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Series / Almost Live!

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Almost Live! was a long-running television sketch-comedy produced in Seattle by the local NBC affiliate, KING-TV, channel 5. Lasting from 1984 to 1999; it started out as an hour-long talk/comedy show inspired by Late Night With David 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's The Late Show and the 1990-91 revival of Match Game. 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 1992-93), and more than one other show re-used some of its ideas.

Served as the springboard for Bill Nye the Science Guy's career. Joel McHale 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.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • "The Lame List" would throw in something incomprehensible to the group.
    • More literally, the parody of The Fugitive had this:
      Fugitive: I didn't kill my wife!
      Cop: I don't care. Stop jaywalking.
    • Made funnier if you remember how serious jaywalking tickets were in Seattle while the show was on, particularly in the 80s and early 90s. At $250 a throw, they weren't cheap, and cops would write you every time they saw you jaywalk. There were several instances of people racking up multiples, from the same cop, on the same day.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: Billy Quan's Signature Move - a running jumpkick which can remain airborne for over a minute, while turning corners and going up and down staircases, among other things - is completely and obviously impossible. Which is part of why the sketches are so funny.
  • A Boy and His X: "Sluggy", which is a heartwarming tale about a young boy and his pet slug.
  • Baguette Beatdown: This Special-K moment.
  • Berserk Button: Every episode of "Billy Quan" starts with the same thoughtless oaf pushing one of Billy's.
  • 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."
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Played with in a man-on-the-street sketch where they asked people which they liked better: normal breasts or sudden big boobs.
  • Cast Full of Writers: Pretty much everybody got double credits.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: "Uncle Fran's Musical Forest"
  • 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.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: This sketch.
  • Etiquette Kung Fu Master: Billy Quan, who violently assaults people (or rather the same guy over and over again) for minor improprieties such as being too loud in the library or failing to tip a waitress.
  • Finishing Move: Billy Quan usually finishes his fights by unleashing his double-footed jump-kick.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": This sketch.
  • Groin Attack: All the time in the Billy Quan segments.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Pariodied with Billy Quan.
  • Human Knot: In the Billy Quan episode "Fumes of Fury", Quan jumps on the shoulders of his nemesis to choke him with his thighs, but his target ties his legs in a knot.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Pat Cashman unleashes one in The "Roscoe's Oriental Rug" skit. Going out of business since 1957 (Opening soon in Northgate!note )
  • Improbable Weapon User: In the Billy Quan skits, the two opponents would use whatever random objects available in their current battleground. (See directly below)
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Billy Quan's reoccurring unnamed nemesis starts every skit gleefully violating some new rule of etiquette and/or propriety.
  • 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 ), 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.
  • Mockumentary: An infamous April-Fool's joke about the Space Needle collapsing.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Seattle likes its coffee. This series of sketches demonstrates how Seattle's coffee addiction is Serious Business.
  • News Parody: "The Late Report" (or "The John Report" from 1990-95) 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.
  • Parody Sue: Billy Quan.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Fodder for almost as many sketches as grunge rock and coffee, but usually treated with good-natured humor. A good example is here.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: The "High-Fivin' White Guys" sketches played with this trope.
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: Billy Quan and his nemesis sometimes beat on each other in this fashion.
  • Recycled In Seattle: COPS in (insert Seattle area neighborhood here)
  • 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.)
  • Screaming Warrior: Billy Quan, whenever his Berserk Button gets pushed yet again.
  • Signature Move: Again, Billy Quan's double-footed jump kick.
  • Spiritual Successor: Has one in the form of The 206 note , which involves several of the old cast and continues the tradition of sketch comedy mocking the local area. They broadcast locally, but also put their sketches up on their YouTube channel, including full episodes.
  • Strawman U: The show often made fun of the local colleges, particularly The Evergreen State College in the state capital of Olympia and the Washington State University ("Wazzu") in Spokane in the eastern part of the state.
  • Take a Third Option: The "You Make The Call" sketches.
  • Top Ten List: Spoofed with "The Lame List." ("Or what's weak this week!") Often played straight in the Opening Narration.
  • 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.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Speedwalker! note  and Capable Woman! note  (Although at least the latter was able to fly..)
  • Wok Fu: One of the "Billy Quan" shorts takes place in a Chinese restaurant.