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Oddly Familiar: A Ben Stiller Show Reunion

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

by Abby Caneda on Playing Around

As part of the recent New York Comedy Festival, The Paley Center for Media held a panel discussion about The Ben Stiller Show, the short-lived sketch program from the early 90s that helped launch several comedy careers.

Titled Oddly Familiar: A Ben Stiller Show Reunion, the panelists were the show's actors and writers: Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, Jeff Kahn, Rob Cohen and Bob Odenkirk (long-time SNL writer who currently plays Saul on Breaking Bad) via Skype. Judd Apatow was the show's Executive Producer, and he acted as moderator.

The Ben Stiller Show ran for one season (1992-1993) with just 13 episodes. It featured filmed parodies of 80s and 90s pop culture. Some of the clips they showed were spoofs of Melrose Place, Die Hard, Eddie Munster returning to Hollywood and Woody Allen in a Bride of Frankenstein movie. Andy Dick hilariously beat out Jeff Kahn in a Woody Allen-off, which ended in Kahn punching a wall in frustration.

The panel felt like a high school reunion, with the particpants telling stories about first starting out. They were kids who hung out together, got fired from delis and did standup wherever they could.

Ben Stiller and Kahn remember crashing at John Cusack's house while he filmed his famous stereo-over-the-head role in Say Anything. Dick was raising a son who napped while he perfected bits. He met Janeane Garofalo when he popped his head under the stall of a women's bathroom to say hello. Garofalo met Stiller while doing standup. She thought he was really cute. Rob Cohen had to polish Danny DeVito's silver, but at least he got to write a Season 3 Simpsons episode. As a joke, Cohen and Garofalo had a Vegas drive-through wedding. They were married for 20 years without knowing it.

Back then, they explain, you couldn't get famous from posting a few good videos on YouTube. You had to be scrappier, moving from city to city and sliding along scripts and videos.

The Ben Stiller Show came at a time when they were all still very green to the industry. Judd Apatow, the producer of comedy hits Anchorman, Bridesmaids and the current HBO series Girls, admits he often had to pretend that he knew more than he did.

It didn't help that low ratings and a network changeover caused FOX to hate the show. But because of their inexperience and the ticking clock, the cast said they had the most fun. They basically got to write and film whatever they wanted, which led to some of the most uninhibited work of their careers.

After its cancellation, the show got a nod with a Primetime Emmy win for Outstanding Writing.
Date: Sat April 27, 2013 � Filesize: 18.8kb � Dimensions: 520 x 346 �
Keywords: The Ben Stiller Show reunion


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