About Last Night: MAD “Wreck-It Gandalf/The Big Bird Theory”

Finally!  This is the kind of MAD episode I’d been hoping for!  One that’s almost wall-to-wall great jokes with some semblance of cleverness and, in some, even actually having something to say!  Almost every sketch tonight had something that made it work or rescued it from possibly being just a plain terrible idea with even the closing sketch being funny for the majority of its runtime.  Episodes like these are why it’s worth watching MAD because, sometimes, most everything in an episode works.

Of course, you wouldn’t think that from the MADvent Calendar and the opening sketch, Wreck-It Gandalf.  A painfully unfunny mashup of The Lord Of The Rings and Wreck-It Ralph that assumed that you’d automatically find Gandalf fighting people in Skyfall to be funny and that you too would laugh at the fact the idea that you can confuse the actor who plays Gandalf with the actor who plays Dumbledore.  That, by the way, is a gag the sketch goes back to at least three times and, strangely enough, it does not start being funny the more that they mention it.  In typical MAD style, they try and save the sketch by calling attention to how terrible MAD’s writers are, but that sort of self-deprecating gag stops being funny when you try and use it to justify your terrible sketch every time one appears.

Luckily, that’s the last bum note that the episode hits as it’s smooth sailing from there.  The Sheep Salon had an excellent unexpected punch-line that I just plain loved, Pinball Hates His Commute was a simple yet clever joke that ran exactly as long as it needed to, Wall Scientists was similarly snappy, which was a good thing because if it lasted even a millisecond longer the joke would have died.  Nickita Minaj was my surprise of the evening.  What should have been a one-note gag at Nicki Minaj’s expense that outstayed its welcome, as it initially seemed like it was going to be, actually turned out to be a gag about other similarly wildly unfashionable pop stars with a good punch-line attached to it.  It’s definitely not anything new, but it is much deeper than this show usually goes for (a show that, lest we forget, seven days earlier created a sketch called Is Kristen Stewart Sleeping?) which, to me, gives it a pass.

Similarly, Other Guardians Ruining Rise Of The Guardians should have bombed as a too easy joke yet, somehow, it works.  Maybe it’s because the sketch makes a pretty good point about film and comic books maybe needing to be more specific when it comes to the generally accepted name for your group.  Maybe it’s because I couldn’t help but laugh when the owl from The Owls Of Ga’ahoole or whatever incredulously declares that, “whenever kids think of guardians, they think of owls with funny hats!”  Training Car, on the other hand, started as a simple bit of physical humour that then rose to actually being a great set of jokes at the expense of driving.  Again, maybe I’m biased here because I myself despise the act of driving, but it was really intelligent for this show and managed to come up with some great jokes for its concept; strong enough to make it work in its own right.

As for our second extended sketch, The Big Bird Theory, this could have been a disaster, like The Big Fang Theory from season one, but it actually turned out to be pretty damn funny!  Mainly because MAD remembered to load this one with actual jokes.  Yes, there were the usual jokes at The Big Bang Theory’s expense – folks, I despise it as much as the next person, but pointing out that TBBT’s laugh track sucks has become about as funny as the show itself – but then the show committed to the Sesame Street jokes hard enough to make it work, taking shots at the numbers (permanently stuck to things and frequently insulted at by Big Bird), catchphrases (see Stray Thoughts for the line that made the sketch for me) and the celebrity guests (here they’re all pretty much held captive).  MAD tried writing jokes for its end segment, for once, and, funnily enough, they actually made the sketch better!  Who would have thought it?

So, yeah, after that rocky start tonight’s MAD was pretty much the show operating at full pelt this episode.  Proof, as if you needed any, that if you load your premises with actual jokes, the quality of your sketch comedy programme increases exponentially!  Hopefully this can continue next week and the week after that and the week after that and the week after…  Look, I’d just like this show to be consistently funny.  I like writing about why stuff works, for one, but, mostly, I just like to be entertained and funny MAD episodes are entertaining!  Get off my back!

Grade: B+

Stray Thoughts

  • If the opening sketch wasn’t a complete bomb, this would have scored at least an A-. But those opening two and a half minutes had me worried that I was in for a crap shoot of an episode, so the grade comes down as a result.
  • Spy vs. Spy was great, but you don’t need me to tell you that.
  • Because it’s going to come up sooner or later, currently my favourite extended sketch is Two Broke Powerpuff Girls from season 2, episode 17. Everything about it works and it’s just packed with killer joke after killer joke.  I can keep re-watching it and still find it funny.  My love for it is only partially thanks to MAD going to the effort of bringing in original Powerpuff Girls VAs Tom Kane and Tara Strong to act on it.
  • Best of the Animated Marginals this week was the monkey swing because monkeys.
  • Best Sketch: Tough one, but I’m going to have to go with Training Car. Sheep Salon misses out by about thiiiis much, though, with Pinball Hates His Commute coming in third.
  • Worst Sketch: Wreck-It Gandalf, do you even need to ask?
  • “Your parents have to suffer through Tax Season, but you have to suffer through this!”
  • “I’ve been undercover for so long that I’ve lost sight of who I really am!” Again, the unexpected punch-line is absolutely what made the Sheep Salon sketch. Great work, there.
  • “Thanks to Training Car, I’ve remembered how much I like cycling!”
  • “We’ve got you now, Nicki Minaj… oh, wait, it’s just M.I.A.” “I’ve gotta be honest, I thought it was Santigold!” OK, I may have given that sketch a pass purely because it went outside the box on ridiculous-fashion pop stars instead of making yet another Lady GaGa joke.
  • “Hold on… Big Bang Theory, plus Sesame Street, divided by MAD, carry the one…  oh, you gotta be kidding me!”
  • “That’s not a catchphrase.” “Well at least it’s a better catchphrase than, ‘I’m being held here against my will’!  (to camera) No, seriously.  I’m being held here against my will. ” And that’s why I loved The Big Bird Theory sketch.

Callum Petch knows the song must be beautiful or they wouldn’t sing along.

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