Stiller's sketches spoof youth culture

September 25, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

OK, it's time for the twenty- something pop culture question of the day.

Who is Ben Stiller?

If you know the answer, all I need to tell you is that Stiller's new show premieres on Fox at 7:30 Sunday night and his parody of U2's Bono is almost as funny as him doing Eddie Munster in the role played by Robert De Niro in "Cape Fear."

If you don't know who Stiller is, start by thinking of the Luke Perry look: sideburns, hair swept back, tight jeans, T-shirt. Stiller's got the look -- the Fox TV, youth look.

Besides having the look, he also has some talent as a filmmaker, comedian and actor. He especially has a nice feel for video and youth culture.

"The Ben Stiller Show" is a half-hour each week of Stiller and a troupe of actors, writers and comedians doing the kinds of sketches and parodies popularized on shows like "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV."

The parody of Bono runs on-and-off throughout the pilot under the title "Rockumentary: U2, the Early Years." Stiller, as Bono, sits under a bare light bulb and strings together an endless rope of self-absorbed, angry non sequiturs: "You people, you want me to be a god. But then you look at me and say I can't be a god. So, to you people I say buzz off, because I don't even know what a god is. I just pull down my pants and go to the bathroom like everybody else. But if 50,000, people want to watch, hell, I'll do it for them."

Alternating with the Bono monologue is actor David Madden, identified as U2's first manager, talking about Bono's failings. Part of the joke is that Madden played Reuben Kinkaid, the goofy manager of "The Partridge Family" musical group on that goopy TV series. Madden ultimately minimizes the breakup between him and Bono by telling the camera that "I Think I Love You" sold more copies than anything U2 or the Beatles, for that matter, ever did.

Stiller is at his best, though, parodying the commercials that sell sex and attitude to young viewers. Wet and steamy images of a young woman washing a car are intercut with other images of bronzed skin, heat, sun, water and the words "What Sexy Is." It looks like soft porn, but turns out to be an ad for a garden hose.

The material in "The Ben Stiller Show" is limited to rock music, videos, films, sex, relationships, TV commercials, show business and old TV shows. That seems to be all Stiller knows. But the audience looking for more than that on Sunday nights at 7:30 probably will be watching "60 Minutes" on CBS anyway.

'Ben Stiller Show'

When: Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: WBFF (Channel 45)

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