“You need to come over here…you’re going to be very excited,” my husband says. I’m intrigued…he knows me very, very well, and when he says something like that with such authority, I know I have no choice but to end my limpet-like clinging to the rock face of my comfy chair and come see what he’s got on the computer.
YouTube is open, and he hits play. There are a few credits for the companies sponsoring what I’m about to see…Machinima, Happy Hour…I wait, curious to what piqued his interest. Then there’s a somewhat cheesy computer-animated shot of a seedy alley. I squint at the sign above the door the camera is zooming in on. It says…wait…really? Does that really say “Sifl and Olly Studio”? I look at him, and he grins. “They’re back.”
The scene jumps inside, where a puppet I know is made out of an inverted rubber Buddha mold is concerned about fire. “When it gets bigger…is it ‘cause it’s mad?”
And just like that, I’m 30 again. I’m living back in Waltham with hubby-to-be Steve and Scott, one of the best friends I’ll ever have. And we’re staring at the TV screen. We’re tuned into MTV, and we’re watching sock-puppets try to deconstruct and comprehend Star Wars, awkwardly. And we’re laughing and laughing.
Whatchu Talkin’ ‘Bout, GGG?
In the late 90s, MTV had pretty much given up airing music videos. They did, however, for an all-too-brief shining moment, air an absolutely beyond bizarre comedy show called The Sifl and Olly Show. This show featured the talents of Matt Crocco and Liam Lynch, a very funny pair of childhood friends who used two sock puppets named Sifl and Olly. The show had bizarre guests, interviews, animation, and music…fantastic music.
It’s hard to explain what made this show so amazing. Partly, it was the puppets. Despite being made of socks, sometimes with decorative flourishes such as plastic baby-doll arms, yarn hair, or flower-petals around the eyes, they’re incredibly expressive, thanks to the amazing puppetry of Liam Lynch.
Partly, it’s the writing, or, more likely, the improvised acting. The two characters have such incredibly good chemistry (not surprising, since Crocco and Lynch grew up together) that they end up feeling more real and human than most people on Reality TV…Jersey Shore, for example.
And again, I can’t emphasize enough how great the music is. Whether it was a robot singing “I Know What Boys Like” in a moog synthesizer voice or the two main characters singing about Prostitute Laundry, haunted spaceships, or trying to out-sing Stealth, Olly’s nemesis, the show had lots of music, and it was usually funny and good.
So What Happened?
Well, the show had two seasons on MTV, but it was then canceled. A four episode 3rd season was released on DVD, and the soundtrack of songs for Season 1 was released on CD…and then, for a long time, that was it. Liam Lynch would occasionally have the characters appear on his podcast, Lynchland, but it was usually just a clip from season 3. Slowly, but surely, the possibility of Sifl and Olly returning grew fainter and fainter.
But then, suddenly, Lynch tweeted a photo of a set that looked suspiciously like the old Sifl and Olly studio. Then he posted a picture advertising “Precious Roy’s Fruit Chunkies”. Since Precious Roy was a character from the show, speculation began that the show might be returning.
On September 9, this treasured show returned. If you want to get a sense for what I’ve been babbling about, go and watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nheett0K5R0. This promo is a really nicely encapsulated bit of typical Sifl and Olly. If you laugh at what you see, find yourself singing the song later on, and find these puppets strangely compelling, then you might want to see more.
So If It’s So Great, Why Haven’t I Ever Seen It Before, and How Can I See More?
Well, if you remember a song called “My United States of Whatever”, then you actually have. Or if you’ve heard an alleged Bjork song called “The City”, then you have…that’s Liam Lynch doing a surprisingly good Bjork impression, especially considering he’s a man.
But if you haven’t, well, the show has a fanatically devoted following, but it was only on MTV for 2 years before it was canceled. If you didn’t catch it then, then you would’ve needed to stumble over some reference to it online, or have someone tell you about it.
If you want more, then just search YouTube for Sifl and Olly; there are hours of clips there. You can also find season 3 on DVD and the soundtrack on Amazon most of the time. And now, you can watch the online series, wherein they do reviews of fake video-games. Episode 1 is up, and it’s pretty excellent.
Also, if you ever have a chance to listen to Crocco and Lynch’s “History of America”, definitely listen. It’s not Sifl and Olly, but it has the same whacked-out, demented stylings, along with some curiously catchy tunes that utterly demolish American history. It may not follow American history too well, but hey, you will learn why Ben Franklin kicks ass, and you’ll find out the true story of Ansel Adams, who invented the camera to take school-pictures of orphans.
I guess what I’m saying is, give Sifl and Olly a try. You might like it.