The State

I wanna dip my balls in this show.

I’m embarrassed to admit that, despite knowing about Stella and The State for years, I had never actually watched their shows until recently. But I feel like I finally filled in the brain holes… with $240 worth of pudding.

Inside jokes aside, this show is phenomenal. Boiling it down to the “alternative to Saturday Night Live” would be too simple, because that’s not what it is at all. It’s got the sketch element, and the comedy element, and the ensemble element, but it’s got a raw, hasty feeling to it that SNL probably scoffed at. Which isn’t to say that SNL isn’t bad; if you know me, you know I’ll be loyal to that show until Lorne Michaels decides to retire, which is never. But I digress. The State is cold, hard proof that there’s way more out there than Weekend Update, and that the “way more” is even ballsier because it’s not on network television.

This show only ran for a couple years, which somehow translates to four seasons, which makes no sense. I’m not questioning it, though, because it brought us eleven comedic geniuses. Mavericks, I dare say. I’d have to argue that Michael Ian Black, Tom Lennon, and Ken Marino are at the head of the pack. As confirmed in the special features (which are bountiful on the “complete series” DVD set, I might add), MIB is the hammiest of hams. You can’t take your eyes off of him when he’s on the screen, because his face turns to rubber and his eyes always have a glimmer in them. His pronunciations are wacky, his timing is far superior to his castmates’, and his face is just so darn cute. It’s no wonder he went on to be the favorite in… pretty much everything else he’s done. Tom Lennon (along with Ben Garant) is now a hugely prolific Hollywood comedy writer, but I think his screen presence is sorely underrated. He has this super-mature face and demeanor, which juxtaposes so well with whatever silly, immature things he utters. In fact, he’s the man behind my favorite State sketch. (Or at least I think he is. There are too many favorites to count.)

And then there’s ol’ Ken Marino, who, let’s face it, was a COMPLETE HUNK BACK THEN. HOLY CRAP! He’s aged pretty well, as is evidenced in Childrens Hospital and Party Down, but I was genuinely surprised when I saw how chiseled he was in The State. He’s also funny. I probably didn’t need to write that sentence, but I did. It happened.

Of course, Michael Showalter also scored himself a sweet career, specifically alongside the likes of MIB and David Wain in Stella. After watching The State, however, he’ll always be Doug to me.

I don’t want to recommend too many other sketches, though, because I think they’re better just watched in the context of themselves. As you move through the episodes, you’ll see the cast find their groove, you’ll notice that the sketches play more to the individual strengths of the performers, and you’ll realize how timeless this show is, despite its signature 90’s fashion and low-budget sets. These eleven performers, which also include Joe Lo Truglio, Kevin Allison, Kerri Kenney, Todd Holoubek, and Michael Patrick Jann, did something weird and special almost 20 years ago. They made due with snarky attitudes, long hours, no money, one girl, a lot of drag costumes, and freakishly creative minds. The State is worth watching and re-watching, to extract the little details and quotes of course, but also just to appreciate the undeniable talent of these people. They were in their twenties when they wrote all of this from scratch, and look at them now.