“Space Ghost Coast to Coast” put me in absolute shock the first time I saw it. I couldn’t believe a tv show so fluently spoke to the cultural car crash in my head. A fusion of “Batman ’66” and Letterman and punk rock; a post-modern quasi-cartoon rewriting the rules of kitsch; a reverse Roger Rabbit where our dimension is the tiny portion of a surrealist animated landscape populated by exhausted and agitated characters who couldn’t give a tinker’s dam about what anyone else wants, let alone a human. A show about a retired super hero entering the late night wars with two sidekicks he’s imprisoned in his garish studio on an otherwise barren planet.
No other entertainment makes me laugh as hard as “Space Ghost.” It’s so elastic. Clever and cutting one moment, beautifully stupid and nonsensical the next. Long stretches of nothing, then dense clusters of joke upon joke upon joke, like a swarm of bees. Total reverence for a guest that quickly washes into contempt and sarcastic quips. And the full visual trip of live action celebrities being forced to interact with repurposed ’60s animation—what an addictively weird atmosphere.
An enormous piece of the show’s creative heart was animator and voice actor C. Martin Croker, who passed away last weekend. Croker brought to life the titular host’s enslaved sidekicks, band leader Zorak and producer Moltar, who as the show progresses transform from standoffish super villains into disgruntled everyman employees hilariously nonchalant in their burning hatred for Space Ghost. Zorak and Moltar savor each moment their captor stumbles and find themselves in a quiet pain when he succeeds. Naturally, these two have their own issues: Zorak is a pathological liar and cannibal while Moltar seems to be covering up an unsatisfying marriage.
How could I not be in awe of Croker? He drew this amazing show, voiced incredible foils for the main character, and his name’s stately as hell. This guy’s a legend. Everything I’ve read about him away from his work suggests he was cool, generally willing to share a laugh with admirers or do the Zorak and Moltar voices. It’s devastating that he’s gone at only 54 (cause of death currently undisclosed) but I’ll always be thankful for experiencing his talent. It affected me deeply to see that television as bizarre and lawless as “Space Ghost” could not only exist somewhere but thrive. That’s inspirational.
So thanks, Clay Martin. We’ll miss you.
A: I’m a little embarrassed by my previous investment in the Late Night Wars™. Part of that involves my favorite guys not fulfilling whatever weird prophecies I envisioned. More of it has to do with talk show fatigue. The format has become so devalued, and yet at the same time remains so oppressive. Anyone can get a talk show, but anyone who tries to de or reconstruct what we believe a talk show should be (Jeselnik, Kamau Bell) ends up with a pink slip. In that sense, Jimmy Fallon is the perfect choice to host “The Tonight Show.” He’s never been trouble.
To paraphrase Howard Cosell, Jimmy Fallon rhapsodizes about everything, I’m sure he’ll have a fine career.
Seth Meyers on “Late Night” I have a harder time understanding. Did that guy really spend fourteen years on “Saturday Night Live” with the end goal of hosting a twelve-thirty weeknight show? Granted, it’s a spot that once belonged to Letterman and Conan, but neither of those guys did any one job for fourteen years before “Late Night.” That is to say, Letterman and Conan were not defined by anything before their “Late Night” stints. Does NBC really think a guy who spent fourteen years on “Saturday Night Live” is the right kind of person to be hosting “Late Night?” Jimmy Fallon was only on “SNL” for six! Fourteen years is even longer than Tim Meadows’ oft-joked about stint. I guess NBC’s impressed by Seth’s loyalty.
Personally, I’d love to see Tim Meadows host “Late Night.” “Late Night w/ Tim Meadows” is definitely some shit I’d watch. Shout out to all my Lionel Osbourne fans (Lionel Osbourne is a talk show character Tim Meadows used to play in ancient times, long before any of us were ever born).