Though Mr. Show would often impress their audience with intricate structure or joke deconstruction, but sometimes it just took a silly premise, ran with it to the end of the line, and then drove it straight into the ground all without losing the laugh. “Episode 3” of With Bob And David is an example of an episode without any major runner or heady structural gambit, but just six brilliant sketches that all take aim at cultural targets, find the absurdity within those targets, and exploit it with that patented Bob and David wit and charm. Since the six sketches were all but discrete units, I will unpack them one by one:
The Three Shangy’s: Though the pretentious arrogance of tech giants has been a comedic target for sometime now (Mike Judge has arguably made an entire series about this topic), Steve Jobs and the like have yet to receive the Bob and David treatment. David plays Shangy, a “digital soothsayer” with Robert Smith hair and a Richard Branson-esque accent, despite growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, who mostly spouts gibberish while punctuating every other word with an excited, awe-inspired, “Digital!” The sketch not only takes aim at tech leaders, but the gullibility of a tech industry that accepts buzzwords and a PowerPoint presentation as substitutes for genuine ideas. It’s emphasized by Shangy’s “Brothers” technology that employs his two older brothers to fill in for wherever he’s needed, and the surprised affability of Shangy’s brothers who find his job easy and ridiculous. Bob excels as George Shangwell, a roofer with a speech impediment who smashes watermelons like Gallagher on stage because it doesn’t really matter what he says as long he keeps saying, “Digital!”
Shark Kitchen: Anyone who has watched enough hours of the Food Network show Chopped knows that many contestants often come packed with (true) sob stories, which theoretically could influence the judges’ opinions. The Shark Kitchen sketch takes place on a Chopped-like TV show in which one contestant worries that his origin story, a single dad who owns a bagel shop and plays in a UFO tribute band, doesn’t match up against his competitors, one who’s deaf and the other a victim of a devastating hurricane. Bob always shines in sketches that allow him to slowly boil over in either anger or desperation, and Chef Gregg Sharick is no exception as he tries to curry the favor of the judges by lying about his legally blind ex-wife and his seasonal Tourettes. But before the contestants can try and create dishes with shark meat, a cup of water, Chinese pepper radishes, and another cup of water, the show runs out of time. (Also, the host is played by Scott Aukerman, Mr. Show alum and host of Comedy Bang! Bang!)
Know Your Rights: One of Bob and David’s favorite subjects to mock are cultural warriors that wrap themselves in social causes but only really want to draw attention to themselves. In the Know Your Rights sketch, David plays Gilvin Daughtry of Citizens Against Unlawful Abuse who wants to catch police brutality on tape but can’t seem to provoke the black officer (Keegan-Michael Key) at a police checkpoint to abuse his civil rights. It’s a dicey premise, but Bob and David play it perfectly because the joke is ultimately on the obnoxious Daughtry, unaware that his white privilege affords him freedom from police harassment as he mugs for the camera with tidbits about civil liberties. It’s only when Daughtry dons blackface as provocation when a white officer (Jay Johnston), at the behest of the black officer, pepper sprays and tases him on camera, which is exactly what he wanted. It’s a brilliant attack against white liberals too oblivious of their own advantages to see that their selfless actions are often foolish and misguided, and also frequently does more harm than good.
The Most Dangerous Game: This is a simple sketch that’s made subtly funny by the details on the margin. David plays the eccentric Doctor Sherman who kidnaps Ken Jacobs, played by Bob, in order to hunt him like an animal only for Jacobs to object at every step of the way that he’s disadvantaged in minor, largely irrelevant ways. The sketch proceeds somewhat predictably, but Bob never fails to make laugh just by the way he insists on being called “Ken,” and his faux-helpful tips to leveling the playing field. The sketch does drag a little bit without taking any absurd left turns, but it does feature David draped in delicious sausages, so it’s not a complete wash.
The C-Word: Although most of the With Bob And David sketches are up to the caliber of Bob and David’s best work, the C-Word sketch could easily fit nicely into the best episodes of Mr. Show. David plays Ted Bletchley, a run-of-the-mill douchebag who liberally uses the word “cunt” much to the discomfort of his fellow bar patrons only for the subject of his profanity to appear behind him. When Ted’s estranged mother suddenly appears behind him after calling her the c-word, the government decides to use Ted’s strange power to find missing children and suspected terrorists. It’s a brilliant, hilarious sketch that takes a tired comedic premise (“She’s right behind me, isn’t she?”) and turns and twists it in unexpected ways, like the best of Bob and David’s work. It’s also a great showcase for David who was always best at playing outlandish, self-righteous assholes, and it would only make sense for him to adopt the role of a crude barfly who wants to take the c-word back “from the feminazis and the femifascists.”
Waif Nicholson, “The Man Who Changed Sports Forever”: A short, but funny take on a 30 For 30-style sports documentaries where Bob plays downhill skier Waif Nicholson, an athlete who hates skiing but breaks the world record anyway just because he wanted to be done with it sooner. The premise is thin but it still works because of Bob’s fantastic acting. Bob usually doesn’t get to work in this lower register, but he’s great at someone who’s utterly dumbfounded by anyone’s interest in anything related to skiing. His low-level frustration with the entire sport and his celebrity helps raise the sketch beyond its flimsy pretense.
- There technically is a wrap-around at the end when Shangy 3 goes to sleep with Shangy 2’s wife only to find Shangy 1 hiding in the closet.
- The other fantastic bit is the Popcorn commerical. “Don’t just corn. Pop corn!”
- Today in With Bob And David names: The judges on Shark Kitchen, which are 1. Chef Scooter Tysen, owner of Portland restaurant A Pot To Bisque In; 2. Amora Pendragon, owner of LA food truck Oink! Oink! Dead!; and 3. Chef Duke Pylon, owner of Salem Sandwich Trials.
- Other new technology mentioned at TechCon: The meHat (“The world’s first 3-D digital hat”), the Digi-Spoon ([shrugs]), and Googly-Ears (“They hear information for you!”)
- Another great tidbit, the two extras walking to the bar talking about how long it took them to be mic’d for such a short scene. “You got anything funny to say or…?” “No, not really. They didn’t write anything.”
- One last great touch: Jay Johnston and Scott Aukerman clinking ashtrays as sports anchors.
- “Micro-organisms, right? Micro is macro. Small is big. Up is down. I’m a clown! Digital.”
- “My father worked at a stationary factory and he’d bring home the discarded or damaged envelopes from the presser for us to play with. It was all we could afford. I’d spend literally hours pushing them, pushing them as far as they could go.”
- “Okay, I’m not required to have a nice day, officer.”
- “It’s okay to swear. You have a legal right to swear!”
- “An empty fishbowl? As clear as the clearest thing ever?”
- “It’s a powerful word, Ted!”
- “You fuckin vegan cunt motherfucker! Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t eat, you moralistic piece of shit!”
- “No, no. Please understand, the medals were just a by-product of my hatred for skiing.”
- “The ‘get it over with’ theory infiltrated all of society. Uh, novellas were invented. Speed-walking came to be. What else? Comedy sketch writing. Okay, that’s it. We’re done. Somebody get my car.”