Supercult profiles the obscure, the offbeat, and the feverishly celebrated pieces of comedy which deserve more recognition.
From 2004 to 2006, the Sklar Brothers skewered the socially awkward and the feverishly pompous of the sports world from the sidelines with their ESPN Classic series Cheap Seats. Culling from the network's massive library of Rose Bowls and Dog Shows alike, ESPN's own Statler and Waldorf provided running commentary as they watched, along with us, some of history's greatest sports embarrassments. There was Steve Garvey on skis, Deacon Jones on a rope, and a shirtless Reggie Jackson. And, of course, Rebecca Sealfon.
Waiting in the wings as featured guests was a murderer's row of comedians. Jon Glaser, Jon Benjamin, David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Kristen Schaal, Doug Benson, Michael Ian Black, Zach Galifianakis, Jerry Minor, Kerri Kenney, Eddie Pepitone, Andy Blitz, Jim Gaffigan, and Eugene Mirman all made appearances during the course of the series. For a modest production nestled deep in the 400s of a deluxe cable package, Cheap Seats boasted some of the best comedic talents of the last three decades.
But it was to the Sklars' advantage that the show was relegated to ESPN Classic. Flying under the radar, the team was able to subvert sports legends and cultural icons without fear of reprisal. The show's offbeat format and cult fanbase complemented the esoterica of an obscure channel. However, as the twins attest, a stronger and more visible advertising effort that comes standard with a major network would've been nice.
Although bearing a format comparable to Mystery Science Theater 3000, stylistically, Cheap Seats transcended a mere rehash of the Comedy Central classic. Whereas Joel, Mike, and the Bots adopted an "in-theater" aesthetic of sitting behind sarcastic moviegoers, Jason and Randy were those same moviegoers had they been hired to do play-by-play and color commentary — essentially adapting their off-camera personas. Tonally, the jokes and performers were much different, but Cheap Seats generated that same rolling laughter — where laughs quickly snowball without giving the viewer a chance to rest — that MST3K famously evoked. No wonder the MST3K team did a guest spot. READ MORE