Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Sketch comedy isn't dead. True, it's not as vital as it used to be, but "The Gooder Life...With Dr. Jesse" (available on the You Tubes) is a timely reminder that some people still want to wear wigs and act crazy.  If nothing else, it should serve as a nice palliative for the recent wave of fashionably ironic comedy currently airing on IFC.

The series is the pet project of Jesse Christensen, a dervish of funny accents and costumes who writes, directs, and stars in each segment. As Jerry Lewis might say, he knows from funny. Or as I might say, he's funny. 

In some ways, "The Gooder Life" is cheerily digging up old ground,  inspired by "The Kids In The Hall" and the Chris Farley, Adam Sandler era of SNL. Christensen hits all of the usual targets, including old movies, late night infomercials,  family values, has-been singers, and of course, lots of gross humor, usually involving a male character being sexually degraded.  Christensen doesn't try to be cute or hip, and I get the impression he couldn't care less about politics.  Basically, he  watched a lot of "Ren & Stimpy" as a kid, and he's still happily riding that influence.

Half Dr J:1:2 Jesse

What separates "The Gooder Life" from most sketch comedy is Christensen's attention to detail. There's always something going on in a corner of the screen, some splash of color,  an unexpected backdrop, that makes "The Gooder Life" one of the most visually appealing DIY projects on the Internet. My favorite bit was a sketch called "Mein Koffee,"  which is not only a tornado of funny German accents, but is as visually stimulating as an old Yardbirds album cover.
The sketches aren't always perfect - some go on too long, not all of the performers are playing the game at Christensen's speed, and while I admire Christensen's willingness to use everything in the attic for a laugh, there's an overreliance on the grotesque. Still,  Christensen is onto something. Underneath his maliciously crooked grin and his penchant for dancing naked is a talent for directing and editing, and an ear for the non-sequitur.  



Will comedy fans catch the nuances of "The Gooder Life?" Or will they be too overwhelmed by the belches, farts, and wigs to even notice? It's hard to say. As for Dr. Jesse, the demented self-help expert who introduces most of the sketches like HBO's old Crypt Keeper, he's one of Christensen's most inspired creations.  I'd like to know more about him. I'd also like to know why he wears a neck brace and carries a puppet.

Christensen's comedy tends to have a weird, boomerang effect. There were some bits that didn't strike me as particularly funny on the first viewing, but within a day or so I'd start remembering   certain lines and marveling at their cleverness. And that's what keeps me watching these sketches, paying attention to what lurks in the corners, listening to the punch-lines within punch-lines.
In other words, if the devil is in the details,  the devil's laughter can be heard throughout "The Gooder Life."

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