If Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, of legendary HBO sketch series Mr. Show, had a septet of babies, it would be The Birthday Boys. Odenkirk is, in fact, one of the creative producers, along with Ben Stiller's Red Hour, behind the cult Upright Citizens Brigade sketch group's new IFC show, The Birthday Boys, debuting Friday, Oct. 18, at 10:30 p.m.
Still, the group possesses more joie de vivre in its comedy than did its predecessor. "They're sillier and have less of an ax to grind than Mr. Show, which always took a critical, harsh look at culture and people," Odenkirk says.
One example: "Carry," on the first episode, is about a remote-controlled red Corvette who drives happily around the Land of Pretend (Los Angeles) to a jolly four-note tune, just like the trolley on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. But Carry suffers a bout of depression after he meets a dead-end road, and escapes into drinking and hookers.
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Then there's the mockumentary "Garages of Computer Valley," which follows around Apple computer creatorlike types who are more dazzled more by their garage work (like laying down weather stripping and hanging ping-pong balls by string as car boundaries) than they are by their progress with the personal computer.
On camera, Odenkirk shows up as a godfather figure, goofing around with the kids. Behind the scenes, Odenkirk encouraged them to bust past their comedic boundaries, giving notes on timing.
"One note he gave me was to stop smiling in every shot," says Birthday Boy Tim Kalpakis. "Many sketches required me to yell. And Bob would say, 'You look too happy to have a TV show. Do it again and don't smile.' " —Anthony D'Alessandro
For more on the show, visit bit.ly/laweeklybirthdayboys.