The new Netflix sketch series from Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, W/ Bob & David debuts on Friday, November 13. This, to be clear, is terrific news. Odenkirk and Cross are legends of sketch comedy thanks to their work on the HBO series Mr. Show with Bob and David, so anything new from them — even only four episodes, even 20 years later — should be treated as a gift from the comedy gods. You should probably watch W/ Bob & David.
But before you watch W/ Bob & David, you should also probably watch a bunch of Mr. Show sketches, especially if you’re not familiar with the series. Maybe you, like me, were too young to appreciate it when it originally aired. Or maybe you, also like me, lived in a house that didn’t spring for HBO until after the show’s run ended. There are plenty of legitimate excuses here. Those excuses start running thin, however, once you realize almost all of the sketches are available on YouTube (even if they’re best appreciated within the context of the episodes, which strung them together stream-of-consciousness style). And they run extra thin when someone, yet again like me, goes to the trouble of rounding up some of the best sketches from the series and serving them up to you in one handy collection.
So please, take some time and start getting yourself acquainted — or reacquainted — with Mr. Show.
Pre-Taped Call-In Show
There are a lot of ingredients to a good sketch, Mr. Show or otherwise, but if you wanted to keep the recipe very simple, you could do a lot worse than “Have Bob Odenkirk yell at someone or have David Cross get increasingly frustrated for four minutes.” This one features the latter, and it is wonderful.
The Story of Everest
“The Story of Everest” is always cited as one of the best sketches in the series, and with good reason. Like a lot of Mr. Show sketches, it starts out looking like one thing then kind of okie-dokes you and veers into madness. Then it commits to that madness for seven minutes.
Blow Up the Moon
This sketch, as you might be able to deduce from its title, is about a NASA proposal to blow up the moon. It also features Bob Odenkirk as a ‘Murca-lovin’ country singer and a headline that reads “Monkey Demands Answers.” It’s a good sketch.
You know how deregulation and trade agreements in the ’80s and ’90s led to today’s giant faceless global conglomerates that produce everything from pesticides to bath towels and try to humanize themselves through a touchy-feely marketing campaign so people don’t realize how inherently evil they are? Yeah, Mr. Show called that.
Monsters of Megaphone
Just a fake-documentary about two feuding stage performers who use megaphones to sing songs about scientific inventions. You know, that old comedy trope.
Here’s the problem: All I want to do here is rattle off the fake horse names in this sketch. Like, I just want to list them all to show you how great they are. But if I do that, you’ll lose out on the joy of experiencing them for the first time as read by Bob Odenkirk, in character as a billiards instructor named “Van Hammersly.” So, I won’t. For you.
“The Audition,” written by Dino Stamatopoulos (who Community fans know best as Star-Burns) is basically perfect, and an example of mining precious comedy gems from a very simple idea. If you’re ever at a party full of comedy dorks and are looking for a way to fit in, mentioning this sketch is a solid point to start from.
The Fairsley Difference
Say what you will about Fairsley Foods’ advertising methods and their desire to crush the small business owners in the area through a campaign of misinformation and suggestion, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a grocery store always have apples.
The Fad 3
“The Fad 3” is a really smart and fun take on The Beatles that also features Bob Odenkirk and David Cross in floppy Beatles wigs. Remember the thing I said earlier about how Bob Odenkirk yelling and David Cross getting frustrated make for good comedy? Please add “wigs” to that list.
Mayostard / Mustardayonnaise / Mustmayostardayonnaise
Another example of a simple idea getting taken to the extreme, with the added bonus of making you hungry for a sandwich. I mean, provided you weren’t already hungry for a sandwich. Which you very well may be. Sandwiches, like this sketch, are pretty wonderful.
Channel Six “On the Spot News”
Look, let’s not worry about how Channel Six gets their scoops or whether their journalistic practices are “ethical” or “illegal” or “kinda murder-y,” okay? Let’s just thank them for the service they provide in getting there first. That’s the important thing here.
The Joke: The Musical
I can’t stress this enough: “The Joke: The Musical” is an eight-minute sketch that features Jack Black singing and David Cross sticking his penis into three glory holes. Mr. Show was a good show.
24 Is the Highest Number
Looking for high-concept comedy that uses razor-sharp satire to reveal uncomfortable truths about our society and the increasingly powerful new oligarchy that runs it? Well, tough. This is an incredibly silly sketch where a mob boss insists that the highest number possible is 24. You’ll take it, and you’ll like it.