Saturday TV Funhouse was the title of a recurring skit on NBC's Saturday Night Live featuring cartoons created by SNL writer Robert Smigel.
It was also spawned a spinoff series, TV Funhouse, that ran on Comedy Central. "TV Funhouse" frequently satirizes public figures and corporations, as well as featuring some cartoons exclusive to this skit. When featured in an episode of Saturday Night Live, it was listed in the theme song as "A Cartoon by Robert Smigel".
In between the host segments, TV Funhouse would show parodies of either 1950s educational films or cartoons most frequently drawn in the flat, limited-animation style of Saturday morning Hanna-Barbera/Filmation cartoons of the 1970s and 1980s. Another frequent target is the classic 1960s "Animagic" stop motion animated holiday specials of Rankin/Bass.
The animation was originally produced by J.J. Sedelmaier Productions for three seasons until Wachtenheim/Marianetti Animation, in association with Tapehouse Toons, took over primary animation production duties. If TV Funhouse is featured in an episode of Saturday Night Live, it is mentioned in the opening narration as "a cartoon by Robert Smigel." When featured on Saturday Night Live, the opening features an SNL bumper featuring the host of that week's show) being torn by a small white dog revealing the TV Funhouse screen underneath. A caricature of executive producer Lorne Michaels appears, sees the dog, and yells "Come back here with my show!" before going after the dog. The closing features Lorne Michaels still grappling with the dog over the torn piece of the bumper.
Saturday TV Funhouse
Recurring SNL TV Funhouse skits
- Fun with Real Audio — This sketch features the audios of actual discussions playing to animated settings.
- The All-New Adventures of Mr. T — A parody of the Ruby-Spears animated series Mister T. This cartoon depicts Mr. T (voiced by Tracy Morgan) as desperate to find work, aggressively auditioning for unlikely parts such as classical theatre and tampon commercials. Whenever he encounters obstacles such as directors telling him auditions are already over, he simply responds with the phrase "Ain't got time for jibber-jabber, I need work!"
- The Ambiguously Gay Duo — A parody of the stereotypical comic book superhero duo. The vaguely homosexual superheroes Ace and Gary (voiced by Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell respectively) fight crime in Metroville while their adversaries like Bighead (voiced by Robert Smigel) and Dr. Braino (voiced by Stephen Colbert) try to figure out their true sexuality. Bill Chott provides the narration for this cartoon. All the shorts were re-written from The Dana Carvey Show. In the live-action version on the SNL episode hosted by Ed Helms, Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon play Ace and Gary while Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell played Dr. Brainio and Bighead.
- The Anatominals Show — A parody of a Yogi Bear–type Hanna-Barbera–style cartoon where Kogi Bear, Pook Bear, Mindy Bear, Sheila Coyote, Betsy Cow, and other animal characters are anatomically correct even when they are confronted by the park ranger. Both episodes that featured this short-lived cartoon series (the season 26 finale hosted by Christopher Walken and the season 27 episode hosted by Alec Baldwin) had animated scenes interspersed of Lorne Michaels deeply disappointed in the show. On the Walken episode, Lorne Michaels, with the help of the Devil, decides to quit Saturday Night Live because of this sketch and returns when he grows bored of the Peace Corps. On the Baldwin episode, Lorne Michaels tries to keep this show hidden from Hillary Clinton and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
- The Michael Jackson Show — A parody of typical Hanna-Barbera productions, highlighting the misadventures of Michael Jackson (voiced by Dino Stamatopoulos) and his odd friends. Included in this rag-tag crew are an aged Emmanuel Lewis, an anthropomorphic llama, his chimpanzee Bubbles, and the living skeleton of Joseph Merrick the Elephant Man (voiced by Robert Smigel).
- The X-Presidents — A parody of Hanna-Barbera/Filmation cartoons from the 1970s. This sketch features former US Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush (all voiced by Jim Morris) as crime-fighting superheroes imbued with superpowers by a "hurricane-powered dose of radiation" received at a celebrity golf tournament. Each of their wives is a member as well. Bill Clinton, despite his status as a living former president, is not a member since he did not receive the hurricane-powered dose of radiation, as he was in office during the initial incident. In one episode, Clinton is shown unsuccessfully attempting to establish himself with the X-Presidents after his time in office has ended. The X-Presidents can call on the ghosts of deceased former Presidents to aid them where they appear as "Ex-X Presidents" as seen in one episode where they call on the ghost of Richard Nixon to help them save Al Gore. "The X-Presidents" has been adapted to comic books by Random House Comics.
The February 10, 2001 episode, "Ray of Light," parodies the controversy over Ray Lewis's involvement in an Atlanta homicide. Although Lewis went on to become the Super Bowl XXXV MVP, he was unable to utter the famous line "I'm going to Disney World!" The skit was involved with Disney "making it up" to Lewis by placing him in various Disney animated movies. Lewis would often be shown fleeing the scene of classic Disney character death scenes, frequently uttering "I didn't see nothin'!"
"Bambi 2002," a poke at Disney's penchant for direct-to video sequels at the time, imagines a sequel to the original movie where Bambi's mother turns up alive. The title character fights stylized terrorist types, meets Jared Fogle, and performs a rap music number in the forest. Also in the sketch are moments involving some of Disney's darker issues, as well as some pornographic humor.
On April 15, 2006, Robert Smigel again parodied Disney's practice of supposedly "vaulting" their films, as well as their alleged past racism and anti-Semitism. When some kids are brought to the Disney Vault by Mickey Mouse, they find Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog bound and gagged in a chair, Mickey Mouse breaks down and quotes "He wouldn't sell! He wouldn't sell...!" (a reference to a broken deal between The Jim Henson Company and The Walt Disney Company circa 1990).
On April 29, 2006, NBC aired a full-length, 90-minute SNL "best of" special for TV Funhouse. The special was hosted by The Ambiguously Gay Duo interacting with the current SNL cast with a cameo from Jimmy Fallon.
The special was released on DVD October 24, 2006.
Comedy Central series
The spinoff series was somewhat of a twisted Pee-Wee's Playhouse-style kiddie show, hosted by Doug Dale and his "Anipals" puppet animal friends.
Every episode had a different theme to it (e.g., "Hawaiian Day" or "Astronaut Day") and saw the Anipals usually getting into some sort of trouble, not wanting to do whatever their happy-go-lucky host had in mind for the day. The Comedy Central version of TV Funhouse premiered in December 2000 and was not picked up for a second season. Interviews with Smigel indicate that Comedy Central believed in the show but was disappointed in how it went over budget every episode. Smigel has also expressed how difficult the show was and how tedious the puppet-live animal segments were to shoot. The show was released on DVD July 22, 2008 under the title Comedy Central's TV Funhouse.
- The Baby, the Immigrant, and the Guy on Mushrooms—Artemis the Cat watches over a baby, an immigrant, and a guy on mushrooms while the female homeowner, voiced by Sarah Thyre, is away. Artemis works to keep the clueless trio out of any danger.
- Wonderman—A parody of Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons that stars Wonderman, voiced by Robert Smigel, who fights a constant crusade to stop crime and get his alias of Henry Moore laid.
- "Western Day" (December 6, 2000)—Doug must wrangle up his own fun when the Anipals ditch him to head for high times south of the border in Tijuana.
- "Hawaiian Day" (December 13, 2000)—Doug and Rocky the Fish have a luau all by themselves while the Anipals help Chickie rescue his 95th son, Jason, from a cult.
- "Christmas Day" (December 20, 2000)—The Anipals tap Doug's spine to extract his Christmas cheer. After one of Chickie's sons helps to turn the cheer into powder, the Anipals snort it and get addicted to powdered Christmas cheer.
- "Mexican Day" (December 27, 2000)—The Anipals appear on the Sally Jessy Raphael show to help an endangered lizard get laid, leaving Doug to celebrate Mexican Day with a tequila worm and a Puerto Rican Mexican-food deliverer.
- "Caveman Day" (January 3, 2001)—The Anipals compare New Year's resolutions: Hojo wants to learn to play the saxophone, Chickie hangs out with his brother with Tourette syndrome, and Fogey must resist eating his own poop. Meanwhile, Doug builds a dinosaur skeleton out of baby back ribs, and Rocky the Fish takes a group of kids to visit a cookie factory.
- "Safari Day" (January 10, 2001) Part 1 of 2—The Anipals travel to Atlantic City to visit Fogey's old friend, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, where Chickie falls in love with a chimp-stitute.
- "Astronaut Day" (January 17, 2001) Part 2 of 2—Still in Atlantic City, the Anipals attempt to "unstick" Triumph before his big show. Meanwhile, Doug tries to achieve weightlessness.
- "Chinese New Year's Day" (January 24, 2001)—The Anipals ditch the Funhouse to enter the lucrative, glamorous world of lab animals, as Doug celebrates Chinese New Year's Day and makes fireworks with a panda. This being the final episode, the set was struck by detonating a puppet panda (full of innards for realism) on the set, splattering everywhere. Staged as a satirical accident, Doug replied after with resignation: "Cut."