Genius occasionally pops up in the most unlikely places. For the viewers of a certain public access cable station in southwestern Connecticut, genius has popped up via “The Ricky Mestre Show,” a weekly comedy sketch program which can, with no apologies for hyperbole, be considered among the funniest productions on today’s television dial.
How can a public access show be so good? As the DVD release “The Best of the Ricky Mestre Show” proves, all it takes is talent: in the writing, in the production and in the cast. Although a low-budget endeavor, “The Ricky Mestre Show” is nonetheless fairly elaborate in its depth and scope. And “The Best of the Ricky Mestre Show” proves that one can achieve alchemy via public access in creating comedy gold from what most people view as a leaden environment.
Not unlike the great comedians of yesteryear, Mestre establishes a distinct comic persona for his skits. In his case, he essays the part of the benign egomaniac who is happy in being subject of attention – even if the attention is somewhat questionable, such as mock-commercial for Ricky Jeans that features the star’s photo in the middle of a denim backside. The faux-trailer for the gladiator epic “Troy Story” brings the breastplated warrior Mestre on screen with a description that Brad Pitt would die for: “One man! One good looking man! One verrrrrrry good looking man!” And Mestre, not accustomed to modesty, happily winks at the audience in confirmation of that description.
As with the great comedians of the past, Mestre is wise enough to know one person cannot support a comedy all by himself. In his case, he enjoys a brilliant squad of comic actors who play off Mestre’s inflated ego and their own idiosyncracies to achieve a community of zany energy. This ensemble includes Miguel Padilla, Mestre’s sidekick who often elbows the star aside to enjoy some of his own quality time in the spotlight; Celia Ortiz, a diminutive ball of fire adept at dialects and scene-stealing; Xavier Albelo, a solid and stoic presence who often winds up as the fierce yet vulnerable villain; Luis Cedeno, whose party boy geniality brings a sense of infectious giggles to the proceedings; Steve Korosh, a deadpan authority figure inevitably tripped up by the shenanigans around him; and Kathy Ruiz and Waleska Morales, who provide drop-dead gorgeous beauty with even deadlier comic timing.
“The Best of the Ricky Mestre Show” emphasizes skits which lampoon pop culture. Music videos reimagining “These Boots Were Made for Walking” end up with the Sixties-style footwear landing well-deserved kicks in the foreheads of several male heels. The DeBarge ditty “Rhythm of the Night” calls attention to the low-rent public access budget with a hilariously blatant backdrop of a night ride while the cast rocks about in an oaktag convertible that clearly sags in the middle.
Movies are also served up with flavor. Mestre out-whoas Keanu as a numb Neo in a “Matrix” spoof where he fires a barrage of questions at elusive sage (Celia Ortiz). When asked why she is here, Ortiz, frustrated by the mumbo-jumbo of their conversation, responds harshly: “What is this, Ask.com?” A “Halloween” takeoff has Mestre and Padilla being chased, Hope & Crosby style, through a haunted house by a masked maniac. The payoff: a well-times slap to the mask reduces the knife-twirling maniac to a big bawling baby.
Perhaps the wildest and weirdest offering here is “Romantic Correctional Facility,” where sultry prison guard Waleska Morales coos and purrs the fierce male inmates into silly putty – with an emphasis on the silly, as the men get so fired up they forget the feminine source of their arousal and skip off together!
Even the basic comedy roots, the Henny Youngman rat-a-tat-tat delivery of “Doctor! Doctor!” jokes, is given new life with “Specific Hospital.” Mestre’s nutty surgeon enjoys the delivery of his one-liners so much he heartily slaps surgery patient Padilla during an operation; he eventually discovers the patient’s medical woes by performing a C-section and extracting a baby!
Right now, Mestre’s program can only be seen on that Connecticut public access station. With luck, the DVD release of “The Best of the Ricky Mestre Show” can offer a much needed boost for this extraordinary and hilarious comic icon-in-waiting.