Now for something a little more fun.
MadTV was one of my all-time favorite comedy sketch shows, and it was definitely for the characters, who were often as nerve-wracking as they were funny. You wanted to punch them just as much as laugh at them, which certainly makes for memorable characters.
I was, and still am, a huge fan of Mad Magazine, which this show was loosely based on. It aired for 12 seasons on the Fox Network, with a brief revival for its 20th anniversary, in 2015. From the beginning, the show was inclusive, with a number of Black female comedians, something which SNL, a show I genuinely liked, had never done. Some of the most notable comedians were Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Orlando Jones, Phil Lamarr, Nicole Sullivan, Debra Wilson, Will Sasso, and Michael McDonald.
The Vancome Lady – Nicole Sullivan
The character most people remember, and the woman voted most likely to get the shit slapped out of her at a party, she was just mean for no fucking reason. She had an evil, snide, or sarcastic, comment for everyone she met. It wasn’t just her sarcasm that endeared her, watching her occasionally get her comeuppance was always fun, too.
Ms. Swann – Alex Borstein
For all the clueless characters created for this show Ms. Swann was the most. Or was she? Every now and then, she would show a sly sense of humor, as if to say she knew what she was saying, or doing, was ridiculous, and why are you even paying attention to her.
Bunifa Latifah Halifah Sharifah Jackson – Debra Wilson
What was so funny about this character, wasn’t just the multiple names, but that I actually knew women like this. They were funny as hell, great to have as friends, horrible enemies, great at parties, and habitual liars.
The UPS Man – Phil Lamarr
This was one of the first characters I remember seeing on the show, and he was so weird, that I was intrigued enough to keep watching, week after week. I was just awed by the physicality of the actor. Incidentally, the actor who plays this character is Phil Lamarr, the voice of Samurai Jack, and John Stewart/Green Lantern.
Java Man – Mr. McNer – Pat Kilbane
Java Man was not as easily remembered as some other characters, but he was one of the first characters I looked forward to seeing in each show. This man put other coffee addicts to shame. He was a coffee junkie, and it showed in all his twitchy glory. A lot of the comedians for the show were wonderful at physical comedy.
Leona Campbell – Stephanie Weir
Not a lot of people remember Leona, but she was one of my favorites. She seemed like she didn’t know what was going on, but often questioned the ridiculousness of the American lifestyle, and always managed to be entirely on point. Leona visiting the movie theater is one of my favorites. Stephanie Weir also played a lovely and imaginative little 8 year old girl named Dot, who loved tiny mittens and gum, and who was hated by her parents for not being a genius, like her twin sister.
Lorraine Swanson – Mo Collins
Lorraine is another one of my favorite characters. MadTV had a knack for creating some of the funniest, most annoying, characters that ever appeared on television, and Lorraine was at the top. She had some kind of throat clearing issue, that was constantly making her cough,usually in someone’s face, and was an indecisive know-nothing, know-it-all, that her foils always had to explain everything to.
Stewart Larkin – Michael James McDonald
Wow! This was very probably MadTV’s most famous character. The comedians of MadTV were utterly fearless, and they had no problems thoroughly humiliating themselves for a joke. If you remember nothing else about this show, you remember Stewart, and his hapless Mother, lamenting the fact that she was single, because his father left them on Tuesday. I just recently saw Mr. McDonald in the Ghostbusters reboot as a hysterical theater owner, so yeah, he’s still up and about..
Yvonne Criddle – Daniele Gaither
Yvonne was very possibly one of the most vindictive women on the planet and she was proud of it. Be careful if you slighted this woman, because her revenge would be totally disproportionate to anything you’d done. Accidentally throw leaves in her front yard, and you might find Child Services called to take away your children. Take her parking space at the Home Depot, and she would try to run you off a cliff afterwards.