The Ben Stiller Show

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The Ben Stiller Show
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
Running time ~23 minutes
Production company(s) HBO Independent Productions
Original network Fox
Original release September 27, 1992 – January 17, 1993

The Ben Stiller Show is the name of two sketch comedy television shows that aired on MTV from 1989 to 1990, 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. The series 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, and 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 pre-RealWorld and experimental Vid-Com season of 1989-1990, 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, Melina Kanakaredes, Al Lewis and MTV regular Martha Quinn.

Stiller and Kahn used this MTV 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 frequently layered 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 Yakov 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 multiple levels.

Skits in the MTV series included "The Eddie Munster Comeback Special," where Ben plays an all-grown-up and angry Eddie Munster, complete with who gets into a shouting match with Grandpa from The Munsters (played by Al Lewis) while trying to stage a serious moment from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. In somewhat of a foreshadowing of his subsequent series, 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 who 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. As a funny side note Jeff Vespa played the alien chicken man that Ben fights in that episode. 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.

The MTV 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. Pilot (September 27, 1992)
  2. With Bobcat Goldthwait (October 4, 1992)
  3. With James Doohan (October 18, 1992)
  4. On Melrose Avenue (October 25, 1992)
  5. With Colin Quinn (November 1, 1992)
  6. With Sarah Jessica Parker (November 8, 1992)
  7. With Rob Morrow (November 15, 1992)
  8. With Garry Shandling (December 6, 1992)
  9. With Flea (December 13, 1992)
  10. With Dennis Miller (December 20, 1992)
  11. At the Beach (January 3, 1993)
  12. The Last Fox Episode (January 17, 1993)
  13. The Lost Episode (not part of the original run; premiered on Comedy Central on August 26, 1995)[3]

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.[4][5]

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


In 2012 there was a reunion at the New York Comedy Festival with the original cast members.[6][7] 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.[8]


  1. ^ "The New York Comedy Festival Announces Additional Shows To 2012 Schedule - New York Times". 2012-09-21. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  2. ^ "The Ben Stiller Show | DVD Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  3. ^ Bianculli, David. "See Ben Rerun". Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Ben Stiller Show : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  5. ^ Wolk, Josh (2003-12-05). "Stiller Standing". Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  6. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (2012-09-21). "'Ben Stiller Show' Reunion Is Set for New York Comedy Festival -". Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  7. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (2012-09-22). "ARTSBEAT - Reunion at Festival For 'Ben Stiller Show' - Brief -". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  8. ^ Luippold, Ross (2012-11-12). "Janeane Garofalo Forgot She Was Married For 20 Years". Huffington Post. 

External links[edit]