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Series / Mr. Show

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"Hey everybody, it's Bob and David!"

Mr. Show with Bob and David was a highly influential Sketch Comedy series starring and written by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. The show aired on HBO for four seasons (1995–98).

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. Due to airing on a premium cable network, 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.

In 2015, the show received a short-lived Revival on Netflix in the form of W/ Bob and David, which reunited a large portion of the original cast.

Not to be confused with The Mr. Men Show.

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.
  • Acme Products: GloboChem.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Larry and all victims of IDS (Imminent Death Syndrome).
  • 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.
  • Anachronism Stew: The Founding Fathers sketch about the origins of the American Flag's pattern, where they invent a design in order to make sure no one ever defecates on it. It features Lincoln talking with a Brooklyn accent, also claiming to have slept with Playmates. They also swear a lot.
    Thomas Jefferson: Dogpile on Gwinnett!
  • Armor-Piercing Question: America's plan to blow up the moon is nearly derailed after the chimp picked to press the detonator signs the question: "Why?" Solution? Get a chimp who can't sign.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Wyckyd Sceptre. Too bad they're too dumb to realize they're this.
  • 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?!
  • Asbestos-Free Cereal: What's the Fairsley Difference? The homespun grocery chain, Gibbons, is driven out of business by competitor Fairsley Foods' slick ads boasting about horrible conditions the competitor's stores did not suffer from, such as stores always being on fire, homeless people defecating in the aisles, and customers' children being abducted and sold into homoerotic slavery in Pakistani whorehouses. They never say these things are true of Gibbons, so they aren't actually lying.
  • Authority in Name Only: One sketch is opened with a ribbon-cutting by the Mayor of Television.
  • Attack of the Political Ad: Charles McHutchence and Harrison Greeley III, two rich, successful men who aren't running for office, keep doing this to each other for no particular reason beyond self-promotion. When Reverend Dwight Anders speaks out, they eventually team up against him and drive him to alcoholism.
  • Aw, 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 "Bad Acting": Moe Phelps teaches the cast this. Also "Natural Born Drunk: The Ronnie Dobbs Story", although a bit more subtle.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: The Bad News Breakers, two adorable little girls who are brought in to give people terrible news.
    Bad News Breakers: Your wife is cheating on you!
    Bob: Awww... who wants ice cream?
  • Bald of Evil: The ratings child alien.
    • David is accused of this when he comes out as bald.
      Jill: David... I accept you, but I don't accept the choice you've made.
      David: It's not a choice, Jill. God made me this way.
      Jill: Then I reject God.
  • Basement-Dweller: Don Pratt lives with his mother.
  • 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!"
    • A Season 1 episode ended with a fake network promo for "Creepy Peeping Videos," an exploitative hidden-camera show—of the type HBO commonly aired at the time—featuring John Ennis in drag as an abusive nanny.
    • In the very first episode, David transitions out of a sketch to start bitching about the fact that HBO only gave them enough budget to film in a restaurant rather than a real studio, saying that they "spent more on Fraggle Rock!" He then transitions back into his sketch dialogue.
  • Black Comedy: Very frequently, just about anything of shock value gets used as a joke on this show.
  • Black Comedy Cannibalism: One sketch involved the lone survivor of a plane crash who lived by eating the bodies of all the victims, becoming morbidly obese in the process, and he's comically satisfied instead of traumatized (he compares human flesh to "delicious chickens").
  • Black Comedy Rape: Due to a new cost-saving measure at Pendleton State Prison, convicted rapist Larry Kleist is able serve out his term while living a semi-normal life — he just had to take out ads in the local paper announcing himself, put signs on his lawn, begin every phone call with "Larry Kleist, rapist" (when he works as a telemarketer), and be accompanied everywhere he goes by "an assigned state-licensed public warning engineer", who wears sandwich boards saying "I'M WITH A RAPIST" and follows his car in a van blaring out warnings on loudspeakers.
    Kleist: [On phone] Hello! Insurance is my game, Larry is my name! Raping was another game of mine. Have you considered — hello? [hangs up in disappointment]
    • Then later in the same episode, we learn that the program has been extended to other types of convicts:
      Journalist: Tom Boutineer, Cappington News and Views, Pedophile! ...I sodomized my nephew.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Happens in the Law School sketch.
  • 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.
  • Blind Driving: In "Blind Girl", after the genuinely blind Steven ditches his pretending girlfriend and his potential romantic rival, he triumphantly peels away from the apartment building in a red convertible. Two seconds later, he's killed in a fatal collision.
  • Body Horror: The Titannica skit has the titular band visiting a teenager who survived jumping into an acid vat. Needless to say, the results weren't pretty.
  • Book Ends: A lot of the episodes were circular in nature, and the last sketch would tie into the opening of the episode in some way.
  • Bowdlerization: Played for Laughs in this Goodfellas parody, ''Pallies''. Three mafiosos swear profoundly at the dinner table, but the swear words and obscene gestures are poorly dubbed over.
    Anthony: The both of youze can grab onto my BOOKS, you mother-father Chinese dentist.
  • 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.
  • Brownface: Bob plays an brown-skinned Indian man with a funny accent in "Operation: Hell on Earth."
  • Brick Joke:
    • 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.
    • Philouza, parodying Mozart as a basketcase genius in Amadeus.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: In one sketch, this trope is pulled on John to get him to come their interventions. Three times.
  • 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 just as campy as his co-workers, but is angered by Nostradamus's advances, saying, "Oh no! NO! I know what you're thinking! Hey look, I've got a wife and three fucking kids, OK?"
  • Candid Camera Prank: The end of the Progressive Priest sketch.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Lyle in the Biosphere sketch.
  • Cast Full of Writers: Bob and David wrote almost the entire first season. Subsequent seasons have many of the additional cast members join the writing team.
  • 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.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • John Baptiste Philouza.
    • Also, F.F. Woodycooks. Now who wants ice cream?
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Throughout the whole show, but most notably in the Globochem commercials sketch.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In one sketch, criminals are released early, as long as they have to tell everyone they meet what crime they committed. Larry Kleist, a rapist tries to make cold calls about insurance, but everyone hangs up on him when he introduces himself as "Larry Kleist, rapist." Larry complains: "People don't seem to be interested in insurance these days. I think the industry is in a slump."
  • Coming-Out Story: The beginning of "Peanut Butter, Eggs and Dice" in a parody of "The Puppy Episode" of Ellen, in which David comes out as bald, in an attempt for ratings.
  • 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.
  • Cross Over Punchline: A stereotypical 80's comedian introduced in an episode is shown on an episode of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist doing the show's typical shtick of having a comedian deliver some of his punchlines at a psychiatry session.
  • Crunch Tastic: When you see the New San Francisco, you'll say "San Frantastic!"
  • Cult: Followers of "The Bob" who are going to go up "Heaven's Chimney". David has to be deprogrammed.
  • Cure Your Gays: The "Good News" show on the What-to-Think Network. An obviously gay man claims he is cured, but then "relapses" back a few years later, then continues to go back and forth.
  • Damned by Faint Praise:
    • NAMBLA does this to themselves when they attempt to bolster their public image with an ad campaign reminding the public that they're not serial killers.
    • Crossing over with So Okay, It's Average, most people's in-universe reactions to Coupon: The Movie range from: "It's a movie!" to "I watched the shit out of this!"
  • 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.
  • Detonation Moon: The Blow Up The Moon sketch. It actually does happen in the "You're Fired!" sketch.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Ronnie in Terry's in the movie version of Ronnie Dobbs' story.
  • Disease Bleach: The host of the "Pre-Taped Call-In Radio Show" is shown to have had his hair gradually fall out over the couple of weeks that his show has been on the air as a result of the stress of dealing with oblivious callers who don't realize that the show isn't aired live.
  • Disney Creatures of the Farce: The animated animals who assist Lyle in the Biosphere sketch. Also the birds that accompany John Ennis on what he thinks is his date.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Odenkirk plays a character who once tried to murder a man because he thought he was stealing his newspapers.
  • The Ditz: A slow character Bob plays three times. Although not referred to by name in the show, the commentaries state his name is Droopy.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: See So Unfunny, It's Funny.
    David: I'm sorry, it makes total sense. You have soil, worms live in soil, worms would have an apartment guide if they...
  • 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."
  • Epic Fail: "The Pre-Taped Call-In Show"
  • 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.
  • Fair-Weather Friend: In the "You're Fired" sketch, the junior executive (David) who got fired by the boss (Bob) was at first being defended by his co-workers, but because the boss chose to promote everybody else but that guy as reward for aggressive behavior, they abandon him just to enjoy the spoils themselves.
  • Fake Brit: Bob a few times, most notably as Terry Twillstein and Ernie. The latter might be one in-universe. David becomes a very fake one (in-universe) at the beginning of "A Talking Junkie" which irritates the other cast members.
  • Fan Disservice: This is the Womyn's Solidarity Collective's reaction to Bob and David taking off their shirts and dancing to club music.
  • 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.
  • Fat Camp: A rival camp for the Dalai Lama and the monks. They compete against each other.
  • 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.
  • Flipping the Bird: "This is BULLSHIT!"
  • Food Fight: At the end of "It's a No-Brainer," featuring a catholic and satanist engaging in a Nickelodeon-style food fight.
  • 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. Superstar could count as well.
  • Funny Background Event: Occasionally...
    • 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."
  • George Jetson Job Security: In both sketches "Downsizing" and "Spunk."
  • 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 college students on an MTV show claim to have traveled all over the world, showing a crayon map of the places they went in Europe. "Europe" is drawn in the shape of the continental United States, divided up into countries such as "Germany" and "Europe."
  • Good Shepherd: Father Jim from the first episode. Might be a case of Good Is Dumb, as he's a bit of a pushover which results in his friends pranking him, getting him on a Candid Camera Prank.
  • 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.
  • Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: The Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost, where no one knows what exactly to be afraid of. The curse? The creature? The creature's ghost?
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Used in the "Pallies" sketch in a parody of when movies are edited for television.
    Anthony: "I'll tell you what, the both of yous can grab one of my BOOKS and MOTHER-FATHERS, CHINESE DENTIST"
  • Gospel Choirs Are Just Better: In the Third Wheel Legend sketch.
  • Hearing Voices: Four people in a subway trying to help a man's relationship trouble are revealed to be "The Four Voices Within." They are: an old lady, a Japanese man, a biker and a gay guy.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Bob and David are this. Well, maybe not so much...
  • Hidden Wire: The flower the undercover cop wears (after leaving the bathroom) in "Bugged Drug Deal." See Incredibly Obvious Bug.
  • 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.
  • Hypocrite: In one sketch, a couple invite another couple over in hopes that one of them will watch them have sex, because they want a baby and can't have sex unless their fetish for exhibitionism is satisfied. The other couple are open, but start making demands that their own fetishes be satisfied as well. The husband of the first couple snaps, "Look, this isn't your sick, weird thing, alright?"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. He also has an incredibly bad habit of slipping into police jargon.
  • Insistent Terminology: One skit concerns a group of mobsters getting into a discussion about numbers, and how 24 is the largest one.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Parodied with Indomitable Spirit.
  • Jerkass: Several characters
    • The (adult) adopted son.
    • The uninvited party guest in the first episode.
  • Kavorka Man: David plays several of these, including Ronnie Dobbs, Lee from "Our Secret Love" and Derwin from the Lifeboat sketch.
  • Keet: Also several:
    • 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.
  • Kent Brockman News: Channel 6 "On the Spot News" goes one step further and actually makes the news. A reporter instigates a riot at a protest by throwing something at a police officer. Another reporter is shown starting a wildfire before reporting on it, only to be promptly shot by a colleague. She reports on his murder while finishing him off mid-broadcast. And then we cut to a news reporter doing double duty as a sniper.
  • Kitschy Local Commercial: Don Pratt's... whatever his service is.
  • The Klutz: Thomas in "The Story of Everest" keeps tripping backwards and knocking over the thimbles. It's made into a silent film, The Story of the Story of Everest.
  • 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. A job applicant is subjected to a lie detector test during an interview. 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. The applicant, who always answers "Yes" to every single question, begins confessing to being addicted to every hard drug ever known, stealing "space plans" from NASA, killing a man with his mind, and eating a train piece by piece after derailing it with his penis. All the while, the machine's silence indicates that he's telling the truth. At the end of the test, the interviewers, revealed to be employees of a shoe store, hire him. The applicant says he loves shoes. BZZT.
  • Look Both Ways: What Ernie (Odenkirk) should have done as he's crossing the street noting that the traffic light has "really changed."
  • 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.
    • One sketch has a news crew reporting on a roller coaster that's killing people, to the point where people are leaving town and boarding up their doors to try to get away from the roller coaster. Naturally, when the news crew is reporting from the line, all those people are there and waving at the camera.
  • Loony Fan: Adam Jimmy in the Titannica sketch.
  • Lost at Sea: The Lifeboat sketch.
  • Love Martyr: Possibly Terry for Ronnie.
  • Male Gaze: Parodied with their mascots, the Mr Show Objects.
  • MegaCorp: Globochem.
  • 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.
  • Missing Episode: Invoked and 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.
  • Mistaken for Dying: Flip flops during the IDS sketch. When characters think someone is dying, they let them fill out their goal and offer praise and attention for free, but feel cheated when they find out the person isn't dying. Said person suffers from "Imminent Death Syndrome"—it's also used as to describe how all sorts of "talented" successful people supposedly suffer from the disease as a Take That!.
  • Mister Descriptor
  • Monster Mash: The sketch Monster Parties: Fact or Fiction?
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Coupon: The Movie"
  • The Musical: One episode includes an entire musical based on an old traveling salesman joke.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The Streakers sketch.
  • 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 Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Bob Odenkirk's God is a very thinly veiled impression of New Hollywood movie producer / 70s libertine Robert Evans.
    • Daffy "Mal" Yinkleyankle, which Weird Al actually praised in an e-mail to Odenkirk.
    • Blueberry Head is a not particularly kind parody of comedian Carrot Top.
    • Sid and Marty Krofft are parodied as Sam and Criminy Craffft, who produced a controversial children's show in The '70s called The Altered State of Druggachusettes.
    • In the "Teardrop Awards" sketch, Willips Brighton and Horace Loeb are very thinly veiled versions of Brian Wilson and Eric Clapton, respectively.
    • Marilyn Monster is obviously Marilyn Manson.
    • The band Smoosh, comprised of brothers Ian and Clive Shropshire, bears more than a passing resemblance to Oasis and brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher.
  • 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. However, the writers have noted that they sometimes had to spend just as much effort figuring out how to link sketches in this way as they spent on writing the sketches themselves.
  • No Indoor Voice: Bob Odenkirk has a reputation for this.
  • No Infantile Amnesia: David apparently remembers his parents arguing when he was a baby in "Operation Hell on Earth."
  • Noodle Incident: Pretty much the whole point of the Weeklong Romance sketch in the finale. Some events are described in more detail but a few details of Odenkirk's life during the weeklong break-up are left to our imaginations.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: This is what Ernie goes through in the first episode.
  • 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.
  • One-Hit Wonder: In-universe, "Superstar Machine" by Li'l Davey Cross.
  • Overly Long Gag:
    • The "Story of the Story of 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," a sketch entirely composed of convenience store employees calling their superiors to authorize a request for change and making noises as they think.
    • David eating the pretzel in the Intervention sketch.
    David: Now I need a beer...
    • Indomitable Spirit trying to explain to Bob's character why he was kicked out of the band.
    • "The Audition," in which David plays an actor whose audition is asking if he can use a chair for his audition. The casting directors can't tell if he's actually asking them a question and repeatedly interrupt him.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Van Hammersly, billiard champion, has made a series of videos that educate through the use of billiards. His tapes cover such things as Hollywood's Golden Age, the 1974 Kentucky Derby, Mass Transportation, your G.E.D.note , Renaissance Paintings, oceanography, corn futures, belly dancing, December 7th 1941, billiards, rock lyrics, and many more. They are simply the best teaching-by-billiards tapes you can purchase, which is why they've earned the TBB Gold Seal of Approval.
  • Oscar Bait: The Dewey Awards, which are specifically given to actors who play mentally challenged characters. Terry's movie in the first episode might have also been this.
  • 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.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: The boss at the end of the Downsizing sketch. Odenkirk's character in the first half, to an extent as well. Most likely, David's character in the same sketch for about a minute, after Odenkirk's character is fired... then he is as well.
  • 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.
  • Predatory Business: The Fairsley sketch.
  • 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.
  • Punny Name: "Mr. Show" sounds like "missed the show."
  • Rags to Riches: Ronnie Dobbs, in both the first episode sketch and The Movie.
  • Ratings Stunt: Parodied: During the Very Special Episode / Coming-Out Story, Bob goes "Here comes the highest rated moment in television!" Of course, the result is hilariously underwhelming and quickly forgotten.
  • Real Trailer, Fake Movie: Coupon: The Movie
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: David is usually the red to Bob's blue.
  • Revenge of the Sequel: Parodied with Return Of The Curse of the Creature's Ghost
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: Mountain Dougie. See Foreigner for a Day.
  • Rock Opera: Parodied with Jeepers Creepers, "The Biggest Failure in Broadway History."
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: See Disney Creatures of the Farce
  • Sarcasm-Blind: In one sketch, Sharwood writes angry letters, using sarcasm. The people who receive it take it at face value.
  • Say My Name: Movie!Terry does this while holding the corpse of movie!Ronnie. The actual Terry Twillstein said that his scream lasted for two hours and "set a new record for screaming."
  • Scary Black Man: The Men's Club of Allah.
    "When you need security, look for the symbol of the friendly, scary black man. The Men's Club of Allah."
  • Shameful Strip: Inverted during the Streakers sketch in which a streaker humiliates his rival by forcing him to put his clothes on.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: During the between sketch hosting segments, Bob always wears a suit in contrast to the very casually dressed David.
  • 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.
    David: It's not low level, Bob. It really hurts.
  • Shout-Out: Lucien, his costume, and his dubbed voice are all modeled after Balok from the Star Trek episode "The Corbomite Maneuver". He even reclines in a similar chair, offering Bob and David peculiar drinks.
  • 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?!'"
  • Sketch Comedy: A serviceable representation of the genre.
  • Skyward Scream: See Say My Name
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: The Law Firm/Blowjob sketch. A valedictorian has a law firm interview, only for his three potential employers, in the middle of talking about his potential career tell him they want him to give them a blowjob, much to his horror. When he tries to reject their offer, they reveal that society is built on blowjobs, from law to medicine to religion to even prostitution.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The show generally falls far, far on the cynical end of the spectrum.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: A David character does this after his (male) best friend pretends to be a call girl (at his demand) after losing a bet.
  • Smug Snake: William Vanlandingham III, leader of the fat kid's camp and enemy of the Dalai Lama.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: "Yeah, I tell ya, Jill's ingested so much soil [from not washing her vegetables], her stomach oughta be listed in the 'Worm Apartment Guide.'" (Dead Silence.)
    • A lot of Kedzie Matthews' jokes are this as well.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Entitilitus from the first episode.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The Red Balloon song. More so the music than the lyrics, but the lyrics are a lot more cheery than the actions on screen. Although "Red Balloon will send you straight to hell" is Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Spiritual Successor: Had several of these, in terms of some of the same actors working together. The Sarah Silverman Program had a few Mr. Show alum in leads and several actors made guest appearances. Moral Orel was produced by Dino Stamatopoulos, Jay Johnston and Scott Adsit. Arrested Development featured David in a lead but had several Mr. Show actors guest star (including Bob). Tom Goes to the Mayor and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! were produced by Bob Odenkirk but also included several Mr. Show actors in guest appearances. The Netflix series W/ Bob and David brought back the original Mr. Show cast.
  • Stage Dad: Bob and David are this to their daughter Superstar in "Operation Hell on Earth." Also Jill plays a Stage Mom 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.
  • Strawman Product: Used a number of times in various parody ads.
    • In one ad war, mom-and-pop Gibbons Markets is repeatedly slandered by the massive corporate chain Fairsley Foods, which insinuate that rats infest the produce and your children will be abducted and sold into homoerotic slavery in Pakistani whorehouses.
    • 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.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Several.
    • John Ennis' date song ("Chirp-a-dee doo dah") sounds a lot like "Zippity Doo Dah"
    • "I'm a party girl" for Barbie Girl, although it was more spoofing Madonna.
    • "Got a Good Thing Going'" for A Hard Day's Night song.
  • Swear Jar: In "Please Don't Kill Me," the hosts have a swear jar which provides just enough money to save the world from the hosts themselves.
  • Take That!: All over the place...
    • Inside The Actor towards Inside The Actors' Studio and James Lipton. David Cross mocked Lipton in his stand-up as well, which became humorous when he actually worked with Lipton on Arrested Development and was forced to realize that Lipton was a pretty nice guy.
    • Three Times One Minus One towards Pretty Fly for a White Guy musicians.
    • The "Teardrop Awards" feature an Affectionate Parody of Brian Wilson's weirder, childlike obsessive songs with Willips Brighton's "Mouth Full of Sores", but Horace Loeb's bad tribute songs and self-aggrandizing egotism are by comparison a vicious satire of Eric Clapton and "Tears from Heaven". He even writes a song for Brighton's son after killing him, and then reveals post-mortem that he made one for himself, too.
    • "Good News" towards Cure Your Gays organizations.
    • The show has done some rather mocking parodies of real celebrities, including Dr. Demento, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Carrot Top, and Toby Keith.
  • Tech Marches On: Party tapes, DAT players, and probably more.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The Chip-on-the-Shoulder Club.
  • The Theme Park Version: San Francisco, having been acquired by the GloboChem Corporation, is transformed into New San Francisco, keeping all of the novel but potentially scary elements of the city — hippies, gay people, Asians, etc. — while making it squeaky-clean and non-offensive for the entire family.
  • There Are No Good Executives. Bit of a recurring theme in "If You're Going To Write a Comedy Scene, You're Going to Have Some Rat Feces in There." Particularly the "Downsizing" sketch.
  • 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.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Outside the studio is a sign saying "TV Taping in progress; Shut up, bitch!"
    • 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!"
  • Three-Way Sex: According to one of the female scientists in the Biosphere, she's joining two of the scientists (who also had plans for New Year's) for a threesome. Leaving Lyle all alone.
  • 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 eponymous sketch of "Rudy Will Await Your Foundation."
  • 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.
  • Transparent Closet:
    • 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".
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The incompetent drug bust leads to the dealer being put on trial. A "Next Week" preview comes up.
    Announcer: Will Kevin Ferguson be found guilty? Tune in next week! And now, here's a scene from next week's show.
    Jury Foreman: Your Honor, we the jury find the defendant, Kevin Ferguson, not guilty.
    Announcer: Next week, on America's Dumbest Juries.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Happens quite a bit in the eponymous "It's Insane, This Guy's Taint" sketch.
  • Very Special Episode: Parodied with the Coming-Out Story sketch, with an immediate trip to the "Ratings Man."
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Bob throwing up during the bloopers at the beginning of "Rudy Will Await Your Foundation" which is the episode's stinger/Brick Joke.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Ronnie Dobbs, usually.
  • 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 opportunities.
  • 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.
  • What Were They Selling Again?: The commercial for GloboChem's TechCorp features a man in a log cabin swearing, getting gradually angrier as it zooms out until it's a shot of the world. It's not exactly clear what product/service TechCorp is.
  • Whole-Plot Reference:
    • "Jeepers Creepers" is a parody of Jesus Christ Superstar, only with Jesus replaced by a 1990s slacker.
    • "The Great Philouza" is Amadeus with marching band music instead of opera.
  • 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, on their own time, frequent bars and talk about how hard it is to find dates.
  • You Got Guts: Riffed on in the "You're Fired" sketch. An angry boss keeps keeps firing his employees only to rehire them when they stand up for themselves out of respect for their guts,... all except one guy, who just gets repeatedly confirmed as fired.
  • Your Mom: One sketch involves a teacher taking his class on a field trip up his mother's ass.