There’s a reason creative types often smear network executives as know-nothing suits. It’s because they know nothing and they wear suits. All they care about is money, and sometimes great things die because a network executive needs a new suit. Here are 10 shows on Comedy Central that absolutely ruled, but were taken away from us well before they should have been.
The Ben Show
Air dates: Feb. 28, 2013 – April 18, 2013
In 2016, Ben Hoffman released a country album that peaked at No. 9 on the U.S. Country chart. The album was titled “Redneck Shit,” which should give you a clue as to his unique brand of comedy. A Jew from Lexington, Kentucky, Hoffman premiered on Comedy Central with The Ben Show, a mix of sketch comedy and man-on-the-street encounters.
What made The Ben Show special was its unforced authenticity, basically a charmingly lackadaisical series that felt as if you were hanging out with Hoffman himself. Sometimes he brought gold (Football Coach), while other times he produced corny paleface R&B anthems about black women hugging (Black Women Hugging). At all times, however, you were on the edge of your seat waiting for the next 24-karat nugget of comedic genius.
As one unimpressed college student at the University of Michigan wrote in a column, “The format doesn’t make sense….This show doesn’t cater to immature 12-year-old boys, nor is it brimming with intellectual wit for more sophisticated audiences.” Exactly! That’s exactly right. And it’s why the show garnered cult status among jaded twenty-something humor aficionados tired of the status quo. Unfortunately, it’s also why it was canceled.
Air dates: January 22, 2003 – July 23, 2006
Between 2003 and 2006, audiences — both black and white (and yellow and green and magenta) — guffawed on a weekly basis at the ingenious spectacle that was Chappelle’s Show. It took on cultural taboos that no one would go near, including a “Racial Draft” and recurring human interest pieces on the life and times of one Tyrone Biggums. Audiences loved it, and would laugh freely at these touchy subjects without an ounce of discomfort. But alas, it would end, because the only person uncomfortable in this equation would be Chappelle himself.
In June 2004, Chappelle was performing standup in Sacramento, CA, when audience members began chanting, “I’m Rick James, bitch!” He left the stage in a heat and said, “The show is ruining my life.” The man who seemingly solved racial issues in America was a victim of his own fame. Chappelle cited burnout, loss of creative control and an uncomfortable work environment as reasons for his departure. Plus, the 20-hour workdays, he said, took time away from his true passion of stand-up comedy.
Those who believe Chappelle went nutty and flew to Africa to cope are completely absent to the fact that Chappelle hit grand slams in every sketch, in every episode. That type of perfection is only possible through a monopoly of creative control, something he lost more and more of as his show went on. In one blogger’s opinion, me, Chappelle simply didn’t want to tarnish the masterpiece he created, and instead of continuing down a path of creative surrender, he booked it.
Important Things With Demetri Martin
Air dates: Feb. 11, 2009 – April 15, 2010