Wonder Showzen: Season 1
April 11, 2006
Last year a battle raged on MTV2 between rival T.V. shows Stankervision and Wonder Showzen on who could be more controversial and offensive. Stankervision apparently won as it was cancelled after one season when sponsors pressured MTV to yank the show despite its decent ratings. Wonder Showzen survived and is currently in the midst of its second season with its own peculiar brand of comedy.
Both shows adopted a variety show structure that mixed animation with skits and man-on-the-street segments. However, while Stankervision’s look targeted a college-based audience, Showzen adopted a kiddie show approach – imagine, if you will, Sesame Street as written by Hunter S. Thompson.
Right from the start, the warning message that appears before every episode messes with the audience as it warns of “stark, ugly, profound truths” that “may be soul crushing to the weak of spirit.” No kidding! The show then segues into a montage of stock footage that features a little girl smiling as knives thud into a wooden board near her head, a man tossing a baby around like a ball while standing atop a high building and JFK, Jr. is shown at his father’s funeral all the while a group of little kids sing the theme song.
Each episode is sponsored by a word, like “diversity” or “health” that also serves as that episode’s pervading theme. These are really jumping off points for the show to savagely satirize war, politics and various aspects of our culture. There are reoccurring characters, like Chauncey, a fuzzy yellow muppet who is kinda dumb but has a naivete that is endearing. In one episode, he and a child go into outer space where they discover and later fight God. Another muppet, a blue coloured one with a shrill voice named Clarence takes to the streets of New York City asking random people questions like, “Would you accept Jesus?” Clarence annoys them until they react, usually cursing the muppet out as he tests their tolerance level.
There are also reoccurring skits, like Beat Kids that consists of roving kid reporters asking confrontational questions to random adults. For example, one episode features a little boy making a trip to the Philadelphia Race Track where he asks his tour guide, “So, this is where all the dreams are shattered?” and later on in the segment he asks an elderly gentleman, “Why don’t you cut out the middle man and give your social security check to the Mafia?”
That segment underlines another tactic by the Showzen folks. They resort to shock value tactics by having kids say disturbing things, like in a Q&A session when a batch of them are asked “What is your greatest wish?” One child replies, “I wish I had my innocence back,” while another replies, “I just want to punch God in the face.” By having these kids say very unchild-like things the Showzen creators show how these things can appear to be palatable if said by a cute kid with an adorable voice.
Wonder Showzen exposes the hypocrisies of our culture and that exist in religion and politics. Sometimes, it pushes the boundaries of good taste a little too far (an animated short about a dog OBGYN was pretty bad) but one has to admire the balls these guys for having kids say more than just the darnedest things.
The first disc features three audio commentaries for three episodes that are done in the spirit of this blasphemous show. First up is a commentary for “Space” by “Screamin’ Steven J. Hawkins” that is basically a piss-take on the famous scientist by having him “comment” on this episode in his very distinctive way. It starts off pretty funny, then gets kinda weird and then downright disturbing.
The commentary on “Diversity” is done by musical group Pffr and features an avant garde type musical track instead of any kind of spoken words.
Also included is a commentary for “Nature” by Dick Gregory who played Mr. Sun in this episode. He talks about his ten kids and how as a child he always wanted to be an “old black man.” This is an absurd, stream-of-consciousness track that has to be heard to be truly believed.
The second disc features “Auditions and Outtakes” by all sorts of cute kids who did screen tests for the show by answering simple questions about themselves and performing little routines.
One of the funniest extras is the “Beat Kids Outtakes” that features stuff that didn’t make it into the show. As you would imagine, these bits, in some cases, are even more offbeat and funnier.
“Clarence Outtakes” features more outrageous footage of the muppet trying to annoy the hell out of people before finally being complimented by a gay black man.
There are a series of promos for the show.
Also included is an audio commentary on “Patience” by Gordon Lish who tells a joke and talks about how inviting women over to watch Showzen gets him laid. Of course he talks about how patience figures into his life and how it connects with humour, which appears to be a very important thing to him.
“Pffr Music Video” is a trippy, psychedelic clip not for epileptics. It is like one of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings threw up all over this video.
There is a sneak peak of Season 2 that shows that the Showzen folks have not lost any of their edge or ability to offend.
Finally, there is “Story Time with Flavor Flav” the features the Public Enemy band member reading an “interactive” story with his kid audience giving typically outrageous (and adult) answers to his questions.