Readers of We're Not Worthy: From 'In Living Color' to 'Mr. Show,' How '90s Sketch TV Changed the Face of Comedy can expect a lot--just not a lot on Saturday Night Live, which Jason Klamm calls "the American Civil War of comedy": it's already been exhaustively covered. Klamm's supremely worthy gambit is to spend roughly equal time on every significant sketch and "sketch-adjacent" TV show from the 1990s, an indisputably sensational decade in comedy.
This history spotlights dozens of shows, devoting individual chapters to successes as well as improbable failures (The Ben Stiller Show, The Dana Carvey Show). Klamm bundles together projects that don't quite merit their own chapters; he writes of two pilots from the parody newspaper the Onion: "It almost makes no sense that this show wasn't picked up by someone. Almost." Klamm is especially attuned to the importance of shows like In Living Color and House of Buggin', which introduced racial diversity to an overwhelmingly vanilla comedy landscape.
We're Not Worthy is a labor of love driven by an urge to demystify. Klamm misses no opportunity to point out that before they were household names, the likes of Amy Poehler, Jennifer Coolidge, and Will Ferrell toiled in the low-pay, no-glory sketch-comedy trenches. Interviews with shining stars (Carol Burnett, Mike Myers, Bob Odenkirk) as well as lesser lights and behind-the-scenesters get across how the TV-sketch-comedy sausage is made. Klamm would likely bristle if readers called his book scholarly--a quality ripe for parody--but they'd be right. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer