Friday, October 2, 2009
I don't know about you, but I consider myself to have a sophisticated sense of humor. A refined sharp ear for only the cleverest of jokes. A real discerning ability to enjoy the most elite brand of drollery.
But I still think it's funny to see a guy get hit in the nuts with a baseball.
What can I say? It's somewhere in our human nature to find others' unanticipated moments of undeserved physical pain to be wildly funny. Some of us may try to hide our amusement at such juvenile antics, but when it comes down to it it's these little incidences of comical injury that really tie us together in this human tapestry of life. Or something like that.
Plus, when they punctuate it with some sort of farcical "boing!" or "splat!" sound effect, it definitely hits home. Well actually, it misses home and his that guy at third base squarely in the swimsuit area, but that's really not the point. The point is that it makes us laugh, regardless of whether or not that guy can someday be the father of future children.
From its roots as a primitive one-hour special in 1989, the original version was hosted by Full House's Bob Saget. Sure, the material and inter-video skits were incredibly cheesy, but they were usually pretty funny, too. We had our catchy 90s theme song followed by a short Bob Saget monologue and then all the sidesplitting videos we could take. Complete with narration and Saget's funny voices, no less. Childish? Yes. Were we children? Yes. A perfect fit.
Aside from the video debauchery there were also a number of running scripted gags of the incredibly cheesy, family-friendly variety. For any of you remotely familiar with Bob Saget's personal stand-up material, it's safe to say this is in an entirely different realm of content. There was a running bit in which an off-screen and thus unseen producer would hand things to Bob as if like magic, and he'd make marginally humorous comments to him like, "Glad to see that rash is clearing up." And that was the good stuff.
Despite the corniness of it all, the show was very entertaining and became a runaway hit. It didn't hurt that there were exorbitantly excessive cash prizes offered to winners as well. Weekly winners were awarded a whopping $10,000 and were granted entrance to the $100,000 contest at the end of the season. All in all, not a bad deal for catching your cat walking on his hindlegs with a cardboard box on his head.
While the content of the videos varied, they could typically be broken down into some neatly defined categories:
Children can be amusing, I'll give you that. Never mind that it's borderline exploitative to videotape your kids doing something funny in an effort to score some cold hard cash, people were rushing for their camcorders at every hiccup. Nowadays YouTube is flooded with this stuff, but in the earlier days of video recording it was more of a contained practice. Nothing quite like profiting from your child's embarrassing behavior. Just remember to hide the DVD release evidence now that the kids are grown--I can't imagine they'd be too pleased about their incredibly public bathtime vid.
The Disruption of a Major Life Event
Yes, it can be pretty funny when a major life event (wedding, bar mitzvah, baptism, graduation) goes awry, but I can't imagine those people whose $1000 wedding cake was toppled over by a renegade cyclist feel the same way. Unless they won the $10,000 prize off of it. Then I'm sure they're more than willing to let things go.
Animals do the darndest things. Mind you, this was ages before Lolcatz and Cute Overload and all that (animal-themed) jazz. At the very least these people had something to show for being chased by an ornery, human-hungry ostrich. Besides the resultant scars and emotional trauma, I mean.
The Injury Ward
Also known as "Guy Gets Hit in Nuts With Baseball Bat", injuries were pretty common AFV fare. Laugh at others' misfortune? Don't mind if I do.
The Prank (aka the Set-Up)
Speaking of cheap tricks, The Set-Up was probably the cheapest. Once word got out you could make a cool ten grand for a funny video, people everywhere began manufacturing their own humorous situations. If it seemed a little like unfair play, that's only because it was. Sure, it may have made us chuckle to see them scare the pants off of grandma with some remote control toy, but it just wasn't the same as if they'd earned their candid moment like everyone else.
The departure of Bob Saget of course did not mark the end of the show. Later incarnations starred John Fugelsang and Daisy Fuentes (1998-2001) and Tom Bergeron (2001-present) of Dancing with the Stars fame. Somehow, though, it just isn't quite the same. Maybe we're older. Maybe we're wiser. Or maybe, just maybe, our loyalty Bob Saget's clean fun-for-the-whole-family humor just won't allow us to be won over by some sub par replacement host.
Then again, maybe it's all those viral videos out there. Tough to say.