Chris Gethard’s New York public access TV show “The Chris Gethard Show” gained a huge cult following and now airs on the national cable network Fusion. The New York Times called it a “riveting experiment in seat-of-your-pants broadcasting.” It features a panel interacting in weird ways with the audience and callers… who might, for instance, help Chris build a burrito on his naked belly. Here’s Chris with a guest list that’s filled with the unconventional shows that inspired him.
It was a Spanish-language show. I don’t speak Spanish, but I would watch this show, and it was kind of like a human-sized board game. And if you landed on different spots, different horrible things would happen.
I turned it on one day, and one of the contestants on this episode, inexplicably, was a post-total fame, pre-ironic rebirth Mr. T! Mr. T had to crawl through a tunnel, and a clock was counting down, and then when the clock ran to zero, the tunnel exploded.
And, in the context of this totally absurd environment, what you actually wind up with is Mr. T, the toughest dude in my childhood, completely disarmed, acting like more of a genuine human being than you’ve ever seen him act like before.
That really left an imprint on me. I realize I really kind of follow that mold ,in the sense of, like, let’s do something big and absurd; let’s do it with a celebrity because it makes them kind of vulnerable in a way where they become a lot more willing to talk about the human things.
Uncle Andy’s Funhouse
The second thing on my list was made by a hero of mine, Andy Kaufman. He had a late-night variety-talk-special type thing.
For anybody who might not be familiar, Andy Kaufman was a comic, but he kind of referred to himself more as a song and dance man. A lot of people now say he was a performance artist. And “Uncle Andy’s Funhouse,” I am sort of obsessed with.
Some of the things that stand out are: he intentionally made it look like the TV was flickering. Anybody who’s old enough will remember that you used to have to kind of hit the side of your TV if the antenna wasn’t tuned right, because you’d get lines, vertical and horizontal? He did it to make people think their TV was broken so they would hit it!
But he did a bunch of stuff. Like, he interviewed Howdy Doody on the show. It’s so touching because Howdy Doody is clearly a childhood idol of his, and Howdy Doody, we are all aware, is a puppet. He’s speaking to a puppet with so much emotion. He’s thanking him so profusely. It’s one of the most beautiful interviews I think you’ll ever see. I think it’s a piece of tape that would be ahead of its time today, and he did it decades ago.
The Uncle Floyd Show
So, number three on my list is a thing that I really embraced growing up in New Jersey. It’s a show called “The Uncle Floyd Show.”
This guy, Uncle Floyd, started a self-made TV show, I think in the ’70s, and he just made it forever. It is very low budget, very rough around the edges. He had a puppet named Oogie… and he would have super-cool, underground bands.
For a lot of us kids growing up in New Jersey, the idea that he was local was so mind-blowing. We couldn’t make a perfect show. We’re not Hollywood people; we’re kids from North Jersey. But he’s just a guy from North Jersey making a show, and I don’t care that it’s rough around the edges because that’s part of what’s great about it! You really kind of learned that the more you watched Uncle Floyd.