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Radio / The Frantics

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"People talking in movie shows
People smoking in bed
People voting Republican
Give them a boot to the head!"

"And another for Jenny and the wimp!"

Four-man comedy troupe known for a wild but intellectual style highly reminiscent of Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Firesign Theatre, but with a uniquely Canadian flavor. Formed in the late 1970s, the group stayed together until the late 1980s, followed by a reunion in 2004. The core members of The Frantics are Paul Chato, Rick Green, Dan Redican and Peter Wildman, but like their spiritual predecessors, two women can be counted among their unofficial membership — Mag Ruffman and Carolyn Scott.

Their trademark was off-the-wall and often surreal sketches that took advantage of the power of radio and audio recordings to produce imagery that would have been too expensive or simply impossible in a visual medium, such as the tales of their Canadian superhero, Mr. Canoehead, who had had an aluminum canoe welded to his head by a lightning bolt. (Attempts to recreate these sketches on television only reduced their comedic impact.) Their comedy was never dumbed down — in fact, they respected and depended upon the intelligence of the audience, as seen in their sketches "You Were Speeding" and "Human Race". They were also talented musicians, as demonstrated by their numerous novelty songs. They are perhaps best known for their routines "Last Will and Temperament" and "Ti Kwan Leep", both of which make frequent use of their most famous Catchphrase, "Boot to the head!"

The Frantics made their mark initially in Canadian radio; their big break was in 1981, when they were given a regular slot on the CBC Radio show Variety Tonight. The following year they got their own series, Frantic Times, which began as a brief summer replacement for The Royal Canadian Air Farce but eventually graduated to its own permanent slot. By the time it went off the air in 1984, Frantic Times ran for 113 episodes of inspired lunacy.

Between 1984 and 1986, the Frantics made several unsuccessful forays into Canadian television, including an unsold pilot (The No Name Show) for TV Ontario, and a CBC series called Four on the Floor that lasted for only a single season. (Four on the Floor would later show up on Showtime in the United States, exposing the Frantics to an entirely new audience.)

After their attempts at television success, the Frantics returned to radio for several short series, including a spoof of Anne of Green Gables in 1987 and 1988's eight-part The Frantics Look at History, after which they appear to have gone their separate ways until their 2004 reunion. In between their radio and television efforts, they released several CDs of their sketches and songs. Several of their tracks got extensive play on the syndicated Dr. Demento radio show in the 1980s, spurring the birth of an American following for the group.

The core members re-formed the troupe in 2004 for a stage show (which was released on CD as The Official Bootleg CD: Live at the Tim Sims Playhouse). This was followed by the Older But Wider stage tour, and several appearances on Candian television. Since then they have focused on live theatre shows.

Not to be confused with any of several bands who also have called themselves "The Frantics".

For more information, see their website or their YouTube channel.

Dr. Demento called them the funniest sketch comedy troupe since Monty Python.

The Frantics' comedy demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Alternative Number System: In "Roman Numerals" a Roman citizen is baffled by the new decimal system.
    Customer: How much is "forty-four" in real numbers?
    Shopkeeper: XLIV note .
    Customer: Well why don't you just say XLIV? Who can remember "forty-four?"
    • This sketch pokes fun at the initial confusion and opposition to Canada's conversion to the metric system.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Mr. Canoehead—Fighter of crime! Defender of good! Brother of Ted!"
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • "Last Will and Temperament", when The Alcoholic brother Hedge is given 3 crates of whiskey and the wine cellar... and then is bequeathed a boot to the head.
    • Played straight with Jenny and the Rolls-Royce, Mrs. Mulroy, Mittens the cat...
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Columbus's Catchphrase in "Columbus Discovers America".
  • Bullying a Dragon: Ed Gruberman and the Ti Kwan Leep instructor.
  • Catchphrase: "Boot to the head!", "Taste gunwale!"
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Mr. Muldoon's sister Jenny in "Last Will And Temperament".
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Probably the entire point of "Last Will And Temperament".
  • Comically Missing the Point: This exchange from "Tai Kwan Leap:"
    Master: Can anyone tell us what lesson has been learned here?
    Student #3: Yes, master. Not a single one of us could defeat you.
    Master: You gain wisdom, child.
    Student #3: So we'll hafta gang up on ya! Get 'im guys!
    [Master proceeds to wipe the floor with all of them.]
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: The song "Gas Station Washroom" is all about one of these.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: In "Columbus Discovers America", the sailors on Columbus's ship are very focused on getting prizes for doing things right, such as answering questions correctly or spotting land (even a dinky little desert island). They're less than pleased to discover that he doesn't do that.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: Presumably why the lawyer in "Last Will And Temperament" got a live, rabid Tasmanian Devil in his trousers instead of a boot to the head like everyone else; he must have done something to deserve it. note 
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: The lawyer in "Last Will and Temperament" has a moment of this when he reads that his client left him a live, rabid Tasmanian devil to be stuffed down his trousers.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: Boot to the head!
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: The sailors on Columbus's ship don't consider not falling off the Earth as being proof that the Earth isn't flat.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Mr. Muldoon really hated his sister Jenny and her wimpy husband Hank. Not without reason, mind you, since they were very obviously gold diggers. His brother Hedge seems to share the sentiment, as he immediately cracks up laughing after seeing them both get the boot.
    The Lawyer: And one for Jenny and the wimp!
    Jenny: OW!
    Hank: OW!
  • Funny Bruce Lee Noises: Made by Ed Gruberman in "Ti Kwan Leep".
  • Gold Digger: Jenny and Hank in "Last Will and Temperament", who both feigned sorrow about Muldoon's death in order to get to his fortune. It's also stated that they mooched off of him constantly. This is presumably why they all got the most boots to the heads.
  • Homage: Writers of Ranma fanfiction love referencing, or even incorporating whole, the "Ti Kwan Leep" sketch. And YouTube has videos of martial arts classes playing out Ti Kwan Leep. Some versions include an extended slow motion fight scene between the Master and the students.
  • Hurricane of Puns: In "You Were Speeding", mixing the terminologies of thought/education and driving/ticketing.
  • Jerkass:
    • Ed Gruberman of "Ti Kwan Leep".
    • Arthur Durham Muldoon, the late gentleman whose will is read in "Last Will And Temperament," can count as well. Giving the "nasty" family members a boot to the head is one thing. But when the one who read the will, who had nothing to do with the family antics, was given "a rabid Tasmanian Devil... to be placed in his trousers?! AAAAGH!!" And everyone else who are not in the skit gets a lifetime supply of ice cream... boot-to-the-head flavored. Mrs. Mulroy in particular did nothing to deserve this treatment. Quite the opposite, in fact; she was the one person who treated Arthur with constant respect and kindness, and even says she doesn't want anything of Arthur's. She gets a boot to the head like everyone else.
  • Karma Houdini: Hedge, the alcoholic brother from "Last Will And Temperament", counts a little. Everyone else (even the sweet Mrs. Mulroy) gets nothing but a Boot To The Head. Hedge is not exempt from this, but actually gets something - Muldoon's wine cellar and three crates of fine whiskey. Possibly because Hedge is unrepentantly honest about who and what he is, not even bothering at the reading of his brother's will to disguise that he is anxious to head to the nearest bar. With all the dishonest money-grubbers around, Muldoon probably found his attitude refreshing. Though actually giving him the cellar and whiskey was probably just as much a tactic to make Hedge predictably drop his guard since Muldoon knew his brother was smart enough to take precautions after seeing Jenny and her husband get booted. Hedge doesn't seem to be all that happy, though, considering he calls the will "disgraceful" at the end.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: The "Dirty Words" sketch.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Like weld a canoe to a person's head...
  • Oh, Crap!: The second student from "Ti Kwan Leep", who tries to get in the first shot and...
    Master: You missed.
    Student #2: Um.. yeah.
  • Old Master: "Ti Kwan Leep".
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: Everyone of Arthur Muldoon's relatives in "Last Will and Temperament" (except his brother, Hedge who gets his wine cellar and three crates of whiskey). Though Arthur does leave them all a lifetime supply of ice cream. Its "boot to the head" flavored.
  • Pet Heir: Subverted in "Last Will and Temperament".
    "And so, to my cat Mittens, I leave my entire, vast (Beat) boot to the head." <whump!> "NREEEEEEEOW!!!!"
  • Pet the Dog: Arthur Muldoon of "Last Will and Temperament" gives boots to the head to literally everyone he knows (except his lawyer, who got a rabid Tasmanian Devil in his trousers), but he does end up giving his entire ten million dollar fortune to the good people of Calgary so they can afford to move somewhere decent!
  • Place Worse Than Death: "And I leave my entire estate of 10 million dollars to the people of Calgary so they can afford to move someplace decent."
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: In "Ti Kwan Leep":
    Teacher: The only use of Ti Kwan Leep is self-defense. Do you know who said that? Ki Lo Ni, the great teacher.
    Ed Gruberman: Yeah? Well "the best defense is a good offense", you know who said that? Mel, the cook on Alice.
  • Running Gag: "And one for Jenny and the wimp", in "Last Will and Temperament".
  • Shoe Slap / Armed Legs: "Boot to the head!"
  • Slapstick: "Last Will and Temperament", a.k.a. the "boot to the head" sketch, where Arthur Muldoon's will consists almost entirely of him commanding boots to be repeatedly thrown at everybody in the room, whether for past slights or because Muldoon thought it would be funny.
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: The TV show Four on the Floor.
  • Spiteful Will: Arthur Muldoon's will in "Last Will and Temperment" mostly consists of giving his most hated relatives a boot to the head (or several, in the case of Jenny and Hank).
  • Super Hero: Mr. Canoehead.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Christopher Columbus in "Columbus Discovers America".
  • Take That!:
    • "The story of Mr. Canoehead is so incredible that only Mormons would believe it!"
    • Arthur Muldoon bequeathed 10 million dollars "to the people of Calgary so they can afford to move somewhere decent".
  • That Poor Cat: Mittens, in "Last Will and Temperament".
  • Toilet Humor: "Gas Station Washroom", "A Piece of Pie", "Out-Grossing"
  • Ungrateful Bastard: In "Last Will and Temperament", after emphasizing in his will how Mrs. Mulroy took care of him faithfully for years, Arthur Muldoon leaves her a boot to the head.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Appears to be a core value of their comedy.
  • The Voiceless: "Bill from Bala".
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Everyone gathered in "Last Will and Temperament" aside from the lawyer is not particularly pleased about the treatment they received and the fact that the family and faithful maid got almost nothing aside from boots to the head. After asking if that's all there is, Hedge of all people (the only person who got anything of substance and was laughing at Jenny and her husband's treatment at the start) snaps "that's disgraceful!" With everyone else murmuring in agreement.

And now for Tropers of TV Tropes. Who took their time to describe this article, made me laugh, ruined many lives. To Tropers of TV Tropes, I bequeath *Beat* a boot to the head.