Mr. Show was a highly influential sketch comedy show starring and written by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. The show aired on HBO for four seasons in the mid-to-late 90's. It is noted for its edgy, cynical, and oftentimes cruel sense of humor as well as the way the sketches would transition into each other, much like an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. The show filled its ranks with performers and writers from the alternative comedy scene, and served as a career springboard for many up-and-coming comedians. The show never obtained a great deal of popularity, and was eventually dumped into a poor time slot before getting canceled. However, the show earned a loyal cult following and has proved to be one of the more influential comedy shows in recent decades.After its cancellation, the show was spun off into the feature film Run Ronnie Run, starring one of its recurring characters. The film spent years in Development Hell before getting dumped straight to video.
This series provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: A recurring theme in "Operation Hell on Earth." Bob and David talk about how their parents were this growing up, and how they want to raise their daughter Superstar better. Then they demand that she keep on working her tap dancing. She grows up to be even more screwed up than them. She later gets revenge, coming back for her younger self, ordering Bob and David to tap.
Adorkable: A few of David's characters, such as Grass Valley Greg, Fartin' Gary or as himself singing "Superstar Machine."
Amusement Park of Doom: The Devastator, a rollercoaster that is fatal to those who ride it. A news show covers it like it's a natural disaster, with local residents all afraid they'll be killed by it, then inexplicably showing up and standing in line for it.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the Hanged Man sketch, after Bob's character finds out David's (who he tried to murder) might have actually stole his newspapers . . .
Bob: How many years did I have what I thought was innocent blood on my hands? How many nights have I laid awake sleepless unable to tell anyone what I'd done? How many of your stupid poems have I had to listen to?!
Attack of the Political Ad: Charles McHutchence and Harrison Greeley III keep doing this to each other. They eventually team up against Reverend Dwight Anders.
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: After two guys get into a fight at a bar ("I'm in it for the long run, I'll marry your stupid ass!"), they get married and spend their marriage insulting and fighting with each other. After one of them finds out the other lied, they briefly separate, apologize and make up . . . then resume fighting until one of them dies as an old man.
Bad News in a Good Way: The Bad News Breakers, two adorable little girls who are brought in to give people terrible news.
Bestiality Is Depraved: The end of the Biosphere sketch. Also, the final thoughts of Derwin in the Lifeboat sketch.
Biting-the-Hand Humor: The commercials that Bob and David made to advertise their new time slot of Mondays at midnight criticize the shittiness of the slot.
In one commercial, David asserts that the show will try to infiltrate the homes of Americans while they aren't watching. "Mondays at midnight! A busy work night when everyone's asleep. Who watches television on Mondays at midnight? Exactly!"
In another, Bob and David try to decide when they'll get together to create Mr Show. David suggests Monday at midnight, and Bob likes it, because that way it will be "just for us!"
Blame Game: The Coupon: The Movie film executives. After one executive accuses another of greenlighting the movie, they all chant his name. After Bob is accused, he chants his own name along with them.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Just about every other sketch. Each episode begins with the hosts addressing the audience, which quickly gets sidetracked into the first sketch. In the first episode of the series, David transitions almost seamlessly from his dialogue in a sketch to start bitching about the poor location that HBO gave them to tape their show, then transitions right back into his sketch dialogue.
The "package" at the beginning and end of "Rudy Will Await Your Foundation."
A lot of the episodes contain jokes which seem to tail off without an ending, only for the ending to burst into another sketch later in an episode.
At the opening of one episode, David Cross grabs a banana and jokes, "Hey, who wants a banana?" as a pointless aside. At the end of the episode, some space apes watch the opening and freak out when David waves the banana around.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Grass Valley Greg appears to be this until it turns out he's bankrupt.
Camera Chase: Parodied with David Cross playing a documentary show host. Whenever the camera cuts back to him, he starts at the back of the room and slowly walks forward as the camera zooms in. This happens several times until he runs out of room and hasn't finished his statement. After a moment of confusion, he steps back and the camera zooms out again so he can resume walking and talking.
Camp Gay: Jack Black, of all people, plays one in the subway sketch, Tom Kenny plays one in Operation: Hell on Earth and another at the end of the Third Wheel sketch, David Cross plays one in Wee Time Toddler Wear, the same one in the Nostradamus sketch and another character in the "What To Think Network/Good News" sketch . . . this trope comes up quite a bit.
Camp Straight: Toddy in Wee Time Toddler Wear is revealed to be this
Toddy: Oh no! NO! I know what you're thinking! Hey look, I've got a wife and three fucking kids, OK?
The Cast Showoff: David sings quite a bit in the show, most notably in "Third Wheel Legend," "Superstar Machine" and the "Hey Mr. Teacher" song from the Up Your Mother's Ass sketch.
The Cat Came Back: A sketch directed by David in the finale. Two friends who haven't seen each other a while, after having met at a bar, say their goodbyes to each other, but unintentionally keep running into each other on their way home, much to their irritation. Once Jay doesn't run into Bob, he realizes something is wrong. It turns out Bob somehow died that night.
Chekhov's Gun: In a rare sketch comedy example, the swear jar from "Please Don't Kill Me".
Clip Show: Has three mid-season specials that are this. Basically, a recap of the previous season and a preview for the next.
Corpsing: A few times. Bob and Jill look like they're trying not to smile after the Third Wheel Legend song. After David as a fashion designer says to his lover "Extra cheese if you please! I'm on my knees!" Nostradamus smiles (which was a case of Throw It In). Tom as Abraham Lincoln almost breaks after saying "Hey, put your poo box away!"
Couch Gag: During the theme song at the beginning of the episode, the phrase "Hey everybody! It's Bob and David!" or a variation is spoken by one of the cast members in the audience. For the first two seasons, it's Mary Lynn Rajskub. The third and fourth season openings are spoken by a character from one of the sketches from the episode.
Credits Gag: Most-to-all of the credits gave "Special Thanks" to notable people not involved with the show.
Creepy Child: The Ratings child (a.k.a. Lucien) an alien who gives content warnings (common on HBO) for the show.
Dawson Casting: In-universe example: Three parents host a show called "No Adults Allowed" in which they play teenagers talking about all the things they should/shouldn't be doing. They then accuse the "real" teenager who won't go along with their show, accusing their generation of being slackers.
DVD Commentary: The show's DVDs all contain creator commentaries. Many of them feature the cast members performing impromptu bits in various characters.
Eleventy Zillion: The Philouza sketch features the "Eleventy-Twelfth President of the United States."
Even Evil Has Standards: The audience gets so disgusted with the pro-NAMBLA psa during The Awards for Advertising American Ads that even a member of NAMBLA takes offense.
Evil Sounds Deep: Lucien the ratings child has a deep man's voice, despite being a kid.
Fake Brit: Bob a few times, most notably as Terry Twillstein and Ernie. The latter might be one in-universe.
The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: The mid-season (between seasons 3 and 4) clip show "Mr. Show and the Incredible, Fantastical News Report." To a lesser extent, the mid-season (seasons 1 and 2) special "Fantastic Newness."
Fantastic Racism: "Racist in the Year 3,000" is about the last white human in the universe, who's equally racist against all manner of aliens because they're not white either.
Also towards slackers in "The Biggest Failure in Broadway History." To the point where they have their own crappy drinking fountains and they get hosed at "No Slackers Allowed" locations.
Finger in the Mail: Parodied in a sketch in which a kidnapper calls the wealthy father of the boy he's kidnapped and demands to know whether he received his son's toe in the mail to prove his serious intent. Except he forgot to mail the toe. And he appears to have accidentally removed his own toe, instead of one of the kid's. And he's already released the kid. And the police are able to track his call while he's dithering about all of this. The kidnapper ends up trying to sell the father his own toe for $50.00. Obviously, he's not a very effective kidnapper.
Foreigner For A Day: A man gets the government's approval to make his home (in Montana) its own country, dubbing it "New Freeland." He eventually grows bored with it, so after "visiting" America, he's amazed by it and decides he wants to become a citizen. He later co-hosts an Olympics event featuring other leaders of newly-formed countries.
Former Child Star: Josh Fenderman from the final episode, in a parody of Corey Feldman.
When Josh Fenderman and Honesty in Motion perform, Jay Johnston is seen holding a saxophone, but suddenly just claps along with the song, as he probably realizes the song doesn't have a saxophone in it.
In "Jeepers Creepers," the "first stone" that hits Jeepers Creepers ricochets into the crowd and bounces off a woman's head, causing her to cartoonishly keel over. This was a Throw It In.
Funny Foreigner: Both landlords in "Please Don't Kill Me." The new landlord, Shumul, was apparently based off of David and comedian Greg Behrendt's landlord at the time.
The Generation Gap: Parodied. After David shows up late for the show, Bob claims it's because he's from "the late 70s" whereas he's from "the mid 70s." David furiously refers to Bob as "Pops" and that his generation is of "one year later."
Global Ignorance: In the pilot episode, David reveals that Bob believes that there are only five U.S. states, and one of them is called "Chim-Cham." In another episode, a group of kids on an MTV show claim to have traveled all over the world, showing a crayon map of the places they have gone. The "world" is in the shape of the continental United States, divided up into countries such as "Germany" and "Europe."
A Good Name for a Rock Band: Indomitable Spirit, although the armless former member reveals they were originally called "Flat Top Tony and the Purple Canoes" (which is the episode's Title Drop). Also Wycked Sceptre.
Hide Your Pregnancy: Jill in most of the third season, but averted in Fuzz: The Musical and Philouza.
Hilarious Outtakes: The show has these, but it's also parodied during "Young People and Companions" in which there are outtakes for a news show. Notably the couple whose son is missing laughing over their slip-of-the-tongue.
Hollywood Satanism: The Hail Satan Network, which acts pretty much like an actual gospel show.
I Love the Dead: The reason James Whitcroft thinks he saw a monster party in the graveyard.
Ice Cream Koan: At the end of the Progressive Priest sketch, Father Jim gives us one of these
Father Jim: When life gives me lemons, I make lemonade. When I ask someone for a glass of water and they give me a glass of sand, I turn it over, make a sand castle and then pretend I'm the king. If somebody throws a rock at my head, I pretend that the bruise is a faded tattoo, and that I was once a sailor and ran a sweatshop in Singapore . . . I'm not too proud of that time in my imaginary life.
Incredibly Obvious Bug: In a sketch, an undercover police officer uses a variety of very poorly disguised cameras and microphones in an attempt to bust a criminal.
I'm a Humanitarian: A few sketches. One in which the only survivor of a plane crash reveals that he ate all of the other survivors only hours after they landed.
David (playing a version of himself) comes off this way at times. As well as a few of his characters.
. . . like Grass Valley Greg.
The Charlie Callas-esque "Johnny" from Dr. X's telethon.
The Klutz: Thomas in "The Story of Everest" sketch.
Lampshade Hanging: Incredibly self-aware, many of its jokes were based on mocking the common tropes.
Leather Man: One sketch features a band playing Fire Island, with an audience completely consisting of leather men.
Lie Detector: The subject of a season 3 sketch. Odenkirk plays a character subject to one of these. At first he's asked standard questions ("Have you ever drank alcohol to excess?" "Have you ever taken an illegal drug?"), but then he's asked even more outlandish and improbable questions ("Have you ever killed a man . . . with your mind?"). He always answers "Yes" to every question, with the machine's silence indicating he's telling the truth.
Look Ma, I Am on TV!: In an award show, one of the presenters, who is stationed in the audience, suddenly becomes amazed when he can see himself and his fellow presenters on the big screen. He begins shouting and waving at the presenters onstage trying to get them to acknowledge him.
Metaphorgotten: In the Lifeboat sketch, one of the audience members from the Jerry Springer-esque show (who's lost at sea with them) tries to tell everyone how to handle their situation. He tells the pregnant woman "You need to respect the baby, because life is precious, and god, and the bible." Also the episode's Title Drop.
Ronnie: Terry . . . I thought you was in Hawaii.
Terry: A lot of people think a lot of things about Hawaii.
Method Acting: Parodied in a season 1 sketch where a reporter (Odenkirk) highlights an actor (Cross) who spent months studying crowds for an extra part in a crowd scene, attended medical school for two years to play a doctor with one line in a Mel Brooks film and has now had the frontal lobe of his brain removed and replaced with bubble wrap to play a lobotomized mental patient as realistically as possible.
Missing Episode: Parodied. Bob and David bill the beginning of one of their episodes as their "Lost Episode," so they can trot it out years later to much fanfare. At the end of the episode, they have all the cast members say "goodbye" to the tape of the episode, then give it to their security guard so he can lose it. He tosses the tape into outer space in a 2001 parody.
Negative Continuity: Understandable as this is sketch comedy (and if you consider recurring sketches to be in order). Ronnie dies of entitilitus in the first episode but is alive and well in FUZZ: The Musical.
No Ending: A lot of sketches on their own are like this, as all the sketches (much like Monty Python's Flying Circus) are linked together — the end of some sketches is the beginning of the next sketch. As comedy sketches are often hard to end on a high note, this arguably helps the show.
Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: During the Josh Fenderman sketch, a director is referred to as being "the best thing to come out of Hollywood since sliced bread, not to mention its sequel "Sliced Bread II: Electric Boogaloo."
Overly Long Gag: The Everest sketch involves a character repeatedly falling into some shelves and knocking over his mother's thimble collection, again and again and again. In the commentary, the cast recalls how agonizing it was to reset the stage each time.
"Legend of the Third Wheel" has one with David Cross's song
Change for a Dollar
Oscar Bait: Parodied with The Dewey Awards, which are specifically given to actors who play mentally challenged characters.
The Other Darrin: Tammy (Ronnie Dobbs' wife) is played Mary Lynn Rajskub in the first episode and Jill Talley in "FUZZ: The Musical", as Rajskub was no longer involved with the show.
Perfectly Cromulent Word: Edmund Premington is introduced as "a hunter, an explorer, a novelist, and an adventurer; a travelliare, an explorist, and a noveller."
Piss Take Rap: Bob does this at the beginning of "A Talking Junkie," not too long after he claims to David that he raps because he's "from the streets." He also plays a character who does this in the "Monk Academy" sketch.
Police Are Useless: "Drunk Cops." Also, in FUZZ: The Musical, the cops who are playing themselves don't handle the fight between Ronnie and Terry, two cops who are on duty come in.
Pretty Fly For A White Guy: The music duo Three Times One Minus One is a parody of this (particularly the WPCBCN—The White People Co-Opting Black Culture Network). The host of the "Video Soul" show they appear on fits this trope even more.
"When you need security, look for the symbol of the friendly, scary black man. The Men's Club of Allah."
Sir Swears-a-Lot: Reverend Winston Dupree. Host of the appropriately titled "Swear to God"
"I have a question and I know you all have it too: What is up Satan's ass? All he wants to do is fuck us up, the dicklicker! Now the Lord said, 'I am the light of the world,' now he could have easily as said 'I am King Shit of Fuck Mountain! Why would you fuck with me?!'"
Shirtless Scene: While trying to host a "targeted at women" (read: sexist) daytime show, Bob and David both do this, believing they're catering to them.
Shock Collar: David has to wear one of these in the second episode, as required by Senator Tankerbell, part of a program monitoring artists. He gets a surge of "low level" electricity if he steps on a stage.
Stage Dad: Bob and David are this to their daughter Superstar in "Operation Hell on Earth." Also Josh Fenderman's mother.
Jill plays one in the finale during the Josh Fenderman sketch.
Stealth Pun: Unclear if it's intentional, but in the Progressive Priest sketch from the first episode, David's Jerkass character orders "Father Jim" to carry him across the room, which he obliges. So he's carrying a Cross, David even holds his arms out.
Straight Gay: Probably happens more often than Camp Gay. Carl in the Biosphere sketch (although his homosexuality is informed secondhand), Terry Twillstein is this, unless . . .
In one ad war, a mom-and-pop grocery store is repeatedly slandered by a massive corporate chain, which insinuates that rats infest the produce and your children will get kidnapped by white slavers.
Another ad campaign for Mayostard, a bottled mayo-and-mustard combo, goes to absurd lengths to suggest that getting sandwich spreads from two different bottles is an unbearable waste of time and effort. Then a competing product, Mustardayonnaise, enters the picture. Then the post-credits gag introduces Mustmayostardayonnaise, because having to apply Mayostard and Mustardayonnaise is such an enormous time sink, it will cause you to miss your daughter growing up, graduating college, and then growing older than you and dying.
Third Wheel: Jerry in the appropriate titled "Third Wheel Legend" sketch (and sings a song about it) to his two friends on their honeymoon. The husband likes having him around but the wife is annoyed. Bob breaks the fourth wall at the end of the sketch to reveal the writer in the audience . . . the sketch was written for their friend Geri, who is the third wheel between him and his husband.
David also wears a t-shirt with the phrase "Shut Up Bitch!" in a sketch where he's very enthusiastic.
"Men 'r' stupid. Women 'r stupider.' We need to get married. I did. Get in line! (Beat.) Get in line, you dumb bitch!"
Title Drop: The title of each episode is actually a line from the show that the writers select on a whim. However, sometimes the line is from a sketch that gets cut from the actual episode. The show also uses its own name very often due to its self-referential comedy.
Toilet Humor: "America, you shit on us? I shit on you!" Too bad he can't. Also, the titular sketch of "Rudy Will Await Your Foundation."
And fake poo.
Too Hot for TV: Parodied with "The Car Wash Change Thief Action Squad: Too Hot For TV".
Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket: The mayostard/mustardayonnaise featured a series of ads for products combining mayo and mustard in a single jar, like Hellman's Dijonnaise. In the end, a guy is shown missing out on the important moments in his life because the process of spreading mustard then mayonnaise was simply too time consuming. The first GloboChem sketch features Janeane Garofalo as a woman who simply can't organize the bags in her kitchen, shouting, "Help me!" at the camera. The solution is "bag hutch," a box to put bags in. The writers had to change the name of the product because "bag box" was already the name of a product that did the exact same thing.
Wyckyd Sceptre, who insist that having all-male orgies is not gay at all, it's just a party.
In another sketch, a "Scared Straight" councilor appears repeatedly on a Christian chat show to talk about his most recent lapse into "homosinuality".
Unintentional Period Piece: Largely averted. The show largely avoided making references to current subjects. If it did, it was usually through parodies with different names (i.e. FUZZ for Cops). Most of these sketches are still funny without knowing what they parodied.
Wing Ding Eyes: Happens in one of the links (the one between "Intervention" and "Car Wash Change Thief Action Squad") in which several people sport dollar signs at certain opportunites.
With Friends Like These: The Intervention sketch. When one of them has a problem that needs to be discussed, most try to come up with a one-liner taking shots at said victim. And all of them are annoyed with Bob having interventions, to the point where they resolve that by killing him. Bob still tries to help them with that plan.
You Cloned Hitler!: A sketch in which after cloning has been perfected, Hitler clones are mass-produced in order to serve Jewish families. The Hitler clones, are their own time, frequent bars and talk about how hard it is to find dates.
You Have To Have Jews: The aforementioned Right Wing Militia Fanatic who claimed that his property was his own country. He ran cameras off his land whilst yelling that HBO stands for "Hebrew Box Office" and various complaints about the liberal Jew-run media (which Bob did himself in the opening sketch).
Younger Than They Look: Several of the cast members, most look about their age, if not slightly older (some are Older Than They Look nowadays). None of the main cast was born before the 60s, and the show aired from 95-98.
Your Cheating Heart: A married couple in "Goin' on a Holiday" are revealed to both be cheating on the other. With the same man. Turns out he's seeing the whole family as well, including the daughter, daughter's boyfriend and the grandparents.As well as a pair of twins.