We have been waiting seemingly forever for this day: The State, MTV's beloved early-90s sketch comedy show, is finally out on DVD today, in case you hadn't checked a social networking site lately.
For those unaware, The State was a sketch comedy troupe who formed while everyone was still an NYU undergrad. Among its members, you'll find some names you may recognize, like Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain. Lennon, Kenney and Garant went on to create and star in Reno 911! while Black, Showalter and Wain formed the three-man comedy team Stella. Wain also directed the cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer, which stars numerous State alumni. You can also see Ken Marino in the very enjoyable Party Down on Starz.
MTV gave these guys a show, and, based on what David Wain said to Alan Sepinwall (the internet's favorite TV writer) in a recent interview, there was some immediate tension:
We were in our early early 20s, just out of
school, and pretty much anything anyone ever said to us, we took as
fighting words. At the same time, as always is the case, they had some
silly things they wanted us to do, in terms of trying to make it an MTV
show and mix it in with popular culture. I don't think we appreciated
at the time how much control we were given as a bunch of 20 year olds
who had never done any work before. We played the role of the rebels,
and we got yelled at a lot, but when the show did well, they kept
asking us to come back.
One such conflict involved MTV's pushing for the gang to come up with recurring characters with catch phrases. The result were two characters who subversively parodied the whole idea. One was Doug, a would-be rebellious teen whose dad was simply to cool to make insubordination against him possible. Doug's catch phrase was "I'm OUTTA here," but part of the joke was that he'd always either flub the line somehow or extend the "here" to ridiculous lenghts. The other was Louie, who literally would show up and say a catch phrase - "I wanna dip my balls in it!" - to a giddy audience. He'd even grow forlorn in the middle of each sketch: "you've seen it all before!" But everyone would assure him that they hadn't until he said it again (causing everyone to rejoice).
Another favorite sketch of mine, one that actually appeared on the rare VHS collection "Sketches and Stickers," was "Porcupine Racetrack," which doesn't even really have a punchline to it other than the fact that it's an utterly sincere musical about a place where people can bet on porcupines racing each other. Read more about it here.
I'll return with more thoughts once I've finished watching the set, but in the meantime, I open the floor to the rest of you. Feel free to discuss State-related jokes, sketches, songs, and other material.