Cable Access in Chicago in the late 1990's was...well, unique. Programming ranged from the sublime (Comics Explored, a Siskel-and-Ebert-esque take on comics with a guy who looked suspiciously like Mike Sterling) to the ridiculous (Models on Parade, which featured attractive, scantily clad young women dancing. That's it).
And then, there's We're Geniuses in France, which is a sketch comedy show unlike any other. Imagine Ernie Kovacs doing a show for HBO on an SCTV-esque budget, and you'll get a slight taste of this half-hour comedy. I had written about it previously, both on my now relatively out-of-date fanboy page, as well as when I was grand poobah for the now-defunct SBC Prodigy Comedy Community. It's the brainchild of Dale Chapman and Tim Baker, two guys who are kind of like Ponch and Jon of CHiPS, only neither one of them is as obnoxious as Erik Estrada. (Their closest STL counterpart is Matt Sinople, only WGIF's humor is definitely R-rated, in a good way)
Recently, while browsing online, I not only came across their now-moved home page, but also read that they have - gasp - two Best of videos available. Like Pavlov's cocaine-addicted monkey, I sent my check in, hoping for the best (after all, I miss Chicago television) and expecting...at the very least, one or two nostalgic chuckles.
I popped Volume One in, and wondered...where was "Kafkaville"? The infamous George Bush/James Bond parody? Andrew Dice Hitler? Sister Mary Margaret Charo singing, "Someone's doing it doggy style, Lord, kumbaya?" But I realized...what I got was two solid hours of edgy, exciting sketch comedy...the kind of stuff that SNL used to do, that the Kids in the Hall perfected, and that Comedy Central will never, ever show on their channel.
Highlights from both tapes include - "Pulp Hasidim" (pretty much a one-joke take on a Tarantino classic); "Scared Straight - Out of Marriage"; frequent visits from Dr. Francois Cicerelli & the Snakeman of Love; "The Ball Hawk"; vicious parodies of Radio Shack commercials, only featuring Angelina Jolie & Ryan Sandberg; and, as always, wacky shtick up the yin-yang. Volume 1 even features an "uncensored" clip, which is explained on the web site - but even uncensored, it's funny...and features footage from the Models on Parade show.
In short, for $35, you get four - count 'em, four - hours of stuff that you normally wouldn't see in the mainstream. Even for cable access, there's a polish and tightness to the sketches that helps them lose a little Ed Wood-iness. In short, Chicago's best-kept secret shouldn't be kept secret much longer. Head to their web site, purchase the videos, and encourage your kids to do the same. (Steal your kid brother's lunch money, if you have to).
You owe it to yourselves to do this. Trust me.