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Chris Elliot: Genius.

By Coury Turczyn

MAY 22, 2000:  Chris Elliot is the most annoying human being in the known universe, and I thank him for it. There aren't too many entertainers these days who go out of their way to be obnoxious cretins—mostly, they want to appear "sexy" or "charming." Not Elliot. He has devoted his entire acting career to being as utterly detestable as he possibly can. Consequently, he's not earned a huge fanbase, but his followers are tenacious believers in his inherent funniness.

You can count me as one of the fans. While I won't go so far as to actually rent Snow Day (Elliot's "big" movie from last winter—hey, it beat Leo's The Beach at the box office!), I did go out of my way to procure a DVD copy of Rhino Home Video's first volume of Get a Life!, Chris Elliot's FOX TV show from the '80s. It was on this ground-smudging sitcom that Elliot's true genius was at last unfettered after years of working in the shadow of David Letterman (well, actually, he did some of his best work on Letterman's Late Night on NBC, but this sounds more dramatic). Given the freedom to come up with his own show, Elliot created an anti-sitcom that exposed the very banality of its format, taking its ridiculous plots so seriously that the episodes became surreal journeys into cliché-land.

Elliot plays a newspaper boy in his 30s who still lives with his parents (his dad being played by his actual father, radio comedian Bob Elliot) and searches for his true purpose in life. But rather than being insecure, Elliot is actually quite smug about his superiority in any given situation. Thus, he thrusts his pudgy, pale, balding form into places he clearly doesn't belong—and the juxtapositions are pretty darn funny. In "Bored Straight," for instance, he decides to become a crusader for the city's troubled youth and attempts to reform a gang of motorcycle-jacket-wearing delinquents. What's integral to the Elliot persona is that no matter how pathetically he's failing (such as when he tries to "rap" with the kids), he's absolutely sure of his success. In "The Prettiest Week of My Life," he decides he was born to be a male model named "Sparkles" and enrolls in the Handsome Boy Modeling School; rather than let the fact that he's extremely unattractive stop him, he instead invades a fashion show catwalk and glories in his sudden attention and security guard escort. Also included on the disc are "Spewey and Me" (an E.T. spoof with vomiting) and "Girlfriend 2000" (in which Elliot is run over by a woman whom he then decides is his true love—so he stalks her).

Without a doubt, Get a Life! is some of the silliest TV ever aired by a network. While not exactly for the masses (hence its quick cancellation), it's nevertheless a fine showcase for an original comedic talent that's now been limited to movie cameos. Oh, for a comeback...


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