Now That’s Comedy!

We're totally insaney!

We’re totally insaney!

There was once a commercial where a guy walking down the street with a chocolate bar happened to accidentally bump into a girl who was obviously having a bad pregnancy craving that led her to go for a walk and eat peanut butter out of the jar.  This awkward moment didn’t lead to any violence or lawsuits as we might expect, but the creation of Reese’s peanut butter cups.  Who knew two things so different could be so good together?

Like coffee and squirrel pee!

Like coffee and squirrel pee!

Now let’s take that same scenario, and imagine a Warner Bros. animator walking down the flashback fridaystreet, probably too busy looking up X-rated images of Petunia Pig on his cellphone to be paying any attention to where he’s going.  And let’s say he turns the corner and bumps into world famous movie director Steven Spielberg.  The typical result might be that the animator would never work in that town again, but that’s not what happened.  Instead, we got two of the finest, highest quality, and most original animated series of our time out of this bizarre combination.

Not counting "The Mysterious Cities of Gold" and "Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea", of course...

Not counting “The Mysterious Cities of Gold” and “Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea”, of course…

In 1990, Spielberg collaborated with Warner Bros. animation to create the groundbreaking animated series “Tiny Toon Adventures”, which took the classic characters of WB animation and created younger, hipper versions of them with the premise that they were being taught the ways of becoming a cartoon star by those original legends at Acme Looniversity.  Airing on the booming Fox Kids after school cartoon block in the early 90’s, Tiny Toons not only provided plenty of fodder and slapstick to keep the kids entertained, but also culled from the classic WB cartoons the adult themes and pop culture references, which made it one of the first “kids” cartoons that adults also loved.

And especially us teens...

And especially us teens…

As great as Tiny Toons was, it was basically just the beta run that was used to create what would be the series that would be the crown jewel of the Spielberg/WB collaboration, and that was “Animaniacs”, which debuted on the Fox Kids block in September 1993.  Animaniacs would take the boundaries of what a kids cartoon could be that Tiny Toons established, and absolutely obliterate them… making this a show that could be enjoyed by the naive kids who were entertained by the cuteness and cartoon slapstick, and the teens and adults who could laugh at the more mature humor that was successfully woven into each episode.

Hellllllllllo, Nurse!

Hellllllllllo, Nurse!

For today’s Flashback Friday, I’m going to look back at the wacky characters and skits that comprised this work of cartoon genius, which not only kept me entertained during my college years, but also provided me with a lot of the inspiration that went into creating my own characters you see on this blog…

Nobody ever cared that we were all only half dressed.

Nobody ever cared that we were all only half dressed.

The Warner siblings Yakko, Wakko and Dot were the main characters of Animaniacs, and the glue (or perhaps snot)  that tied the show together.  The designs for the brothers (and sister, as Dot would often have to interject) were based on the simple black and white characters of the early days of animation.  Yakko was the eldest, a slick talking comedian who was inspired by the comedy of Groucho Marx.  Wakko was the little brother who had an obsession with the grosser things in life (He’d often be featured in skits belching out entire monologues or songs).  Dot was the cute little sister who was often underestimated by her enemies, and frequently seemed disgusted by the antics of her brothers.  The trio usually starred in the first short skit of each episode, and the most common formula for a Warners sketch featured the trio being wronged by some cold hearted caricature of a figure from pop culture… only to have the kids have a blast getting their just desserts on the offender during the remainder of the skit.  Here is my all time favorite… try to keep a straight face through this 7 and a half minute skit…

"What do you wanna do tonight Brain?"  "The same thing we do every night, Pinky.  Sing Karaoke.

“What do you wanna do tonight Brain?” “The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Sing Karaoke.”

Pinky and the Brain are probably the Animaniacs most famous characters due to the fact that their schtik was so successful, it was spun off into its own cartoon series.  Pinky and the Brain were lab rats, with the Brain being the serious, intelligent one who would constantly cook up schemes to not only escape the lab, but take over the world.  Pinky was his dimwitted sidekick, who provided comic relief and usually wound up inadvertently sabotaging the Brain’s ideas.  There was a bit of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton to these two characters, and in no episode did that play out better than in “Win Big”, in which not only does The Honeymooners factor into the outcome of the plot, but the skit itself is actually a great takeoff of a classic Honeymooners episode where Ralph takes a fall on a game show for not knowing a tune that Ed was constantly whistling to his annoyance.

Go away, kid!  Ya bother me!

Go away, kid! Ya bother me!

I’ve always considered it a remarkable coincidence that long before squirrels meant a thing in the world to me, that Slappy Squirrel was by far my favorite character on the series.  Slappy was a crusty old squirrel who had been a big cartoon star back in the early days of animation.  Most of Slappy’s episodes featured her butting heads with an old cartoon nemesis, who would still rely on the cheesy old gags of cartoon lore in an attempt to get back at Slappy.  But this old broad knows all the tricks by now, and never falls for any of them.  She lives with her naive young nephew Skippy, who idolizes her aunt Slappy and tries to learn the ways of cartoon street smarts from her.  Slappy would typically end an episode with her trademark phrase which I borrowed as the title of this post.

The Godpigeon says he needs the toejam cleaned from between his talons.

The Godpigeon says he needs the toejam cleaned from between his talons.

As proof that the Animaniacs drew plenty of its inspiration from adult references, the Goodfeathers was a pigeonized version of the mob.  The characters Bobby, Pesto and Squit were based on the characters Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta played in the movie “Goodfellas”, with Squit narrating each episode.  The two main running gags in the Goodfeathers cartoons were Pesto getting upset at innocuous remarks made by Squit, which of course was inspired by the well known scene in Goodfellas where Pesci goes off after Liotta says he’s funny.  And then there is the Godpigeon, the don of the boys who often swoops in to save the day, and speak in unintelligible gibberish that Bobby always has to translate.

OK, I love you, bye bye!

OK, I love you, bye bye!

The Mindy and Buttons skits literally drove me up the wall.  The overly perky, cute, and thoroughly annoying toddler Mindy tugs at pretty much every single thing I hate about young kids.  And to boot, she was constantly getting the family’s poor dog Buttons into trouble during her frequent escapes from the house (Back in an era where parents weren’t afraid to leave their kids to their own devices for a while), and it’s up to Buttons to keep her out of danger.  The poor mutt ends up taking the brunt of the ills that were intended for Mindy, and then gets busted upside the head with the newspaper upon returning home safely with the little brat when the parents misinterpret the reason Buttons looks like hell after they left them alone for a few minutes.  I always secretly hoped for the imp to get flattened by a steamroller, or shot into space by a stray rocket, but alas….

Can you sing me "Stray Cat Strut" again Rita?  Yeah, definitely "Stray Cat Strut.... oh, look!  Squirrel!

Can you sing me “Stray Cat Strut” again Rita? Yeah, definitely “Stray Cat Strut…. oh, look! Squirrel!

Even the best cartoon series ever created has its weak points, and the Rita and Runt sketches were my least favorite.  Rita was a singing cat, and Runt a big buffoon of a dog, and the two of them were companions on an adventure looking for a new home.  At some point in every cartoon, Rita would belt out a song, which was usually slow and sappy, and just ruined the whole feel of the show.  These two disappeared entirely after the first season, largely due to the fact that Spielberg hired Bernadette Peters to voice Rita and do her singing, and her salary demands were a strain on the show’s budget.

Were you looking to be wrapped up in a mink coat, dear?

Were you looking to be wrapped up in a mink coat, dear?

Innuendo that went over the kiddies’ heads wasn’t quite edgy enough to satisfy the creative minds behind Animaniacs, so they created Minerva Mink.  In my infamous early post XXX Marks the Spot (which is still the most popular post EVER on my blog), I discussed the role of sexuality in cartoons, and how artists loved adding as much sex appeal as they could to their female characters to tug at the pent up libido of much of their target audience.  Minerva not only crossed that line, she had it for breakfast and used it to file her claws.  Her skits were so overtly provocative and sexual in nature, that many of them got left on the cutting room floor even before the censors could tell the show’s producers “no”, as they undoubtedly wiped sweat from their brows and refused to get up from behind the table.  Because she was too hot for kids TV, Minerva was barely a blip on the Animaniacs radar, yet she’s still considered to be one of the hottest cartoon vixens in history right up there with Cleo from Heathcliff, Cheetara from Thundercats, and of course Velma from Scooby Doo.  Minerva was also definitely an influence when I created my character MBRS.

So, like, Randy Beaman tried to feed his nuts to a squirrel, and..... um, k, bye!

So, like, Randy Beaman tried to feed his nuts to a squirrel, and….. um, k, bye!

In between the main shorts that would make up an episode, Animaniacs had a lot of other interesting short features to to bridge the gaps and fill in empty time.  Colin, who is better known as “The Randy Beaman kid”, would come outside and deliver a rambling monologue to the audience about the experiences of this kid he knows named Randy Beaman.  Here’s a link to a YouTube of one of Colin’s finest performances.  God, I loved this show….

Doggie want a bone!

Doggie want a bone!

But the best of the short features to appear on the show was the “Good Idea, Bad Idea” series, featuring the poor sap Mr. Skullhead.  Below is a complete collection of all of these skits from the entire five year run of Animaniacs.  My favorite one begins at about the 7:25 mark.  By the way, the narrator’s voice should sound familiar to you…. it’s Tom Bodette, who’s better knows as the spokesman for Motel 6, who leaves the light on for you.

And finally, as a special tribute to my favorite cartoon series of all time, here is a compilation I found on YouTube of some of Animaniacs best adult innuendo scenes they managed to sneak by the censors.  Remember, this was an after school cartoon that was technically aimed at entertaining kids!

And now’s the best time for Yakko’s signature line….. “Good night, everybody!”


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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25 Responses to Now That’s Comedy!

  1. PigLove says:

    *THESE* were the good ole days of cartoons. What they have on now is nothing in comparison. I myself personally watch re-runs of Pinky and the Brain. One day, we might get it right and actually be able to take over the world – insert evil piggy snort. XOXO – Bacon

  2. merbear74 says:

    Oh shit..I never liked The Animaniacs…or Pinky and the Brain…

    • Oh well, at least we have Luigi…. oh, wait! Nevermind!

      BTW, I’ve decided that since I have so many ideas for doing Nintendo-themed posts, that a single FF post on the NES would be way too long. So I’m going to spin it off into its own series, hopefully starting next week.

  3. psquirrel says:

    Best cartoon ever . . . used to LOVE watching this show. =) Thanks for bringing back the memories!

  4. vengeance4 says:

    I love when I actually know what you’re talking about on Flashback Friday!!! I would watch these cartoons EVERY SINGLE DAY. It was the best of times, it was the best of times. Or something like that.

  5. gentlestitches says:

    Great post. Excellent hilarious points. Love the tunes but I have a question for you. D’you really think anyone does “drag” in a more hilarious way than Bugs?

    • Ha! Now I’m thinking of the cartoon where Bugs is dressed up as a lady going shoe shopping (I can’t even remember the plot of the particular cartoon, only the scene), and the preverted salesman starts tickling “her” foot… with it eventually being revealed to be a fake leg, as that’s all he’s now holding in his hand and tickling.

      • gentlestitches says:

        “Hare conditioned.” 1945.
        Hillbilly Hare makes me laugh. The squirrel gets a mention in this one. 🙂

      • Yes! I was able to find the scene on YouTube… as well as the square dance number from Hillbilly Hare! Flying squirrel!!!

  6. C.K. Hope says:

    I loved the Animaniacs! I alternated between; “I’m a little teapot short and stout, here is my handle and here’s a note from my shrink; he says I’m getting better!” from Dot’s poetry corner and Yakko: “1,2, skip a few, 99, 100” (because like, didn’t everyone use that during math class to annoy the teacher in grade school?) as my sig line for years.

    Good Idea, Bad Idea was awesome. Ha!

    • I had completely forgotten about the Dot’s Poetry Corner segments until I saw the one attached to the cartoon I provided the video of! I don’t think I’ve seen the show at all since it left Fox Kids in 1995, but I watched it religiously during those two years because it flat out ruled!

      • C.K. Hope says:

        Seriously? I watch episodes of it on youtube all the time lol And um, not to sound sadly pathetic or anything but I kinda have the CD with their best songs on it …

  7. Your references in your nostalgia columns are often a bit too early for me, but I can get on board with this one 🙂 … I really enjoyed this show and Tiny Toons, though I always found Yakko/Wakko/Dot’s schtick a bit annoying. I still knew the theme song off by heart though!

    But Pinky and the Brain were easily the highlight for me. The spin-off was great too until they tried to mix up the formula and brought in Elmira as a main character. My favourite episode involved an alternate universe where people thought Pauly Shore was funny.

    • LOL, now there’s a concept! I was actually unaware they threw Elmyra into the mix later in the P&B series until I was doing my research for this… but as I said above, I pretty much lost track of the entire Animaniacs gang when they moved to the WB…

  8. Twindaddy says:

    I LOVE this show. “Woodstock Slappy” was my favorite episode.

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