The Chris Gethard Show ended this week. Originally airing on public access, The Chris Gethard Show was picked up by Fusion and later by truTV, eventually airing more than 200 episodes. The show was profoundly weird in a remarkably genuine way.
Each episode featured Gethard, his sidekick Shannon O’Neil, The LLC (the show’s house band), and a coterie of background characters including Murf Meyer, Mimi Fischer (a hula-hooper), and The Human Fish. These folks sat on a small stage, surrounded by a live studio audience, and presented a show built around a theme. These themes were often off-the-wall concepts, including sleep-deprivation (Gethard and crew had been awake for 36 hours when the show was filmed), quitting a job (the show’s callers were encouraged to quit jobs that they hated), and sporting poetry (in which callers recited poems while the cast attempted to dunk basketballs). It was all as was written above: profoundly weird in a remarkably genuine way.
The Chris Gethard Show was broadcast live. It was also among the very lowest-rated shows on television. The show’s fans absolutely loved the show, but on a small cable channel in the modern era of our media tsunami, it never quite caught on with the bigger audiences that would have sustained it. Gethard’s frank acknowledgment that the show was both what he wanted but never quite right to survive would seem to indicate that the show’s host, if not everybody else involved with it, was aware of the challenge.
Here’s a thing though: no matter what else it did or did not achieve, The Chris Gethard Show produced one of the single greatest episodes of television ever broadcast. The episode – “One Man’s Trash” – involves Gethard, two celebrity guests (Jason Mantzoukas and Paul Scheer), and callers attempting to figure out what is in a dumpster that has been rolled out onto the middle of the stage. Gethard swears that he will not reveal its contents if the guessers cannot figure it out within the allotted amount of time. He also swears that if those contents get immediately figured out, the show has no back-up plan for the rest of its broadcast. The episode is below, in its entirety.
Making good, memorable art is an unbelievably hard thing. One-hit wonders are written off as if they have failed, despite having produced a thing that people genuinely loved. The Chris Gethard Show survived for more than 200 episodes, introducing viewers to an odd world full of wonderfully real people. It never rose to national prominence, but its fans loved it passionately and that in it of itself is worth celebrating. So then, it is not a failure that it ended; it is an accomplishment that such a thing ever existed at all.