Recap: Bob and David, together onstage in Chicago
A reunion of the primary minds behind Mr. Show—the sketch-comedy godshow that you’ve heard of if you’ve ever visited The A.V. Club before—is a big deal to some people. Us people. You people. Me people. I planned a trip to L.A. around the pilot taping of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’ HBO sitcom, David’s Situation, last year. And though Odenkirk and Cross decided not to pursue that show, they did decide to appear together at the inaugural Chicago Just For Laughs Festival over the weekend. Sure, they played at a smaller venue than the big boys—Jimmy Fallon, Ellen Degenres, etc.—but Bob and David (and “friends”) built the biggest buzz immediately. Just one show was originally scheduled, but it sold out lightning-fast, and another was added on Friday night. I went both nights, because I am greedy.
No one seemed to know exactly what to expect; in an interview with Decider, Bob and David didn’t seem entirely sure themselves. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that the show brought both quizzical looks and full-on laughs. It definitely felt as much like a workshop as an actual show, but a workshop helmed by two guys who complement each other with a sort of karmic precision. The show began strongly by leaning on that chemistry: Bob and David “bump into” each other on the street, and David doesn’t remember Bob. (Bob accuses David of “going Hollywood,” a joke that David probably came up with, considering that later in the show he was announced as “the star of Albert And The Chipmunks,” and he’s got a knack for self-deprecation.) The meeting eventually leads to a one-man-showoff, in which Bob goes all performance art (lipstick, bad poetry) and David panders hilariously, dancing in a Blues Brothers outfit to “Sweet Home Chicago.” It was the sort of perfectly measured, seemingly tossed-off idea that Mr. Show nailed so often, and it was great to see it work so well after a long break.
The rest of the show wavered—there were a couple more knockouts, but lots of ideas that maybe needed a little more time in the Crock Pot. (Bob joked on both nights that this was a parade of sketches without endings, always the toughest part of a good bit.) The promised “friends” didn’t include any Mr. Show regulars, but the assembled players provided solid backing for the Bob-and-David-centric skits: A Deal Or No Deal parody called Cash Or Check was great, while a bit about a polite family that refused to get angry at the guy who murdered their dad/husband fell a bit flat. The show was dotted with guest stand-ups, too, who were supposedly performing at one of many, many “Bob And David Stand-Up Express” locations across the country. (Odenkirk, you see, sold the name. Cross didn’t mind, as long as he got some cash.) Nick Thune was hilarious, as was John Mulaney, though Team Submarine seemed too nervous to deliver.
Why wouldn’t they be? Cross and Odenkirk working together on sketch comedy again is a huge deal to a certain segment of the nerd populace, all of which seemed to be in attendance. So the fact these shows weren’t perfectly honed comedic machines was kinda moot. They weren’t intended to be a grand “we’re back!” announcement. That’s not Cross and Odenkirk’s style, and it’s part of why we love them. Even if these ideas don’t germinate into a beautiful daffodil of sketch comedy (or, gasp, another collaboration as good as Mr. Show), it was nice to see two perfect comedic foils at work together again.