photo manipulation by nacrowe
for whatever reason, the four seasons of 90s cult classic comedy show MR. SHOW (HBO, 1995-1998) starring BOB ODENKIRK (BREAKING BAD, BETTER CALL SAUL) and DAVID CROSS (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) is criminally overlooked. an outgrowth of the alternative comedy scene in LOS ANGELES at the time, its cultural impact can be seen in the varying careers of its many collaborators including that of BRIAN POSEHN (METALOCALYPSE, THE BIG BANG THEORY), TOM KENNY (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, JOHNNY BRAVO), JILL TALLEY (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, THE BOONDOCKS), PAUL F. TOMPKINS (BOJACK HORESMAN, BOB'S BURGERS, THE DAILY SHOW), JACK BLACK (TENACIOUS D), SARAH SILVERMAN (THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, BOB's BURGERS), JAY JOHNSTON (THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM, MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENHOLE), BEN STILLER (THE BEN STILLER SHOW, ZOOLANDER, DODGEBALL), JERRY MINOR (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, COMMUNITY), MARY LYNN RAJSKUB (24, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE), JOHN ENNIS (TWIN PEAKS, WALK HARD, ZODIAC), SCOTT AUKERMAN (BETWEEN TWO FERNS WITH ZACH GALIFIANAKIS), MARLON WAYANS (IN LIVING COLOUR, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) and JANEANE GARAFALO (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, 24, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW). the "Titannica" skit was referenced in the name of a BLINK-182 song ("Adam's Song") and the show even become the springboard for a TOOL side project (MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN's PUSCIFER) and TENACIOUS D, who themselves had an HBO show that was co-created and co-produced with ODENKIRK and CROSS.
the show takes its sensibility from MONTY PYTHON in that live and prerecorded skits are connected tangentially from segment to segment with no narrative arc. this frees the material to be the focus. a product of the CLINTON-era, much of the focus of the humor is derived from lampooning the stupidity of american life (reality tv, jingoism, sensationalist journalism) and public institutions (the police, government officials, corporate america). in many ways the lack of intellectual curiosity and selfish nature of the american general public is a target just below the surface and for that reason, this show has aged remarkably well.
given the political nature of their comedy, the creators and select cast members have done mix-media tours of theaters over the years. i saw them in NYC around 2003 as they lampooned the build-up to the misguided return american military adventure into the middle east on their HOORAY FOR AMERICA! tour. to me MR. SHOW holds a special place in my heart as they were consciously articulating a perspective and using comedy as a mirror to articulate just how far from our professed ideals we had fallen, especially during a time of compliance and plastic patriotic fervor rooted in raw, uninhibited xenophobia.
again, MR. SHOW still holds up. definitely worth your time to investigate.
photo by nacrowe
t seems incredible that this book exists, given the mercurial and closely-guarded nature of TOOL / A PERFECT CIRCLE / PUSCIFER frontman MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN, whose legendary live performances notoriously find him donning an eclectic assortment of stage personas/characters/costumes meant to provoke and obfuscate, allowing him to separate his art from himself. in this manner he has continued to maintain a balance with his family and more importantly his own sense of self.
so it is a little more than intriguing that his collaborative memoir A PERFECT UNION OF CONTRARY THINGS (BACKBEAT BOOKS 2016) written by long-time friend SARAH JENSEN even exists.
this is most definitely the first memoir i have read that has the subject written about in third person, which structurally and stylistically has numerous advantages. structurally it gives the book some distance from its subject, not having to worry itself all the time with the personal feelings and perspective of KEENAN, instead allowing for an unbound narrator to integrate multiple points of view into the narrative. stylistically it makes this memoir read more like a novel, which intriguingly makes KEENAN as a "character" another entity for his audience to interpret and project unto, much like his music.
the main takeaway i got from reading his memoir is that KEENAN is the type of artist that is constantly seeking to challenge his audience, peers and most importantly, himself, to see things from an altered perspective. this need to tinker with formulas and audience expectations while maintaining integrity puts him, in my perspective, as one of the most dynamic frontman of his era (the other being renaissance man MIKE PATTON of FAITH NO MORE / MR. BUNGLE / FANTÔMAS / PEEPING TOM / DEAD CROSS).
given his enigmatic nature and numerous outside focuses (wine-making, brazilian jiu-jitsu, comedy, etc.), this memoir was his way of elucidating to his audience the common thread throughout binds them all: MATHEMATICS. you really get the sense from this book his sensitivity and delight in discovering the patterns, routines and rhythms of nature that bind us all and the myriad of ways mankind has devised uses for them, whether militarily, artistically or even agriculturally.
well worth seeking out and reading. don't worry his mysterious, enigmatic persona is still very much intact, if only slightly more defined at the edges.