‘Spike’ offers long end of the shtick - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

‘Spike’ offers long end of the shtick

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Posted: Saturday, September 16, 2006 7:54 am | Updated: 4:35 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

With his retro-stylish glasses, neatly groomed hair and boyish face, Spike Feresten looks like the guy voted Most Likely to Succeed in a 1967 high school yearbook.

He’s really more of a class clown. He’s the guy who wrote ‘‘Seinfeld’s’’ famous ‘‘Soup Nazi’’ episode, and he’s a David Letterman disciple who told critics this summer that he once watched the late-night host throw fluorescent light bulbs off a building and thought, ‘‘There’s a place for me.’’

With ‘‘Talkshow With Spike Feresten,’’ a new latenight Saturday entry following ‘‘MADtv’’ on Fox, Feresten indulges his inner Letterman.

‘‘Talkshow’’ isn’t the typical talk show; for one thing, its half-hour format doesn’t leave a lot of room for talk. It’s more like a place to put the sort of bits that make up the first 20 minutes or so of most latenight chat shows.

So you get stuff like filmed sketches about dumb paparazzi — shutterbugs who hang out in front of places like Home Depot and mistake ordinary citizens for celebrities.

Feresten wants to have it both ways: He mocks chatshow clichés while celebrating them at the same time. He does have guests — Andy Richter on the first episode sent for review, Mary Lynn Rajskub (‘‘24’s’’ Chloe) on the second — but he doesn’t really interview them so much as make them part of his shtick.

Which, really, is the same thing Letterman does most of the time, only Feresten is even more obvious about it — he’s an ironist commenting on irony.

Richter, Conan O’Brien’s former sidekick, realizes his dream of sitting in the host’s chair, and Rajskub gets to do something she claims she’s always wanted to do: operate heavy machinery while under the influence of cold medicine.

Richter’s bit works better than Rajskub’s, which has a long buildup and almost zero payoff. Most of Feresten’s show is just as hit-or-miss, but he does bring some muchneeded freshness to a comedy universe dominated by a wheezing “Saturday Night Live” and the equally erratic ‘‘MADtv,’’ both of which are older than their viewers.

If Feresten is inconsistent, at least he’s inconsistent within a 30-minute slot instead of an hour. That’s enough to make it easy to cut him some slack.

On TV

‘‘Talkshow With Spike Feresten’’ premieres midnight today on Fox.

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