The Popculturist tries to decide whether or not to watch reruns of the cult comedy series, “The State”. Will the show’s funny factor hold up over time?
I used to watch a lot of sketch comedy shows when I was a kid. The early 90’s were a great time for that genre — Saturday Night Live had one of its strongest casts during that time, and In Living Color debuted and launched the careers of stars like Jim Carrey and the Wayans brothers. And then there was The State, which I always thought of as the Velvet Underground of sketch comedy — relatively unknown to mainstream audiences but with a devoted cult following, and ultimately very influential on groups that came afterwards. To my young mind, The State represented the pinnacle of comedic achievement, and it became my yardstick for funny for years to come.
Somewhere along the way, though, sketch comedy shows just stopped being funny to me. At first I blamed it on falling standards and — as old people are wont to do — wistfully thought of the “good old days.” Eventually I stumbled onto some SNL reruns on Comedy Central, though, and I was cured of that notion relatively quickly. Nothing shows you the rose-colored glasses of your memory like watching “Toonces the Driving Cat” with grown-up eyes.
Still, I couldn’t completely blame it on myself, either. Take a look at Monty Python’s Flying Circus, for example. It still kills after over 40 years. Heck, look at Abbot and Costello. Some comedy is timeless.
The reason I bring all this up is that I recently found out that the entire run of The State had been released via Netflix’s instant streaming service. Now, The State was my unrivaled favorite comedy show from high school. Catchphrases like “I’m outta heeeeeere” and “$240 worth of pudding (awww yeah)” became staples of my young pop culture vocabulary, and the show became my measure of funny for years to come.
For a long time I had bemoaned the fact that the show was unavailable after it finished its three-season run on MTV, so you might think that my discovery of its presence on Netflix would have been an unadulterated joy. But after spending almost half my life idolizing the show, I worried that there was no way it could ever live up to my image if I revisited it. I spent a few weeks vacillating, and eventually jumped back in.
It wasn’t as funny as I remembered it being. It almost was, though, and considering how long I’d had to build it up in my memory, that’s something. Of course, some of the references are a little dated, particularly the ones that relied on the audience being familiar with the MTV landscape of 1993, but a surprising amount of the humor held up. In some ways, having some distance from high school (and even early adulthood) actually made it even funnier.
I suppose that in entertainment, as in life, you can’t really go home again. But sometimes it turns out that even if what you find when you revisit your past isn’t quite what you remembered, it’s still worth having made the trip.
Courtesy of “The State: The Complete Series”