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Almost Live! was a long-running television sketch-comedy produced in Seattle by the local NBC affiliate, KING TV. Lasting from 1984 to 1999; it started out as an hour-long talk/comedy show inspired by Late Night WithDavid Letterman, including guest chat, music, and sketch comedy segments; and was hosted by local stand-up comic Ross Shafer, who would later go on to host Fox Network'sThe Late Show. In 1989 the format was changed to a half-hour and focused almost entirely on sketch comedy (dropping the music and most of the chat segments); with staff writer and supporting performer John Keister taking over as host. For most of its run, the show aired every week just before Saturday Night Live. While much of the humor was aimed at local targets, an edited version of the show aired nationally on cable TV (briefly on Comedy Central in 1994), and more than one other show re-used some of its ideas.Served as the springboard for Bill Nye the Science Guy's career. JoelMcHale also did a stint on the show, but it took a little longer for him to reach the national spotlight. Ditto with David Scully, best known as Halo's Sergeant Johnson.The Other Wiki has a comprehensive rundown on the show.
This show provides examples of:
Arrow Cam: The "Mind Your Manners with Billy Quan" sketches, parodies of old kung fu movies, would always feature Billy doing a running jump-kick using this technique. Which could travel for blocks, go around corners, wait for the elevator, etc.
Berserk Button: Every episode of "Billy Quan" starts with the same thoughtless oaf pushing one of Billy's.
Bi the Way: Parodied in the sketch "Northwest Olympics" with "The Capitol Hill Bi-athelon." A man walks up to a woman and asks her out, getting rejected. He walks three doors down, uses the same pick-up line on a guy, who accepts, and they walk off arm in arm.
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Played in reverse with "A Woman's Place" (advertisment for a fictional female interest show) where Tracy Conway's character would set up an outrageous scenario like how to hide a corpse or seduce a teenaged boy and run away with him. Her partner would then quip something like "And a delicious recipe for brownies" or "And how to make a super-cute toilet paper cozy."
Disproportionate Retribution: Many Billy Quan sketches revolve around Quan beating the crap out of John Keister's character for committing minor ethical transgressions, being rude, or littering. Other times, it's revenge for Life's Work Ruined.
Improv Fu: This was comically sent up in the Billy Quan sketches. Billy and his antagonist would always fight using items around them as stand-ins for martial arts weapons. (In a computer room, floppy disks became shirukens; in a meat market, links of sausages became nunchaku, etc.)
Insane Proprietor: Roscoe's Oriental Rug Emporium is the classic example. The proprietor starts out reasonable, and quickly unravels like his cheap rugs.
Jerk Ass: Billy Quan's unnamed reoccurring nemesis is a prime example of this.
Kitschy Local Commercial: Local commercials bad enough to reach Memetic Mutation were mercilessly spoofed, and many of the sketches took the form of these, advertising things like "new shows on NBC" note The station airing the show was the NBC affiliate), fictitious fly-by-night trade schools, and "community events." Seeing as most of the staff had worked on some of those awful local commercials and the show had the approximate budget of said commercials, it was a natural match.
Large Ham: Numerous examples, though Darrell Suto and John Keister in the Billy Quan skits particularly stand out.
Lifetime Movie of the Week: "Give Me Back My Whee-Whoopee-Do," though it was making fun of NBC's awful "Made for TV movies" that followed a similar format. In this one, the "victim" is an alien abductee who behaves insanely after her return.
News Parody: "The Late Report" (or "The John Report" in some earlier episodes) segments were this, with John Keister reading the news, particularly about issues local to the Seattle community, and spinning jokes off of it.
One-Book Author: Many of the cast nearly fall into this category, but in particular, Darrell Suto, who played Billy Quan, was normally one of the show's cameramen.
Seattle: Where the show was based, and the bedrock of their jokes. Roughly half of the humor will fly over your head if you are unfamiliar with the local area (especially during the years when the show was filmed.)
Twisting the Words: "Street Talk" would ask a local celebrity several questions, then splice their answers together for humorous effect.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The April 1, 1989 episode had an April Fools' Day prank in the form of a fake news broadcast depicting the Space Needle collapsing. What they didn't expect was people taking it seriously, prompting so many calls to the police that the Seattle 911 system crashed. Keister aired an apology the next week.