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The Man Show (A TV on DVD Review)

Updated: May 2, 2023

The Man Show

Season One - Volume One (Red Distribution-2003)

When Comedy Central actually lives up to its name, the result is raw and raucous. With the hilarious The Man Show debuting in 1999 (and this first season now available on DVD), the comedy channel proves that there isn't any shame in getting your chauvinism on -- in fact, its urgently needed and much appreciated. As stated with great enlightenment on its premiere, this sure as hell ain't The View.

What it is is The Howard Stern Show with a live audience and just a wee bit more structure. From its catchy theme song, which sings like a dirty sea ditty (Grab a beer and drop your pants, send your wife and kids to France, it’s The Man Show), to its closing credits featuring buxom babes jumping on a trampoline, what we have here is a bachelor party not so much at 3 a.m. but more like at 10:30 p.m.: wild but not yet out of control.

The comedy lies in its determination to serve it up without apology. “Blatant” done subtly is what drives this show across the finish line. It’s a confirmation of all things we are not supposed to talk about anymore, of every macho joy and boys-will-be-boys excuse that thirty years of sensitivity training have tried to breed out of us. It’s a frat party, but a tidy one, just well-behaved enough to sneak past the house mother. The whole checklist is here: excessive beer drinking, farting, vomiting, eating bad food, pornography, an unhealthy fascination with dwarves and an untamed obsession with All Things Breasts.

The show’s eye candy, a group of overheated girls in various cheesecake costumes called, for obvious reasons, The Juggies, are wholesome good sports, seemingly in on the joke and glad to lend a helping hand. The men in this audience would never have a chance with a Juggie once the director yells “cut,” but here, the stale air is filled with potential. The subject matter is limited, but, oh, the possibilities, man. Not all of them are explored, but just enough light is shed on the darkness that it leads us home.

The frat-boy studio audience is adoring and alive – in most programs this is a distraction; here, it is music. The APPLAUSE sign does not say APPLAUSE but rather CLAP YOU BASTARDS. The sketches are anything but subtle (Household Hints from Porn Stars, Drunks Do the Darnedest Things), the content is minimal (when they finish a few minutes early, they fill the void with more footage of girls jumping on the trampoline and no one is complaining or feeling shortchanged). You come away strangely satisfied and invigoratingly refreshed – you’re not offended in the least. Your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/daughter won’t be all that put off either, not that you would care. It’s Iron John sitting on a whoopee cushion.

In their “How It Really Happened” segment, for instance, a newly “unearthed” film clip shows the real reason for Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in her plane: she was too busy checking her makeup in the mirror in her cockpit. And a Man Show poll reveals an eye-opening fact: 78% of men admit to watching scrambled porn on cable.

“We’re here to teach,” says co-host Jimmy Kimmel, a brilliant mind for whom television has been trying to find a place since Win Ben Stein’s Money. He and Adam Corolla run about two beats behind the ecstatic studio audience, with thinly disguised comic monologues as excuses for episode themes (Drinking, Gambling, Weddings, Breasts). They pose as Everymen, but that’s a ruse: their sharp minds are wired for wicked commentary on the battle of the sexes (yes, the battle still rages on) and the truth as it appears universally to men. This isn’t easy.

For instance, they shine their warped light on the hypocrisy of weddings, a shared nightmare for anyone with a Y chromosome. Of wedding planning, Kimmel says, “The more painful it is for you, the more perfect it is for her;” of the wedding night, “it’s the only night of your lives that you are absolutely guaranteed sex;” and of the wedding ring, “If I’m spending five grand on a ring, it better be a Super Bowl ring.”

Kimmel alerts a willing-to-learn all-male audience, “We’ve noticed a disturbing trend. You’re turning into women.” His laid-back rant disregards young guys with pierced ears and the observation that “if you make more than $35,000 a year, you are not allowed to get a tattoo. Who do you think you’re kidding?” Or, when interviewing a male guest who received breast implants on a dare for $100,000, he asks, “What do you need chicks for [now]? You’ve got a rack and a right hand.” He also warns against nursing as a career path for men: “The only thing a male should nurse is a bottle of scotch.”

He cracks wise that the most dangerous thing a man can do is to pass out drunk in front of his friends. We also get an education in how many pickled eggs a drunken man can eat before vomiting them back (answer: not many, as is witnessed on videotape.).

Though Kimmel submits that his claim to fame is eating 75 Chicken McNuggets in one sitting, Corolla is the truly demented one of the two. In a downright uncomfortable vignette, he imagines himself scoring a romantic date with his mother, which includes a romp on the beach, some dirty talk and a nightcap back at his place (after all, what would a spoof of men be without an obligatory Oedipal reference?). He also steals the show in a videotaped visit to a home improvement store, in which he pretends to be a dumb-ass employee getting in the way of the real-life dumb-ass shoppers (loudspeaker included), topped with a priceless shot of him taking a dump in a display toilet on Aisle 12.

The show, in part, is a celebration of bodily functions and the utopia of the bathroom, or, as they call it, Xanapoo. When a female audience member asks, “Why are men so afraid to go to the doctor?” the answer from Corolla is, “two words: rectal exam.” To which Kimmel adds, “You [women] are used to having things in you. We’re not.” TV needs an enema every once in a while. This is as good as it gets.

It’s Letterman when Letterman was cool, back in his NBC days, before he sold out and became an adult. In defense of his co-host and himself, Corolla argues, “We’ve both been men for nearly half of our adult lives!”

That late-night talk show hijinx gets its due when the guys take to the road with their video camera. In an absolutely classic bit, the two set up a petition table in Venice Beach in order to end women's suffrage. Although a good number of females are hip to the joke denying them the right to vote, many, many more are all too willing to sign their names for what sounds like a good cause. It’s like Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” but without the cringing.

Bill Foster, also known as “The Fox,” brings a great deal to the party. He serves as an innovative addition as a keyboard-playing lounge singer who specializes in dirty drinking ditties and wacky toasts. His special talent, aside from playing with his organ and endearing himself to a studio full of testosterone cases, is to drink two mugs of beer in just two quick gulps. But wait – there’s more: he can also accomplish this feat while standing on his head. You don’t know where he’s coming from, or where he is going with this odd talent, but it’s the kind of spectacle for which television programming was made.

The Man Show is a BYOB to an anti-feminist celebration. As the theme song instructs, “quit your job and light a fart, scratch your favorite private part, it’s The Man Show!

Sounds like good advice to us.

Ronald Sklar

Copyright ©2004 All rights reserved. Posted: September 14, 2004.


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