Monday, January 19, 2009

The Colbert Report of its Era

Back when I was in high school, the most innovative, cutting edge, television comedy on the dial was Fernwood 2Nite, which later became America 2Nite. Every day, my friends and I would come to school and rehash the previous night’s antics of phony talk show host Barth Gimble (played by Martin Mull) and his dumbass sidekick, Jerry Hubbard (played by Fred Willard).

While it wasn’t overtly political, like The Colbert Report, it mocked the cultural sensibilities of the times in much the same way that Stephen Colbert does today. It was smart, edgy, often politically incorrect, and absolutely hilarious! Just as Colbert pushes the envelope by combining TV comedy with modern technology and audience interaction, Fernwood blurred the lines between reality and fiction by combining real life guests and fictional characters interacting with the pompous, condescending Gimble and the stunningly dense windbag Hubbard.

Additionally, I’m reminded by this tribute by Steve Clemons, that Fernwood’s creator, Norman Lear, has long had a political sensibility that played a large role in developing the new progressive media that helped make shows like Stephen Colbert’s possible.

I had not thought about Fernwood for many years decades, when I heard that Mull and Willard were reuniting for a live reunion performance as a part of the San Francisco Sketchfest. Not about to miss out on the fun, I just got my tickets yesterday!

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I was able to find a couple of vintage clips that demonstrate what I’m talking about. Enjoy!

Gimble and Hubbard at their Finest:

Classic Interview with Tom Waits:

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