For those of you who don’t know, The Onion is a satirical news source so thoroughly drenched in deadpan humor that at first glance it seems authentic. I thought The Onion, which produces daily phony articles on everything from politics to entertainment to sports, created more than enough content to appease its readers. Apparently, they didn’t think so.
Recently, they premiered a show on Comedy Central called The Onion SportsDome. This is an amazing idea on paper; the ridiculousness of SportsCenter and ESPN coverage shows, which often consist of five guys attempting to out-talk each other all at once, is a hitherto un-plundered comedy goldmine. While The Onion SportsDome doesn’t always hit the mark, it was consistently funny enough to keep me watching.
If The Onion is good for one thing, it’s joke quantity. While oftentimes the titles of The Onion’s articles are funnier than the articles themselves, the sheer amount of content churned out often ensures that something will satisfy somebody.
The same tactic is employed in The Onion SportsDome, which has a joke rate so high that when something really gets you to crack up, you find you’ve missed several more jokes in that time span, and to me that is almost always a good thing. Don’t like one joke? Here’s three more. The show is well paced for its content; it never stops moving.
The hosts, Mark Shepard and Alex Reiser (played by Matt Oberg and Matt Walton) are a good duo. Alex Reiser is recently off of probation and as cocksure as James Bond, while Mark Shepard is a spectacled sports savant whose gratuitous use of the abbreviation “deets” can sum up much of his personality. He’s also in a band called Deadly Chemistry, which his co-workers avoid seeing at every opportunity.
While the show’s hosts are funny enough, what I liked the most about them is that they never get in the way of the coverage. Their characterization is achieved purely through snippets of fast paced banter, which is very often bloodthirsty and pitiless in nature. I occasionally got the feeling the writers consider all sports completely worthless, particularly soccer, which is completely ignored when it isn’t being harshly lampooned. Also commendable are the lengthy, over-the-top graphics sequences, or the use of the term “human garbage” in describing Kwame Brown, or the coverage of people on crystal meth, as well as a teenager attempting to break the world masturbation record (he succeeds). One memorable portion featured a parody of the “Make-A-Wish” program, in which a little girl with cancer, who is also a devout Phillies fan, has her dream of heckling Mets third baseman David Wright in person brought to fruition.
The show isn’t perfect, however. Some of the bits fall short; others run a bit longer than necessary. One portion that comes to mind was a top ten countdown of the NBA’s best tall players. It was little more than the hosts’ incessant use of the word tall. Although I found myself chuckling at the sheer persistence of the joke, I was surprised it even made it onto the air. Lesser jokes such as this don’t get too much in the way of the show’s appeal, though.
In fact, the show’s best moment thus far took place in the first episode, which described a handicapped mixed martial arts fighter who was banned from the league because of his prosthetic metal hands, which can exert up to 5,000 pounds of pressure. It’s the show’s funniest bit so far, and with four episodes under its belt, The Onion SportsDome is shaping up to be a reason to watch Comedy Central before The Daily Show airs on Tuesday nights.