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Green Bay Press-Gazette

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You did WHAT to your sea monkeys?

I've watched the trailer about 15 times now and I still can't shake the goosebumps.

FINALLY, Louie can dip his balls in a pristine DVD copy of MTV's "The State."

July 14, boys and girls. Action! ACTION!

Not as in-your-face or subversive as “Kids in the Hall” or “Mr. Show,” the mid-90's sketch comedy show relied on quirky circumstances (the legendary "Taco Mail" sketch, for instance) and off-the-wall characters (Doug, Capt. Monterey Jack, Old Fashioned Guy ) to grab MTV’s young adult audience.

And remember folks, this was pre-"Hills" MTV. You know, the era that made Kennedy appear kinda hot, resulted in sweet-ass Spike Jonze videos being played during daytime hours, and re-invented the hidden camera prank show with a long forgotten gem called "Buzzkill." These were my formative years!

"The State's" members went onto “Reno 911” and cult projects like “Wet Hot American Summer,” “Viva Variety” and “Stella,” while it’s most notable face, Michael Ian Black, became a fixture on VH1 “talking head” programs like “I Love the ‘80s” and Sierra Mist commercials. Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant have also been successful Hollywood writers, while Joe Lo Truglio appears to have Judd Apatow's ear due to small roles in "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express." The rest of the troupe might be familiar here and there -- I've been told that Ken "Louie" Marino was on an episode of "Dawson's Creek" back in the day -- but really, no one came close to matching the glorious wonder of their time on "The State."

So you'll understand if it's a bit hard for me to write how important "The State" truly was. Not yet in high school when the show aired from 1993 to 1995, I was just beginning to develop my pop culture sensibilities. "The State" was one of the first shows I discovered on my own by simply watching it -- specifically, the Barry and Levon "$240 worth of puddin'" sketch -- during a random late night flip-a-thon.

To this day, it's eminently quotable -- particularly "Taco Mail" and other classics like "Monkey Torture," "Blueberry Johnson, "The Father-Son Race" and "Pants." Even bits that were perhaps too quirky at the time -- "The Bearded Men of Space Station 11," "Hepcat" and "Porcupine Racetrack" come to mind -- have become much more special to me. I laugh just thinking about stupid faces and silly premises. I laugh at the mere mention of Papa Goulash and Grandma's potato chowder. I laugh at the thought of eating Muppets.

I suppose there's a certain degree of fear when you've missed something for so long ... you know, that a show you once loved can't possibly be as good as it is in your head.

That could be especially true for a sketch comedy show that's become a bit of a hipster touchstone and whose complete DVD set has been teased like "Chinese Democracy" through the years. But I can assure you -- even as Doug and his gang sing the chorus to Pearl Jam's "Alive" in one sketch -- that "The State" holds up. Oh sweet Jesus, it holds up.

Crappy quality aside, I snagged a sweet complete set VHS bootleg off the Internet while in college, and no, I didn't enjoy the trip down memory lane purely for nostalgia reasons. It was smart. It was silly. It hit the same spot in my heart as those first time sketches I watched as a geeky pre-teen.

If you still have no idea what I'm talking about, go to "The State's" MTV page for clips and background info. You can also find a few sketches on YouTube.

Now cue Barry and Levon hip swivelin'. AWWWWWWWWWWWWW yeah!

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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