This Looks Terrible! The Underground Comedy Movie (1999)
Welcome to the first entry in This Look Terrible! in a long, long time. It’s a column about entertainment that looks terrible and, in an unsurprising turn of events, ends up being terrible roughly one hundred percent of the time. I like the column but given the nature of the website, it feels a little redundant. After all, articles about unspeakably awful motion pictures are the rule rather than the exception. When it comes to the kinds of movies I write about here, masterpieces like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are anomalies, not Jaws: The Revenge.
Much, if not most of the entertainment I cover here would qualify for This Looks Terrible but I had to bring the column back for a film that looked infinitely more terrible than anything else I’ve covered for the column, and that includes a politics-themed Pauly Shore special called Paulytics, Achmed Saves America, an animated feature film vehicle for Jeff Dunham’s beloved Islamophobic dummy Achmed the Dead Terrorist, Boondocks Saints II: All Saints Day and the surreally, unfathomably awful computer-animated Christmas abomination Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa.
All of those movies and specials are terrible in their own right, but nothing I’ve covered for this column was quite as soul-crushingly, brain-meltingly terrible as ShamWow pitchman and all-around terrible human being Vince Offer’s 1999 sketch-comedy boondoggle The Underground Comedy Movie.
I bought Offer’s feature-length insult for a dollar at a Half Priced Books because I had seen, and loathed, and written about, the movie’s 2013 semi-remake inAPPropriate Comedy and wondered how anything could be worse than that cinematic nadir. Now I know and I am legitimately angry for having over-paid so egregiously for my copy of the film. Let’s just say that sometimes morbid curiosity can take you to some ugly, ugly places.
Like a lazy, delinquent student padding out a book report, Underground Comedy Movie begins by defining satire as “The use of ridicule, sarcasm, irony, etc, to expose and attack vices, follies, etc” before explaining, “Satire is essentially concerned with exposing some flaw. To differentiate it from straight criticism, it is wrapped in absurdity to enhance the differentiation. Sometimes like a bitter pill is coated with sugar, the bite is lightened with humor.”
Not only does Underground Comedy Movie not qualify as satire, it would be overly generous to call it a comedy, or a movie, or underground in any real sense. “Don’t be offended, you little bitches”, the opening credits continue, an early indication of the bottomless contempt Offer has for his audience and humanity and how much undeserved pride he has in himself and his sad, misanthropic, failed attempt at humor.
Offer pops up early as a dude in an underground lair who uses a fan to blow up the skirt of a Marilyn Monroe lookalike (Baywatch’s Gena Lee Nolin) striking the iconic 7 Year Itch pose. Offer’s pervazoid barely human underground dweller takes advantage of the view to masturbate furiously. In the process, Offer establishes a template from which the film rarely deviates: when in doubt, go with the comic gold of a dude masturbating furiously and then unleashing great gobs of fake ejaculate. The Underground Comedy Movie is a sad, solipsistic masturbatory exercise in more ways than one.
Alternately, when Offer does know how to end a sketch, or begin a sketch, or continue a sketch he opts for random, nonsensical murder and/or violence. And if the person being physically assaulted or killed is a cartoonish caricature of a homosexual, or a woman, or a minority, or old, even better! Yes, The Underground Comedy Movie truly belongs in the same category as Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal and Dr. Strangelove only instead of speaking truth to power or exposing the hypocrisy of the powerful, Offer has the bravery to go after truly deserving subjects like mentally ill homeless people. It’s about time somebody knock them off their pedestals and cut them down to size.
The Underground Comedy Movie has more money shots than the average porn film and boasts a body count to rival the average Friday the 13th or The Expendables sequel despite being a raunchy comedy thanks to mindlessly, needlessly violent sketches like “Bat Man”, a superhero spoof about a Riddler-like super villain named The Rhymer, who is first seen robbing a sperm bank and speaks entirely in threatening rhymes like the following bon mots:
“Give me all your semen and there will be no screaming”
“Lay down your seed or I’ll make you bleed.” (who can resist ejaculation based wordplay? Certainly not our boy Vince!)
“You shouldn’t smoke. It’ll make you croak”
“Better not hurl or you’ll never get a girl”
“Roses are red, violets are blue, I killed your homies and now I’m going to kill you”
The Rhymer goes around murdering people for no discernible reason when not shooting dudes in the dick (That is one of the most outrageous and extreme places to get shot). His arch nemesis is the titular Bat Man, who is, get this, a man with a bat! A baseball bat that is! That he uses to do things like separate an old woman’s head from the rest of her body because nothing is funnier to Offer than violence against women, particularly old or unattractive women. In what I imagine is a wholly unrelated development, in 2009 Offer was charged with felony battery after a dust-up with a sex worker.
Unlike InAPPropriate Comedy, Underground Comedy Movie is a vehicle not only for Offer as a writer and a director (an auteur, as it were) but also as an actor. As a comic performer, Offer suggests a cross between Jesse Camp and Pauly Shore without the goofball charm and affability.
He nevertheless seems to fancy himself something of a Peter Sellers-like chameleon capable of playing an astonishing array of different characters, including “Flirty Harry”, a swishy, effeminate Dirty Harry parody clad in an unflattering red dress whose catchphrase is “Go ahead, make me gay.”
In a remarkable and deeply sad turn of events, Offer was so in love with the line “Go ahead, make me gay”, despite it making absolutely no sense for a character whose sole feature is that he’s an insulting, homophobic caricature of an effeminate homosexual, that he decided that to really realize Flirty Harry’s true potential comedically and artistically he needed to be played not just by a professional actor but by an Academy Award winner.
So in InAPPropriate Comedy, Oscar winner Adrien Brody humiliated himself playing Flirty Harry for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. Blackmail? Terrible judgment? Delusional confidence in the storytelling ability of a man who should not be allowed to see any more movies, let alone make them?
Israeli-born hype man Offer didn’t land an Oscar winner for his directorial debut. He had to settle for a pair of nominees in Karen Black and Michael Clarke Duncan and on a decidedly less impressive note, Joey Buttafuoco.
A visibly inebriated Slash hosts the Miss America Bag Lady pageant for mentally ill, elderly, saggy-skinned old homeless woman held in The Toilet, rather than Hollywood Bowl that finally gives these powerless, pitied and mocked figures the vicious comical thrashing they deserve. Offer wasn’t kidding about this being satire and us being easy offended little bitches.
If you’re lucky enough to get Slash for your pathetic little vanity project, you’re not going to insult his ego by making him do a second take where he isn’t giggling and slurring his words and stumbling over his lines. Slash’s turn here isn’t a cameo or a fun bit part so much as it is a cry for help, the kind he could play at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It’s not everyone whose bottoming out is captured for posterity in one of the worst comedies of the last twenty five years.
Slash isn’t the only performer here so delighted that they violate every rule of professionalism, break character and begin laughing before a scene is over. Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan plays a tough gay black male virgin (the joke, such as it is, being that such a thing could possibly exist, what with all stereotypes being true and all, the foundation of the film’s quasi-comedy) at the pool table of a gay bar who spends the film resisting double and single entendre-laced come-ons like “What say we go back to my place so we can bang some real balls?”, “(of Duncan’s penis) That pole’s been fucked so many times I can see China!” and “I’m pre-lubed for your convenience” of a horny white guy (Ant) who won’t take no for an answer even after Duncan’s beefy yet sexually pure muscle man insists that he’s waiting for the right man and doesn’t date white guys until he insists that he’s a quarter Puerto Rican, at which point Duncan and Ant both “corpse” to use the comedy terms for breaking character and laughing, and begin chuckling out loud, something that somehow did not ruin the take as far as Offer was concerned.
This irritated me because it was so nakedly, brazenly unprofessional but also because it seems morally wrong, if not downright unethical, for the actors in the movie to experience joy, laughter and pleasure while sadistically depriving audiences of even the tiniest iota of amusement. It’s not fair! It’s not fair! Why should they get to laugh and not us? Why does Vince Offer hate us so?
This isn’t just a vehicle for Vince Offer the funnyman of a thousand voices and faces, nearly all of them nearly identical and also bad, or Vince Offer the low-budget independent auteur, or entreprenauteur, a deeply annoying portmanteau of entrepreneur and auteur I just created for Offer. No, we also get to see and hear him channel his inner “Weird Al” Yankovic with a parody of “I Love LA” called “I HATE LA” only instead of having lyrics about how great LA is, like (Googles lyrics to “I Love LA”) “Look at that bum over there, man, he’s down on his knees!”, Offer’s misanthrope is, um singing about how, actually, LA sucks and, if you really think about it, is full of phonies, with charming couplets like “Look at that producer, look at that slut/she fucked her way to Melrose place, then got cut” that, if you love Offer or really love Offer, you’ve got to admit improves on Newman’s original.
Who is the real satirist, Mr. Toy Story or a guy willing to really rip Los Angeles a new one with lyrics about how “all the women are whores” and “Look at those girls! Or are they guys?”
Offer’s singing voice, meanwhile, makes his doppelgänger Jesse Camp’s stoned surfer warble sound like the seven-octave roar of a world-class opera singer by comparison.
Does Newman begin every concert by reading the Webster’s dictionary definition of satire? I think not! That, by default, makes Offer the greater satirist.
The Underground Comedy Movie travels a circular route through a raw sewer of faux-comic ugliness and arrives back in the literal sewer of its opening as a toothless old, homeless-seeming man is so overcome with lust looking at Nolin pay tribute to Marilyn Monroe that he masturbates vigorously and a great gob of sperm travels a long path through the sewer grate and Offer’s body and face down below as the writer-director-star explains that that is why it’s called The Underground Comedy Movie. Not because it embodies a countercultural, anti-authoritarian or anarchic spirit, or is genuinely satirical but rather because, as one of many, many bad jokes involving jizz, it concludes with a man who is literally “underground” getting ejaculated upon in a manner that’s supposed to be “comedic” and somehow also worthy of inclusion in a “movie” and not a home movie you only show the jackass friends who made it with you against their better judgment. Yet Offer nevertheless clearly saw this as the cinematic equivalent of a dramatic mic drop. The underground! The comedy! The movie! The comically outsized, unrealistic amount of male ejaculate landing on not just a dude but the dude as far as the movie is concerned! It works on so many levels!
Deep into The Underground Comedy Movie I made a horrifying discovery. Offer dedicates the movie to the hardcore fans of the 1988 public access show that inspired the movie. That means that by the time Offer gifted the world with a parody of Swan Lake entitled Sperm Lake in which conventionally unattractive men with out of shape bodies perform ballet badly in skimpy, unflattering garb before one of them is climatically doused by a comically large amount of male ejaculate in what Wikipedia describes as 2013’s “universally panned” InAPPropriate Comedy he’d been refining these jokes and ideas for a full quarter century. Like a true artist and a craftsman, he spent literally decades really getting inside the heads of characters like Flirty Harry or the Godmother (who is like the Godfather, only a dude in women’s clothing pretending to be a woman) and perfecting the alchemy of racism, homophobia, childish shock, stereotypes, misogyny, narcissism, gratuitous violence and ugly nihilism that gives his work its distinctive and overwhelming stink.
Underground Comedy Movie’s end credits include a “special acknowledgment” to “the writers of “There’s Something About Mary” which broke new ground in cinematic comedy: Please return my promotional copy of “The Underground Comedy Movie” you got a hold of in 1997. (You used enough of it already!)”
Offer accusing the Farrelly Brothers of ripping them off is like Kevin Federline indignantly insisting that Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly stole egregiously from his debut album Playing with Fire to the point that he should be financially compensated and recognized as the true genius scandalously ripped off by the big guys.
The Farrelly Brothers may somehow have somehow have come across a copy of Offer’s grubby, ugly little labor of love/hate. But I’m sure that if they did, they would then do what any sane person would when confronted with Offer’s “art”: hurl it angrily and indignantly into the garbage, then set that garbage can on fire so that its evil, poisonous and hateful contents could never hurt another person or waste their precious, precious time.
Late into this endless gauntlet of horrors Offer rides atop a pink car driven by Los Angeles Personality Angelyne and you kind of can’t help but hope he falls off. I’m not saying Offer deserves to die, necessarily, but getting a little banged up does not seem like unfair cosmic punishment for inflicting The Underground Comedy Movie and InAPPropriate Comedy upon a world that already given Offer so, so much, and for so little cause.
The eternally litigious sued Anna Nicole Smith for pulling out of the movie out of fear that it would harm her reputation. Let that sink in for a moment. Her life and career were essentially one long tragic, bleary march to oblivion with no one looking for her interests or saving her from herself and even she realized that being in this movie was a bad idea.
Offer also sued the Farrelly Brothers unsuccessfully as well as The Church of Scientology for allegedly working behind the scenes to sabotage Offer and his sketch comedy movie after deeming it a terrible mistake and Offer a dangerous and destructive person, a “criminal” in their unsparing eyes.
I don’t write this very often, or at all, but at least when it came to Offer and the creative and cultural worth of The Underground Comedy Movie (which is to say none) and Offer’s “comedy” in general, I one hundred percent agree with the Church of Scientology.
Hey, I routinely suffer through this crap for you, so if you would be kind enough to donate even a dollar over at http://patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace it’d be nothing short of