Lost Signals: Sifl and Olly Show (1997)
The 90s saw a cornucopia of some of the most twisted, deranged, and innovative television to ever grace the screen; none more potent or vital to my existence than the shows on Nickelodeon and MTV. As it is, both of these stations lost the will to entertain after 1999 and gave in to pregnant teenagers, whining pre-teens, and cartoons that would cause the braindead to become… er, braindead.
But let’s not dwell on the things that we can’t change. No matter how many petitions are signed, Facebook groups are started, or how many times we swear off television we’re never gonna be able to bring back that glorious orange couch on Friday nights; the wit and disdain dripping monotone of an unpopular high schooler; or the sexual and thematic undertones of the cartoons that we absolutely adored. So, we need to just suck it up find home grown comfort from blogs such as Strange Kids Club.
The fun part for me came when I went back to these shows and rediscovered what I fell in love with in the first place. So, with this turn of the screw, I’m going to take you hand-puppet in hand-puppet down the hypnotic grooves of one Mr. Sifl and his confidante Señor Olly. ¡Olé!
In 1997, a couple of gentlemen were sitting around MTV studios trying to hatch a plot for the next smartass-tastic adventure to portray on the channel’s illustrious list of smartassery. There was Liquid Television, Beavis and Butthead, and, of course, the infamous Denis Leary television spots. So, while knocking back Tequila and playing checkers (as I imagine all mad geniuses do), these daring young men decided… VOILA! Sock Puppets!!!
There’s not much that can go wrong with a show that literally cost $10 (a 20 pack of socks, buttons, a plastic sunflower). As I can’t convey every single moment that made me fall in love with this unconventional pique on wit, I’ve decided to compile a compendium of the greatest aspects of the show— so, like, four or five. And I have to start with…
The Theme Song: It’s very simple. Say the characters’ names and then say the name of the show. And… GO! “Sifl and Olly. Sifl and Olly Show [Everybody!]” It’s not just the fact that it’s so simple that a comatose Alzheimer’s patient could recite it verbatim. It’s the images that are just so ridiculous… and literal. Of course, the moment I fell in love with the show (when I was all of 11 years old) was when an over-excited background singer declared in a lucid and unequivocal outcry of support for these bastions of comedy… ”ROCK!!!” I was hooked for the rest of my life!
Chester: Probably the most uncomfortably adorable character on any television show ever, this socially awkward sock puppet (with a head shaped like pizza crust) won the hearts of millions. With his uncanny giggling twitch and his desire to fit in with the cool kids, Chester came up with some of the most incredible moments of music history every produced, most noteworthy of which were his contributions to “Tangerine” (which we’ll get to later), “Stolen Holiday” (a song that just makes me warm and fuzzy inside), and a plethora of others.
Crescent Fresh: No one quite knows what it means, but that’s totally “cress.” The assumption is that it’s the most crescent way to say “cool”. So, if you’re reading this article, could you just let me know if it’s “crescent fresh?” Thanks.
The Music: On any given episode there’s a Top 10 masterpiece just bursting to go down in the annals of pop history. Establishing who does a hooker’s laundry; rockin’ out like Ziggy Stardust… and nothing touched me quite like the two Mack Daddy sock puppets slowin’ it down Al Green style for the ladies in their ode to sexiness, “Tangerine”. It’s one of those songs you hear and you must instinctively incorporate the lyrics into your daily routine. When you’re at Wal-Mart: “Tangerine. I can’t wait to take you back to my crib.” When you’re out with your lady friends: “Tangerine. Eating lobster with my bitches.” And, of course, when declaring your undying affection for that special someone: “Tangerine. Get undressed and get in my round bed. Tangerine. I put on my robe and my platform slippers. Vaseline. All aboard the electric stallion.” Every line could possibly seal the deal… just sayin’.
The Hosts: Every single thing that happens to and with these two cotton blokes is pure genius. From “Calls from the Public” to interactions with their landlord, it just seems this twosome can do no wrong. Of course, almost every moment they’re on screen becomes my favorite, but something special happens when they give advice. I find myself actually applying them to real world situations and finding out… they fail miserably, but in the most beautiful fashion.
I know this is a mouthful, but surely you can empathise. There’s no way you can speak of something coming from the golden era of childhood television and not get all teary-eyed and verbose. Truly one of the defining moments in my life… ladies and gentlemen: Sifl and Olly.
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR – CAMIELE WHITE
As unexpected as her path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is her ability to get attention for writing about the stuff. From Japanese horror and Korean melodrama, to the acid soaked animation of the 70s, Camiele White loves to talk about, debate, and watch film that teases, pleases, and fucks with the senses. Right now, she gets her jabberjaw jollies writing about Halloween costumes. If you want to give her a buzz, she can be reached at cmlewhite at gmail [dot] com.