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Binge!: 'The State'

Key and Peele want you to devour this MTV sketch comedy from the ’90s, so dig in

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Who They Are
Long ago in the dark ages of the 1980s, 11 New York University students formed a sketch troupe called the New Group. The name didn’t stick but the group did, and after a stint writing for the Jon Stewart-hosted You Wrote It, You Watch It, MTV gave them their own show. The result: 24 episodes of manic, absurd meta-comedy (available on Hulu Plus). ”There is something fascinating about how the technique of scenes weaving in and out of each other and sketches picking up where they left off later in the same episode was prevalent in the early ’90s,” notes Key, who along with co-guest editor Peele curated this binge of The State. Though the group’s run was brief (they disbanded in 1995 after a failed attempt to go network), it was also glorious, so go ahead and really dip your standards-and-practices-required golf balls in it.

K&P’s Favorite Characters
MTV was adamant about including recurring characters, preferably with merch-ready catchphrases

Doug Showalter’s punk teen is truly a rebel without a cause — all the authority figures in his life are too understanding for him to rebel against. Standout Sketch ”Doug and Dad”

James Dixon The former Hollywood agent (Lennon) brings his skills to new callings (think Catholic priest, Jedi Master). Standout Sketch ”James Dixon: Guidance Counselor”

Louie This catchphrase spouter (Marino) bounds into parties declaring, ”I wanna dip my balls in it!” while carrying golf balls. Standout Sketch ”Louie & the Last Supper”

LeVon and Barry The pair of velvet-blazered, hipswiveling lounge lizards are played with lascivious glee by Black and Lennon. Standout Sketch ”$240 Worth of Pudding”

On-Air Personality Black delivers ”reckless and scathing musings on the industry, all done through a Cheshire-cat grin,” say Key and Peele. Standout Sketch ”On-Air Personality”

The Best Sketches
”Boogeyman” Season 1, episode 1
The series’ very first sketch is a sly play on every kid’s monster-under-the-bed nightmare, setting — as Key and Peele put it — ”the absurdist, fantastical, and dark tone of the show.”

”Bookworm” Season 2, episode 3
A jock’s quest to find the perfect word with which to taunt a voracious reader. It’s also a winning example of The State‘s commitment to solid writing and fondness for segues between unrelated sketches.

”Porcupine Racetrack” Season 3, episode 6
This one’s the best combination of The State‘s lunacy (a Broadway number about racing rodents) and love of meta-commentary.

”The Jew, the Italian, and the Redhead Gay II,” Parts 1 and 2 Season 4, episode 2
”A parody of Charlie’s Angels with a fun socio-racial twist” is how Key describes this sketch, centering on a trio searching for an Irishman at the behest of their boss, a WASP named Michael.

Notable Cameos
Gilbert Gottfried
The comedian appears in a season 1 segue in which he berates Allison for asking for crackers with his soup.

Jon Stewart
The future Daily Show host guests in an interstitial where he’s going through MTV’s fan-mail box.

Alice Cooper
The rocker makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in a sketch about a man who discovers the word and.

When You’re Done
The State left behind a few artifacts for the unsated fan. State by State With the State, published in 1997, is a mock travel guide filled with unhelpful and broadly untruthful tips and facts. For those in pursuit of the obscure, there’s the album Comedy for Gracious Living (a once-bootlegged unicorn for State obsessives). Recorded in 1996, it was shelved until 2010, when it was finally released. And there looks to be some glimmer of hope for that rumored State movie. ”It’d be a herculean scheduling task, but I think we’ll do it one of these days,” Wain tells EW. In the meantime, you can catch them at Festival Supreme on Oct. 25 in L.A.

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