Pros: Shapiro's street dance, several still funny skits
Cons: The Dealers segment still drags
1974’s The Groove Tube was a new kind of rude, crude comedy satire by writer-director and actor Ken Shapiro. It’s a series of skits and sketches satirizing TV programs and commercials. In 72 minutes it includes scathingly rude satires of public service announcements, television news programs, children’s shows, commercials, cooking shows, a stoner situation comedy and it also includes Ken’s energetic crazy man on the street dance (sure to put a smile on your face). It features full –frontal nudity, lots of bodily function related jokes and drug humor. It was the first and one of best of the 70s skit comedy type movies inspiring John Landis (Animal House) and the Zuckers (Airplane, Naked Gun) to make Kentucky Fried Movie a few years later.
Shapiro made Tube with little money over several years. It was originally rated X , received good critical reviews and remained a favorite among the college crowd particularly after Saturday Night Live debuted in the Fall of 1975 with similar ‘cutting edge’ comedy. It was re-released several times around the time when Tunnelvision and Kentucky Fried Movie came out. It also frequently played Midnight shows.
The Channel One Evening News skit from Groove Tube was borrowed/stolen by other movies and the tagline: ‘Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow’ used in the movie by Ken Shapiro as the news anchor became Chevy Chase signature sign-off of the Weekend Update segment of SNL often repeated and screamed by Garrett Morris (as a service to Hearing Impaired viewers –as the politically incorrect joke went). Chevy Chase appeared briefly in Groove Tube (and his hands do the very funny ‘Let Your Fingers Do the Walking’ Yellow Pages satire also.) Chevy sings ‘I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover’ while someone else stands behind him and uses his head like a drum, slapping it harder and harder as the song progresses.
Groove Tube was an outgrowth of the Channel One Video Theater, an off-Broadway improvisational and experimental multimedia theater created by Ken Shapiro and Lane Sarasohn in 1967. One of the troupe’s writers and performers was Chevy Chase.
The Groove Tube opens with a spoof of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey where primitive apes have a bizarre encounter with a television set. Also memorable the funny public service announcements from Uranus Corporation and the VD commercial with a puppet you begin to identify as the camera moves in. The longest, least funny segment is a dated sitcom satire about idiotic stoners called Dealers with Richard Belzer and Ken Shapiro acting like dumber versions of Cheech and Chong. It was tired obvious drug humor junk back then, and it hasn’t gotten any better since.
If you’re under 40, Groove Tube will be dated and old fashioned but I’m giving it a 3 ½ with a boost to 4 because it gave me lots of laughs back when—and still delivers a few too.
©2012, Christopher J. Jarmick