When was FOX’s Ben Stiller Show on the air?

The first show premiered at 7:30PM on Sunday, August 27, 1992. It ran until the last week of January 1993, for a total of 12 episodes on the FOX network. Two years later, Comedy Central re-ran the series, and showed an un-aired thirteenth episode.

Who were the other cast members and what did they do before appearing on the Show?

The fifth Stiller Show player was John O’Donohue, a former New York City police officer who got the acting bug after retiring from the force. He first met Ben while auditioning for a part in a music video parody Stiller directed with Colin Quinn called “Going Back to Brooklyn” in 1989. O’Donohue has gone on to star in a number of sitcoms, as well as on NYPD Blue. Another occasional face in TBSS sketches was actress Jeanne Tripplehorn, who was dating Stiller at the time. Before moving to LA to pursue acting, she was a model and radio DJ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her first big role was as a psychiatrist in 1992’s Basic Instinct, and since then has appeared in a dozen movies, including an uncredited role in Reality Bites.

Who created the Show?

Judd Apatow and Ben Stiller were approached separately by HBO to do a sketch comedy show. Judd had worked as stand-up, opening for Jim Carrey, and writing spec scripts which never sold. Stiller had a sketch-and-music show on MTV which had just been canceled.

How old were they when they did the Show?

Except for Bob, who had just turned 30, they were all in their 20s: Judd Apatow was just 24; Andy was 27; Ben was 26; and Janeane was 27.

What movies have they appeared in together?

Ben’s directorial debut, Reality Bites, included appearances from all the cast except for Odenkirk. His second film, The Cable Guy, had cameos for everyone, including John O’Donohue (as a prison guard) and even David Cross (as a sales manager.) Cast members have shown up in the Stiller-led Permanent Midnight, and Janeane and Ben were re-united in the superhero farce Mystery Men. Stiller has shown up in cameos of other performer’s films, including 2002’s Run Ronnie, Run by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk and Andy Dick’s 2007 indie comedy Danny Roane: First Time Director.

Who were the writers for the show and what are they doing now?

The original staff consisted of Judd Apatow, Rob Cohen, Brent Forrester, Jeff Kahn, Bruce Kirschbaum, Bob Odenkirk, Dino Stamatopoulos, Ben Stiller and Sultan Pepper. David Cross came on-board for the last four episodes, writing the beloved “T.J. O’Pootertoots” sketch. Rob Cohen and Brent Forrester came from The Simpsons. Cohen recollected that Bruce Kirschbaum (aka “K-Bomb”) was added to the staff as a “seasoned veteran” to oversee all the young writer, although his sense of humor didn’t always jibe with their’s.

Cross, Odenkirk and Stamatopoulos went on to do Mr. Show for HBO. Forrester returned to animation, writing and producing for King of the Hill. He also co-wrote the Tom Arnold movie The Stupids. Rob Cohen, along with Dana Gould, created the short-lived marionette action comedy Super Adventure Team for MTV. Jeff Kahn made cameos in Stiller-directed films, and was a producer on the Dilbert cartoon.

Judd Apatow returned to television as creator and producer of NBC’s Freaks and Geeks, FOX’s Undeclared. He began writing comedy movies, initially with 1995 Stiller-led Heavyweights, and found “overnight” success with 2005’s The 40 Year Old Virgin, 2006’s Knocked Up and 2007’s Superbad.

A few years back, Sultan Pepper dropped me a note with an update on her whereabouts. Since Stiller, SultanĀ  continued to work in sketch, late night TV, and animation. She developed a show with Moon Zappa for MTV, wrote a prime time animated pilot, The New Wonder Twins for Warner Brothers, and co-produced Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush (2000) for Comedy Central. She passed away in late 2009.

When was the DVD released and what does it include?

After years of being passed around in poor-quality video copies, the series was finally released by Warner Home Video in 2003. The two-disk pack included audio commentaries by Judd Apatow, Janeane Garofalo and Ben, along with writers Brent Forrester and Rob Cohen. My indirect contribution: the episode and sketch titles were based in part on those created for this site, and re-used in other places like IMDB and Wikipedia.

The following interesting tidbits come courtesy of show writer Rob Cohen:

  • “Jake Steele, Marionette Cop” got writer Rob Cohen into hot water — apparently, the day before the show aired, a cop had shot some gang members in a local market. An affiliate station called up FOX, wanting to know who who wrote that bit, and saying they would drop the network if the episode ever re-aired. It did get accidentally rebroadcast and someone at FOX lost his job over it.
  • Fox briefly considered a spinoff of TBSS, based on a Stiller Show parody of its own shows… Skank!
  • The parody-promo for Skank in episode 2 had the tag line “Something smells funny on Fox.” That was the actual tag Fox used in a TV guide ad for The Ben Stiller Show!
  • The FOX network went through a management shakeup just as the TBSS got on the air, and the new head hated the show. They wouldn’t even pay for craft services. When the Stiller Show folks complained, someone from the network delivered a tub of purple Twizzlers! (They never ate them, just opened the lid and let them solidify.)
  • When the ratings were at their worst, Rob and show co-creator/writer Judd Apatow started growing goatees, vowing not to shave until the Show was picked up. You can see Judd in some of the “wrapper” segments bearded. They eventually had to shave, realizing they didn’t want to wear beards the rest of their lives.
  • They were never “officially” canceled — they went away for holidays and no one from the network called them for more shows when they returned.
  • The Stiller Show cast was completely surprised to win the Emmy. They had been told the night before at a party that it was definitely not going to be them. They’d even been seated in the very back of the auditorium. Stiller’s speech noted “Fox… you kind of missed something.”
  • The “Do it!” character that Stiller played a number of times was actually named “Maury” and based on 1) a guy Ben’s family (Jerry and Ann Meara) knew who would always hang around backstage; 2) a guy in a bar that Ben met.

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