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SPACE GHOST COAST TO COAST

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I watched a ton of tv growing up, but I never had more fun than when I watched a show on Cartoon Network called Cartoon Planet. Featuring Space Ghost, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character from the 60’s, the network repurposed the original animation, turning it into a hosted collection of cartoons. The show was a bunch of classic Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera shorts, with interstitials filled with the silliest, strangest humor – featuring Zorak, a mutant praying mantis, Brak, a…something, and of course, Space Ghost himself. They were mocking and crude and smart, even with their abundant stupidity.

I don’t remember when I started watching it, and I don’t remember when it even aired, but I do remember loving every second of the show. I even remember buying their album of songs and sketches that was released, entitled Space Ghost’s Musical Bar-B-Que. But I didn’t know that there was another show ready for me on the channel’s late night block, Adult Swim: Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

Space Ghost Coast to Coast was a full-fledged hosted talk show with scripts that made almost no sense. Real actors teleconferenced in on a screen situated right next to the desk of the host, Space Ghost, and they spoke to each other as if it were a live conversation. It wasn’t. And most of the lines spoken were scripted. But everything in the show was so extremely odd and random, it felt like in the moment stuff…but with a lot more insanity than one would expect.

The guest list of Space Ghost Coast to Coast was insane for the time. Anyone from Busta Rhymes to The Bee Gees to Jim Carrey to Jon Stewart – PRE-daily show, Jon Stewart. And almost none of it seemed to be plugging anything in particular. As if these guests were just visiting Space Ghost out of the goodness of their hearts…with regret soon following, as Space Ghost usually devolved into mocking the guest, or just making anyone “angry” at the drop of a hat.

There isn’t much to say about the show that will give a good enough context, but it should be experienced to understand even slightly what I’m talking about. Fair warning, though: frustration will likely ensue. Extreme annoyance, even. But the odd humor has found everyone I’ve showed it to, at some point. It is a remarkable piece of comedy, with quotable jokes that very few will understand when referenced, but you’ll know…and you’ll probably make yourself laugh just repeating the words out loud.

The humor of Space Ghost has been an influence in my life in plenty of ways. I enjoyed the ridiculousness of it. I enjoyed the terribly childish insults, and probably mimicked them a bit too much. And I even had a great time impersonating Brak’s oddly specific voice throughout my high school career. Yeah…made tons of friends through that even-then-obscure reference…

But I continue to hear even more about Space Ghost, to this day. It pops up on reddit posts and YouTube recommended links. Even when Hulu started streaming Adult Swim content, I thought I should see about Space Ghost’s appearance…but it wasn’t there. (Speaking of, I should probably check again, just in case…I haven’t looked for a bit.)

Either way, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I realized there’s an entire culture behind the humor and choppy animation work. And I realized that Adult Swim continues to foster beautifully, awful content in the hopes of keeping things fresh.

Several of those shows have missed the mark for me, but it’s still wonderful to know that creators are out there, and have a place where they can try their hands at making a mark on comedy. I adored Space Ghost’s shows, and I believe it still holds up. Maybe not all of it, but at least the greater majority. And I hope it will continue to be appreciated.

This year marked Space Ghost Coast to Coast’s 20th anniversary, and I heard nothing about it…I’d almost forgotten how old it truly was! But I found this visual breakdown of Adult Swim’s rise to prominence and thought it was a worthy tribute to the grandfather of…well, whatever type of comedy this will be called in the future. They say “surrealist,” but I think there’s a greater definition hiding somewhere.

 

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