren
Composer(s) Theodore Shapiro
Craig Wedren
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 28 (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
Website
Production website

The State is a half-hour sketch-comedy television show, originally broadcast in the USA 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 catchphrases 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, 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 the 2007-2008 screenwriters strike, and no release date for the project has been announced.[2]

History[edit]

The State was founded, as "The New Group", by Todd Holoubek at NYU in the late 1980s 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.

The show was a ratings disaster due to an unsupportive network and lack of advertising. 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 podcast RISK! About half the members went on to direct films and the entire cast remains active in the entertainment industry.

The entire cast regrouped for the first time in 14 years for two performances at SF Sketchfest, The San Francisco Comedy Festival, 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 fans' questions and discussed the history of The State.

Nine members of the group (minus Allison and Holoubek) reunited on the January 28, 2014 broadcast of the Comedy Central game show @midnight, which is produced by Lennon and Garant. Showalter, Kenny-Silver, and Black were contestants.

About the show[edit]

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. After being unearthed from the Warner vault, it was finally released in September 2010 by Rhino/Handmade via rhino.com. With liner notes written by the troupe, the packaging is notable for having, perhaps, the longest printed booklet ever included in a CD package.

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 was not 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. An 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 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 commentary 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. On the series' DVD commentary, cast members revealed that MTV had offered contract for a guaranteed 65 additional shows, but the cast turned it down to leave to CBS, against their agent's advice.

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[edit]

A DVD release was eagerly anticipated by fans of the show. However, MTV remained reluctant 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 DVD release date of July 14, 2009, a date which was also verified on thestate.mtv.com. To promote the release of the series on DVD, Comedy Central, MTV, and MTV2 all aired select episodes of The State.

Reviews[edit]

In January 1994, the Daily News[disambiguation needed] TV guide called the show "so terrible it deserves to be studied".[8] Entertainment Weekly called the show "significantly less than sporadically funny" and gave it a C- rating.[9] 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."[10]

The State film[edit]

In 2008, the group was reported to be "reuniting for a movie about American history" for Comedy Central, but the movie was delayed at the time "because of the writers' strike" of 2007-2008.[6] The working title is This American Sandwich.

The State album[edit]

Recorded at Compass Point Studios in 1996, "Comedy For Gracious Living," an album by The State cast members, was finally released by Rhino Records on September 20, 2010. The 25 track release features cuts such as "Skip This Track (They Were Drunk)" and "Kerri's one Second Noise."[11]

Cast list[edit]

Theme song[edit]

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 samples of the Nation of Ulysses songs "The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken By Storm" ("Boys and girls!") and "The Hickey Underworld" ("Action! Action!").

Recurring characters[edit]

The cast (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 and wannabe rebel who pointlessly 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, Kerry 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 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 also appears that the music was played on camera, as, according to the DVD commentary, the dialogue between Barry and Levon has been overdubbed. According to a DVD commentary, "$240 Worth of Pudding" was written by Black and Lennon.

Appearances: 104: "$240 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 gentleman 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"

Monkeys Do It
Joey played by Joe Lo Truglio, Tony played by Ken Marino, Anthony played by Michael Showalter, Joseph played by Michael Ian Black, Tony's mother played by Thomas Lennon, Gina played by Kerri Kenney, Sherry played by Todd Holoubek. Tony, Anthony, Joseph and Joey are four Italian-American teenage friends who hang out in Tony's basement. In the first sketch, they are 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 and her best friend Sherry 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 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 Lo Truglio or Showalter)

Appearances: 301: "Monkeys Do It", 307: "Monkeys Do It II"

Other works featuring the cast[edit]

NoN - regular cast member Featured article - guest appearance - directed
Actor Viva Variety Random Play Reno 911! Reno 911!: Miami Stella Wainy Days Reaper Childrens Hospital Party Down Michael and Michael Have Issues Burning Love They Came Together
Thomas Lennon NoN NoN NoN Featured article Featured article Featured article Featured article
Kerri Kenney NoN NoN NoN Featured article Featured article Featured article Featured article
Michael Ian Black NoN NoN Featured article NoN NoN Featured article NoN NoN NoN Featured article
Ben Garant NoN NoN NoN/
Joe Lo Truglio Featured article NoN Featured article Featured article Featured article Featured article Featured article NoN
Kevin Allison Featured article Featured article Featured article
Ken Marino Featured article Featured article Featured article Featured article NoN NoN NoN NoN / Featured article
David Wain NoN Featured article Featured article NoN NoN NoN / Featured article Featured article/
Michael Patrick Jann Featured article
Michael Showalter NoN Featured article NoN Featured article NoN Featured article

See also[edit]

  • List of The State Episodes
  • Wet Hot American Summer - Directed by David Wain, and co-written by Wain and Showalter, features many of the cast members (Marino, Showalter, Black, Lo Truglio)
  • The Baxter - Written and directed by Michael Showalter, features many of the cast members (Showalter, Wain, Black, Lo Truglio, Marino)
  • I Love the 70s & I Love the 80s & I Love the 90s - features commentary from many State members, including Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain
  • Reno 911!: Miami - A movie based on the Comedy Central show of the same name reunites all eleven original members in a scene for the first time since the ending of The State.
  • The Ten - A movie that features eleven members of The State, though Michael Patrick Jann only appears on screen in a photograph.
  • Role Models - Directed by David Wain, and co-written by Marino and Wain, features roles by Marino, Kenney-Silver, Lo Truglio, Wain.
  • Diggers - A movie starring Paul Rudd and written by Ken Marino.
  • I Love You, Man - A movie starring Paul Rudd featuring Thomas Lennon and Joe Lo Truglio.
  • Wanderlust - A movie directed by David Wain. Written and produced by Wain and Ken Marino, featuring roles by Marino, Kenney-Silver, Lo Truglio, Black, Showalter, and Wain.

References[edit]

External links[edit]