Recognizing The King of Queens on its 20th Anniversary!

KoQ publicity photo from official website

The King of Queens starred (from right to left) Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller. It debuted in 1998 and ran for 9 seasons, ending in 2007.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the debut of TV show The King of Queens! It debuted on September 21st, 1998, according to the show’s IMDB page. As a big fan of the show, I just had to make note of it!

For those of you unfamiliar with the show’s basic premise, it focused on character Doug Heffernan, a driver for a delivery company called IPS, which is understood to be alluding to UPS. Doug lives in Queens, New York with his wife Carrie and her father Arthur.  They’re a working-class family reminiscent of a modern-day Honeymooners — except with a father-in-law always present.

I’ve always loved the show and have thought it didn’t get the kind of recognition and acclaim it deserved — and still deserves, in my opinion. I mean, it was popular enough, running for 9 seasons on network TV. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned in best-shows lists and TV retrospectives the way shows like Seinfeld and Friends are. Yet I believe it’s right up there in terms of quality; in fact, I like it better than both of those shows.

The dialogue on the show was very realistic, the acting was very natural (especially after the show hit its stride towards the end of season one) and the premises were odd enough to be funny, yet normal enough so viewers could relate.

Take, for instance, this episode in which Doug and Carrie have finally paid off their credit card debt (image and text below courtesy of the show’s official Twitter account):

To celebrate this accomplishment, Doug and Carrie decide that each of them will indulge in a treat for themselves.

Soon after, Doug buys himself a whimsical item — a cheap harmonica. Carrie, on the other hand, comes home with a pricey leather jacket.

Doug flips out, saying their treats were supposed to be reasonable; purchases like hers will only get them back in the hole.

Carrie goes to return the jacket and then realizes she could have waited until the end of the return period, enjoying the jacket for as long as possible before returning it to get her money back — essentially “borrowing” it for free. This discovery leads her into a downward spiral in which she begins buying lots of designer clothing, wearing it, then returning it. It eventually gets out of hand, with her temporary clothing empire filling up an entire room of the house and necessitating the need for a complicated return schedule based on each store’s policies.

To me, that kind of plotline strikes the right balance between being amusingly unique, yet surprisingly understandable — it’s entertaining without requiring a major suspension of disbelief since it’s not too over-the-top.

Then there was the episode where Carrie’s out of town and Doug can’t sleep without her, which sounds sweet, but it turns out he’s not necessarily missing his wife being by his side in bed — he just needs somebody there to be able to sleep.

So what does he do? He manages to entice Carrie’s father to move upstairs to sleep in bed with him (sounds overly creepy if you haven’t seen the show, but it’s actually really funny in an absurd way — if anything, the underlying creepiness is what makes it amusing!):

What I liked most about that part of the episode, when they’re shown waking up together, is how they start laughing. It works for the scene, since it can come off like the characters are so happy with their odd, new arrangement, but I also think the actors were truly laughing during filming — it seemed like their natural reaction to the scene was coming out and wasn’t scripted. I love when real moments like that happen and aren’t cut out!

Another favorite episode of mine, and one which I think is great example of the show’s natural, relatable humor and plotlines, involves an episode called “The Hungry Man.” In this episode, Doug is getting ready to head out to work when his wife Carrie asks him to join her at a work dinner she’s just gotten a call about; the dinner is at her boss’ apartment that night.

At first Doug says no since he’s working a double shift at his job and won’t be off in time, but then decides to surprise her by skipping lunch and working through it in order to make it to the dinner. However, he hadn’t had a chance to eat breakfast that morning, so by the time he gets to her event, he’s starved — only to find out it’s not a dinner after all. Turns out Carrie had found out that day at work it would just be drinks.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Doug asks her in frustration — and hunger.

“I didn’t know you were coming!” Carrie says, and rightly so.

I love this episode because you can see both sides of the situation, like how Carrie can’t be blamed for not telling him there was no dinner — last she knew, he had to work! Yet you can’t help feeling bad for Doug who was trying to do the right thing but is clearly suffering for it. Plus it’s a great representation of one of those days when everything goes wrong!

Here’s a photo from the episode which shows Doug rummaging through Carrie’s boss’ apartment looking for something, anything, to eat during the event — and having very little luck:

Ultimately, if you haven’t seen the show (and I’m always surprised by how many people have never watched it despite it having been on TV for so long in its original run and now in reruns), I recommend you see a few episodes in full to see what I mean about the fun dynamic between the actors and the realness of it all. I feel like the writing and acting didn’t try too hard for the laughs in a forced way, unlike so many other sitcoms that do. Instead, they were earned on the merits of the good writing and excellent delivery.

Also, the storylines weren’t based on lowest-common-denominator humor unlike many other recent shows like How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men; I know those shows have been popular, so I apologize if I offend those of you who may have liked them, but they just never worked for me what with their sexist jokes and slimy characters.

Oh, and some random trivia:

The King of Queens featured actress Mary Lynn Rajskub in a minor part from a September 2002 episode in which she plays a woman working at Carrie’s office. Here’s a picture — which, incidentally, shows her perfecting the scowl face she became especially well-known for in her role as Chloe O’Brian on 24.

actress Mary Lynn Rajskub on The King of Queens Sept 2002

Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame also made a few appearances on The King of Queens, too. He played an annoying neighbor who lived next door to Doug and Carrie — here’s a photo from a May 2000 episode in which his character, Tim, attempted to sucker Doug into a pyramid scheme selling water filters and their licenses:

actor Bryan Cranston on The King of Queens May 2000

To find out when The King of Queens airs in syndication in your area, visit the show’s official website. You can also purchase the complete DVD or Blu-ray collection here.

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this blog post 4 years ago, on the 16th anniversary of the show’s debut. I remember thinking at the time, hmm, is it weird to post this on a 16th anniversary as opposed to a more commonly-celebrated milestone like 10 or 20 years? But because I love the show so much and was inspired to write about it then, I went with it. Now, though, I decided to re-blog the post and have it reflect that we’ve hit that 20th anniversary mark! I still love this show and maintain that although it was popular, it’s underrated and didn’t get the attention I feel it deserved and deserves. Long live the King (and Queen) of Queens:


One-Liner Wednesday: Comedy

“Comedy is the art of telling the truth about what it’s like to be human.”

-from The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny by Steven Kaplan, published in 2013 by Michael Wiese Productions.

Note: This post was written as part of LindaGHill’s One-Liner Wednesday. Check it out and take part if you can; it’s a lot of fun!

Absurd Humor

Every now and then a show comes along that makes me laugh out loud, literally. Which, for as common as that expression is, rarely actually happens to me. Not sure about you, but most times when I find a show funny, I’m more quietly amused by it; at most maybe I’ll smile. But a true laugh? Pretty rare.

Here are the few exceptions to that; perhaps you’ll find a new favorite here, too! Most of these shows feature an absurd kind of humor I tend to favor, starting with my most recent favorite:

Drunk History on Comedy Central

I caught a couple of episodes of this show recently and was so amused by it that it inspired me to write this post!

If you haven’t seen the show yourself, the premise is based on people recounting true stories from history — but while drunk! So of course that comes out all crazy and makes for really funny narrations.

The show maximizes its comedic effect by having actors reenact the historical events being described by the drunk narrator, with the actors’ lines being dubbed with the narrator’s delivery. Kind of like lip-synching, only I suspect the actors actually say their lines the way the narrator said them, and then they’re muted with the narrator’s voice dubbed in over them. I find it funny when a male narrator’s voice seems to come from a female historical figure, and vice versa.

It’s especially amusing when the narrator suddenly slips out of the narration, perhaps to say something to the film crew; this is often left in the reenactment. For example, in one story the narrator abruptly says, “Can I get my cheesy bread I brought?” At first it’s confusing because the actor portraying the historical figure is shown as saying that. Then the camera cuts to the drunk narrator who repeats her sudden request and is clearly craving food in her inebriated state.

The whole dynamic is somewhat hard to describe, so it might be better if you just see this brief clip of their episode on First Ladies, from Comedy Central’s YouTube channel; this segment depicts Woodrow Wilson’s wife taking care of his presidential duties once he had a stroke that debilitated him (and yes, that is Courteney Cox in one of the show’s guest-starring roles):

Personally, I think it’s even better when you see a full episode — it’s on Fridays at 2:15pm if you like it and want to DVR it! You can also visit the show’s website here.

A couple of my friends have wondered if this show is a bit controversial, since it can be said to be promoting excessive drinking. I can see that but I must admit, I still get a kick out of it (is that kind of wrong?). Plus, I’ve learned more from the few episodes of the show I’ve caught so far than I would have expected. I mean, did you know that about Edith Wilson? If I ever did learn that, I’ve clearly forgotten it. Either way, I think there’s something to learning in a humorous context that makes it “stick” more — and certainly makes it more fun!

Next up is a show I would have never thought I’d watch if you described it to me, but I happened to catch it when a friend was watching it and ended up really enjoying it! Plus, I have this show to thank for introducing me to Drunk History:

The People’s Couch on Bravo

Have you seen it or heard the premise? If not, here’s what it is:

It’s a show where you watch people watching TV.

Yup, that’s it. But strangely, it’s really entertaining! The viewers they choose to feature make really funny comments on the various shows they’re watching, which is fun to see if they happen to be watching a clip of a show you follow. But even if they’re watching a show you’ve never seen, it’s still amusing.

How could watching people watching TV be amusing, you ask?

Well, first of all, because of the witty commentary. Secondly, for the odd voyeuristic feeling you get watching people in their homes watching TV, eating and just hanging out. And finally, because you’re shown clips of what they’re watching so you’re not lost; plus the scenes are never so involved that you feel like you would’ve had to see the show in full yourself to be able to get the commentary the viewers are making. And, as happened to me with Drunk History, it’s a great way to get introduced to a new show you may end up loving!

To get a better idea of the show’s fun vibe, take a look at this episode from the show’s YouTube channel; it includes the viewers watching a scene from Drunk History (during minute 20, if you want to jump straight to that part):

See? I love when one of the viewers said, “She needs to eat a couple pieces of bread, soak it up,” referring to the narrator’s drunkenness which caused her to say “Burning Man” instead of “Birmingham” during the story of Claudette Colvin, the first person arrested for protesting racial segregation on buses (yes, before Rosa Parks — I told you the show teaches you things!). This clip is actually not only a great example of why I like The People’s Couch, but also another great example of why Drunk History is so funny!

For more videos and information on The People’s Couch, visit its website.

Other absurd shows that have made me laugh out loud have included:

South Park on Comedy Central

When I first watched it years ago, I found the show so bizarre on a regular basis that I was entranced by it. I particularly remember an episode where there’s a monster, one of whose legs is “TV’s Patrick Duffy.” I don’t know how to make that sentence make any sense. That concept and line was just so out there I couldn’t stop laughing — how do they think these things up?! Perhaps you might want to see the full episode on the show’s official website if you haven’t already.

For a shorter taste of the show (or a re-taste if you’re a fan), here’s a funny clip of the show from Comedy Central on Hulu, called “The Importance of Saving Money”  — which many people will be able to relate to firsthand, unfortunately:

While I don’t watch the show as often as I once did, I still get a kick out of it whenever I happen to catch an episode! You can find many other clips and full episodes on the links above for Hulu and the official South Park Studios website.

TMZ on Fox

I feel bad for admitting to this, but I also have a special fondness for TMZ; many of the things said on the show make me laugh in that “I feel bad and should be doing something more productive but I can’t help it” kind of way.

If you somehow don’t know about TMZ, it’s basically a celebrity gossip show. I usually never watch shows like that, but it’s nothing like Entertainment Tonight or any of those other shows. Unlike most Hollywood news shows, this one doesn’t put celebrities on a pedestal and will say things about them you’ve likely thought or would appreciate, versus the typical “this star’s in a new movie which is GREAT” kind of suck-up drivel the other shows mass produce.

Here’s a clip demonstrating the more “real” dynamic I’m talking about, where the show discusses Angelina Jolie’s wedding and the dress she wore:

Part of what I like a lot about the show is how it highlights the staffers and their opinions; the show highlights them as much as it does the celebrities they’re reporting on. I’ve seen newer shows copy that dynamic but I feel like TMZ did it first, or at least better. Makes for a fun, guilty pleasure to watch regardless of whether you’re interested in the people they’re talking about; the staff members’ personalities and interactions alone make it worth it.

Blind Date

This show is no longer on, unfortunately, but it always stood out to me as being surprisingly funny; I felt its comedy was often overlooked and underrated. To me, it seemed like the show was viewed first as a dating show, but I always saw it as a comedy that happened to feature real blind dates, because the commentary the show added to what we were watching was usually spot-on and hilarious.

For those of you who never saw it, the show would film a couple on a first, and blind, date, featuring added-in captions as well as thought bubbles each person on the date was supposedly thinking about the other as the date progressed. I found the writers to be so insightful and clever with their humor; the added music and effects were also great at furthering the jokes between the writers and the viewers.

Here’s a good segment as seen in this video posted on YouTube by magician Murray SawChuck, who once appeared on the show:

I have to say, I miss this show! Luckily, we have people like Murray who post their appearances online!

Mr. Bean

Sadly, this show is also no longer currently on the air except in reruns you may catch here and there, although I haven’t caught one in years; luckily I own the series on DVD thanks to a thoughtful birthday gift from my closest friend!

This show featured British actor Rowan Atkinson portraying a socially maladjusted adult who consistently finds himself in awkward and embarrassing situations. The best way to get a feel for the show is by watching it — the outlandish scenarios and superb, yet almost completely wordless, acting are truly unique!

Here’s a brief clip from the official Mr. Bean YouTube channel, featuring a segment of an episode where Mr. Bean is at church, and having some…trouble:

I couldn’t get enough of the show after the first time I discovered it; if you feel that way too, you can watch many more videos on that official YouTube channel. Or, you can visit the official Mr. Bean website.

So, if you’re ever in need of a real laugh and share a similar appreciation for the absurd, I suggest you watch these shows if you haven’t already! And another great batch of shows can be found on my previous post, here. Enjoy!

Need a Quick Dose of Inspiration?

Then take a look at this entertaining short video, “5 Minutes of Epic Motivation!

The video is by Lilly Singh, aka IISuperwomanII, a funny YouTube sensation who posts videos on a variety of topics ranging from “Annoying People on the Phone” to “Types of Parents.” Her delivery is very engaging and addictive; I find myself stopping to watch a particular video, then find I’ve watched 8 more in a row before I realize it!

She is a drug, I tell you. In a good way, though.

I’ve been watching her work for almost 2 years now, after having been told about her by my best friend who liked her work. (Does saying “best friend” make me sound like a ten-year-old girl? Well, I’m not; and I’m sorry, but she is my best friend, and I will refer to her as such even when we’re both 100!)

Anyway, Lilly/IISuperwomanII is very talented, and I think her popularity will only keep growing exponentially. I can picture her one day doing mainstream comedy shows or movies, if she wants; her talent is mix of a lot of great entertainers from our time. I think she’s similar in some ways to the following celebrities:

  • Will Smith — I always marveled at his ease delivering funny lines and acting so naturally when he was on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (who didn’t love that show?). Plus he’s a talented musician and dancer as well, and Lilly is too. And they both have an edgy, fun vibe.
  • Tina Fey — particularly in her role as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, Tina was great at portraying a likable, real woman, oddities and all. Lilly does this too, making fun of herself often and openly sharing her pet peeves and other quirks.
  • Tyler Perry and Eddie Murphy — I actually like Lilly’s work more than Tyler’s or Eddie’s, but I’m referring to their versatility playing different comedic characters; Lilly also plays multiple parts in her videos, even the male roles — and it’s amusing!
  • Oprah and Queen Latifah — in terms of their positivity, warmth and ability to uplift others and yet come off “cool” at the same time.

What Lilly brings to the table that many other entertainers in the mainstream don’t, however, is a certain world sensibility and cultural awareness. Since she’s Indian, her jokes often relate to Indian culture, which is refreshing to see since I feel we don’t see enough of that in the media. Overall, we still have a long way to go in terms of seeing the wide range of people and cultures that exist in the world being portrayed in our entertainment. And she doesn’t just focus on Indian culture, but will also throw in impressions and observations from other backgrounds — I think she brings a global approach to her comedy that is so sorely needed!

I also like how she’s willing to look and act silly whenever necessary. Although she’s a pretty woman, she’s not afraid to make herself look like a hairy man or a nerd, making zany facial expressions throughout. She also adds to her humor by wearing unusual shirts in her videos (check out the Simpsons shirt she’s wearing in that “Types of Parents” video!). Usually, I wouldn’t like this approach because I’d see it as gimmicky, but with her it really works — in fact, she actually somehow makes the odd things she wears seem funny and cool! Like if I wore it, people would laugh, in a bad way — but when she wears it, I can see people thinking, “What a crazy shirt! Where can I get it?”

I feel like too many female comedians are either one extreme or the other; the pretty girl trying to appeal to the male audience, or the I-don’t-give-a-crap-at-all girl. Lilly manages to strike the right balance between caring how she looks yet being willing to look hilariously weird, and does so in such a way that I think her comedy appeals equally to men and women. In fact, this quality makes me realize I should have added someone else to the list above in terms of the celebrities Lilly reminds me of: Lucille Ball. Lucy was a pioneer for women in comedy, and although she was attractive and dressed nicely on the I Love Lucy show, she also didn’t hesitate to look zany, like when she’d dress up like a man (often to try to infiltrate Desi’s show), get messy (like in the famous episode where she’s stuffing chocolates in her mouth on the job since she can’t keep up with the conveyor belt), or portray being drunk (like when she didn’t realize that a medicine she was drinking for a commercial had alcohol in it). These were things that women weren’t seen doing on TV at the time, so it was especially groundbreaking. (I love those reruns; even though they’re from way before my time, I feel like they’re still funny today.)

So if I were in any position to offer Lilly a starring role on a sitcom or in a movie, I would. I could just picture telling her, “Now look here, see…kid, you’ve got it! I’m gonna make you a star! Your name’s gonna be in lights, kid!” with a cigar dangling out of my mustached mouth, as we chat in my office overlooking the Hollywood sign. (Not sure why I picture myself that way in this scenario, as I am neither a man nor a smoker nor a resident of California in what sounds like the 1940s, but I digress.)

Not that she needs anyone’s help, really. She’s come very far on her own and I know she’ll go even further. And she deserves it! So if you haven’t seen her work yet, check it out — her YouTube channel with access to all her videos and more information can be found here. Enjoy!