Monday, November 26, 2001

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad TV World!

Submitted by Bill the Rake

We finally went down to brave the teenage riot of fans who attend the taping of Mad TV. I'd seen a lot of Mad TV shows that even the cast would agree were pretty crappy, but this night was one of shear hi...hi...hilarity. The kids practiced their favorite impersonation of Will Sasso doing "Arnuld" or rapped about the show, hoping it would get back to Quincy Jones, one of the executive producers. Each actor is amazingly versatile and strong at portraying their satirical victims.

Watching the eccentric crew members was as entertaining as the sketches or the audience members. One wardrobe guy looked like an inebriated extra in Spinal Tap with his shoes untied. The directors even pick audience members to star in certain sketches. But as much fun as we had, the crew had just as much fun watching the audience. They seemed bored while shooting the scenes and were happy to get back at gawking at the audience.

Mad TV is videotaped before a live audience in Hollywood at the old Monogram Studios of Howard Hughes, James Cagney, Desilu, and Beverly Hillbillies fame, now known as the Hollywood Center Studios. It's the same spot where Comedy Central tapes The Man Show.

All of these shows are basically the same, with three cameras in a square, two story high, wooden barn. If you've watched the show, the closing shot is on the left, and the special guest/musical act is on the right. On this particular night, the guest was "Kenny Rodgers" portraying "Lemmy from Motorhead." The rest of the space is divided into separate stables for each scene that is taped that night. The audience is seated in the middle surrounded by two stables on each side. This allows for the taping of up to seven separate scenes with a real audience response.

Mad TV is the Henry Ford factory system of television production, belting out two shows every other week with just one audience. They've produced over seven-hundred shows since it's debut in 1993. Their rival, Saturday Night Live, has to tape in front of the same audience each week, which for some reason the Mad TV writers like to make fun of in their sketches. Mad TV is on Fox on Saturday nights and TNN on weekday nights.

One thing about seeing a live taping of a television show is that the magic is tarnished when you see the mistakes and the actors in three-dimensions. You may dream that Will Sasso can literally kick the rock's ass, but when you see that he's shorter and fatter than the rock, you know that's not going to happen. You see Alex Borstein and realize how tall she's not, but that she's still cute as a pear. Alex Borstein doesn't give credit to anything on her resume. If you're that gal that has a crush on Michael McDonald with regards to his "Rusty" or "Stuart" characters, you won't when you realize he's taller than the boom stand and older than "Rusty" and "Stuart" combined. Michael McDonald put down on his resume that he was a Roger Corman extra. You also realize that Debra Wilson is not a crack addict in real life, she's just hyper. But all in all, it's just as funny and you do get to see the outtakes when Aires "Brittany" Spears' mixer bowl falls off his head when he's portraying Belma, his fat black lady character.

The scene the audience guest starred in was a spoof of The Price Is Right. Mo Collins played that weird lady from Minnesota (Lady Lorraine) who goes on The Price Is Right. After viewing Lady Lorraine's hind quarters climbing down to The Price Is Right podiums, the audience got to see Debra Wilson's tube top fly off as she jumped for joy, mocking an actual The Price Is Right episode. Another thing about the taping is that you get to see the vulgarities and the outtakes. The kids like the vulgarities. Mad TV. Oh my gawd, it's a mad, mad, mad, Mad TV world.

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