Hey, kids! Wonder Showzen is back! Now with more cuddly puppets, kooky kid reporters, colorful cartoons, and educational films that’ll help your brain learn! Oh, but there’s just one thing: For the love of childhood innocence, keep your sons and daughters far away from this show. Come to think of it, same goes for sensitive adults…who should stop reading this article. Okay — anyone left? Here’s the deal: Wonder Showzen (airing Fridays at 9:30 p.m. on MTV2) has been described as ”Sesame Street on acid,” but it’s really the guy who dealt that neighborhood its tabs and laughed when Snuffleupagus tried to claw his own eyes out. It’s a creepy, biting, and hilarious TV-MA parody of kiddie television and a merciless societal satire, a peek into a hallucinogenic realm where puppets drink, have sex, and attempt suicide. The brainchild of 34-year-old college friends and Doggy Fizzle Televizzle collaborators Vernon Chatman and John Lee, it’s built a devoted following that likes humor delivered with a fur-covered ice pick. For as-yet-uninitiated and unscarred viewers, here are the ABCs and 123s of Wonder Showzen.
A Is for Awfully Amusing
As well as antireligion, antisocial… anti-take-your-pick. A la Sesame Street, puppet pals address an episodic theme…that veers in horrific directions. For ”Diversity,” a talking Jewish ”J” and Arab ”8” made forbidden love before their number and letter brethren rumbled; in this season’s ”Body” premiere, a self-hating ”P” gets lipo and learns to embrace her ”P-ness.” These twisted adventures are broken up by cartoons like ”Finger Force,” the adventures of tween bulimics. The creators swear it’s all an homage to their favorite show — the pre-Elmo era, that is: ”[Sesame Street] used to have weird guys,” says Chatman. ”Now Elmo’s just a dumb kid: ‘If I act like a whiny little s—head, I’ll be a success!’ That works, but still…” Lee pipes in: ”Look where we are in Iraq. F—ing Elmo.”
B Is for Beat Kids
A troublemaking troupe of trench-coated tots hits the streets to ask adults questions that would get an older person drop-kicked (e.g., ”When did you sell your conscience?”). ”You cannot piss people off through a kid,” insists Chatman. The kids — whose parents understand and approve of their appearances on the show — can sometimes irk people after the fact: The Anti-Defamation League complained about an episode featuring redheaded cherub Trevor dressed as Hitler, Nazi cap and all. (”Whose hat represents more oppression, yours or mine?” he asked a man wearing a cowboy hat.) It unintentionally aired around Holocaust Remembrance Day. ”We thought we had probably crossed the line and were insensitive in terms of the scheduling,” says MTV2 general manager David Cohn. It’s never been rerun, though it’s on the DVD, which came out March 28.
C Is for Cute Characters
Like Chauncey, a furry, yellow, top-hatted monster who serves as the show’s de facto host and…has eaten God and watched Mother Nature give herself a sex change. In his posse: Him, a monosyllabic beast modeled on a spinning spit of lamb souvlaki, and Sthugar, the pink, one-fanged ”girly girl” of the cast. Working the street and mixing it up with the confused public is blue, high-pitched interviewer Clarence, who blends Grover-like affability with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog-ish obnoxiousness — often with violent results. Last season, Clarence asked folks to talk about ”freedom of speech,” then constantly interrupted their answers, telling them to shut up. Some threw punches. One person ripped off his eyes. And those are just the love taps. ”This season,” boasts Lee, ”we had three knives pulled on us.”