Robert Smigel's ingenious Saturday TV Funhouse cartoons have long served as oases of savage, timely satire in Saturday Night Live's endless desert of labored skits, grating catchphrases, and deadening recurring characters. So when Lorne Michaels devoted an entire episode of SNL to TV Funhouse, the result was something television hadn't seen in ages: a consistently hilarious, filler-free episode of Saturday Night Live.
Since TV Funhouse plugs effortlessly into the cultural zeitgeist, its new greatest-hits compilation doubles as a funhouse mirror reflecting the past decade's dominant anxieties and obsessions, from the Clinton impeachment to 9/11 to the war on terror. Smigel filters society's hot-button issues through the pop culture of the '60 and '70s, particularly the prolific Hanna-Barbera crap factory. "Saddam And Osama," for example, simultaneously spoofs Islamic propaganda, G.I. Joe, and convoluted '70s cartoons by positing Hussein and Bin Laden as shape-shifting superheroes too crafty to be captured. In less than four minutes, the short finds time to include clever mock-commercials for Islamic fundamentalist-friendly programming like an episode of Batman in which the Caped Crusader squares off against such hated foes as "The Jew," "The Other Jew," and "The Little Old Jew."
Elsewhere in Smigel's warped imagination, a work-hungry Mr. T returns to the animated airwaves to bully his way into playing Torvald in A Doll's House, and a disillusioned Santa Claus decides to skip the Red States to hang out with Janeane Garofalo, Moby, and Al Franken. Smigel's aesthetic is to go too far and then keep on going, but he undercuts his raging cynicism with an ingratiating fondness for Peanuts and Phil Spector, to whom he lovingly pays tribute on "Christmastime For The Jews." TV Funhouse is so brilliant that it's tempting to wonder why Michaels doesn't just turn over his sinking ship to Smigel. But in the end, Smigel is better off ruling his perfect little comic fiefdom rather than Michaels' not-so-magical kingdom.
Key features: Bonus cartoons and entertaining audio commentaries featuring Smigel and everyone from Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell to James Carville and Bryant Gumbel.