The only episode reviews I can find of Mr. Show are the AV Club, and I always disagree with them, so I’m writing my own. They’re not going to be in order because I only have seasons 3 and 4 on DVD right now and that’s a lot easier than watching them on YouTube (plus listening to the commentaries makes them even better).
I’m pretty clueless when it comes to sketch comedy; I’ve only watched a few episodes of other sketch shows, except for Portlandia, which I’ve watched every episode of even though I don’t usually like it. It’s getting better, but it often relies almost completely on references, putting them in the place of actual jokes and expecting people to like the show just because they recognize the references. One of the things that impresses me most about Mr. Show is that I recognized almost none of the references when I first saw the show and still thought it was funny.
It’s sort of hard to pin down what my idea of comedy is, but in addition to what makes me laugh out loud (which tends to be small details like the way a line is delivered), I also appreciate extreme commitment to bad jokes or non-jokes (I recently enjoyed Catherine, by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp). I love the New Yorker Anti-Caption Contest. I also like surrealism, although I don’t know if it falls into one of the first two categories or is something else altogether.
One of my favorite things about Mr. Show is the way the sketches are connected by dream logic. No matter how clever it is sometimes, it’s an experience first. The sketches can’t just be boiled down to one joke or concept, partly because they’re done with such commitment but also because it’s hard to say when one sketch ends and another starts. The links between the longer scenes are really funny and sometimes one character or idea lends itself to what I would consider several sketches (I’m thinking of “It’s Insane, This Guy’s Taint” or “Camp Monk Academy”). And the sketches are nonstop funny in a lot of little ways that have nothing to do with the concept.