One of my favorite In Living Color segments that set it apart from its older, whiter counterpart, Saturday Night Live, was music video parodies. You know the segment – it usually opened the episode (as they became more prominent), and was a parody of a then-current music video. I couldn’t help myself as a child dancer when these videos came on – it was all about how Not a Fly Girl I could be. And believe me, as a child dancer, being one was my Life Goal.
Heck, that goal was sorta realized when I took Hip Hop for seven years. And it was glorious.
As I was saying…
One of the things In Living Color did that clearly set it apart from the well-established Saturday Night Live (aside from ethnicity, edge, and having an entire family as its main cast) were its music video parodies. They pulled no punches in parodying popular then-current music videos in only a way they knew how to, which usually involved pushing the envelope, changing the lyrics, and depicting the singers as, well, not-so-great. As they were parodies, it was perfectly acceptable. As television material that recaptures one of my favorite eras of music, it is gold. There will never be anything quite like 90s dance music, and there will never be anything quite like music videos given the In Living Color treatment.
So what could possibly be better than the music videos themselves? How about a half-hour special dedicated ONLY to the music videos we love?
Your mind is supposed to be blown at this point, folks. :-D
In Living Color‘s music video special aired during the show’s third season on May 3, 1992, one in a line of truly good episodes in what was arguably the last truly good season of the series, as the Wayans family slowly began to leave after this season. This was also the same season to feature an all-blooper reel episode (which aired the previous week, on April 26, 1992), as well as that awesomely controversial Super Bowl Halftime Show. If censors already hated this show, and the network was beginning to have its grievances with the Wayans and their crazy antics, this show just kept driving the crazy train all the way to its imminent doom. And by “imminent doom,” I mean a sans-Wayans Family season. Hard to believe that was just a little over a year away. But for the third glorious time in 1992, the show proved it still had?what it took to defy the network.
The music video special featured videos from both the current and previous seasons (as well as one that was seemingly exclusive to the special itself), but was not an exhaustive compilation of the great music videos this show parodied. You Tube is a great source for the ones this special failed to include (obviously due to time, but also because there were a few gems that didn’t air until the fourth and, dare I say it, fifth season), but what they did include were among the best of that time.
Hosted by “Downtown” Julie Brown (played by T’keyah Crystal Keymah – I just confirmed that I spelled that right on the first attempt!) in wrap-around segments, the special featured eight music videos, as well as a closing number by an actual R&B group, Jodeci (OMG, remember them?!) performing “X’s We Share.”
The inclusion of a fake Downtown Julie Brown, in lieu of the real deal, feels like a relic of nostalgia for nostalgia sake. But why not?
Michael Bolton: “When a Man Needs a Big Hit”
You know, I don’t remember this ever being in an episode, and I can’t find proof that it actually was. Trust me, I combed the episode lists for proof, and found none.
Remember when Michael Bolton was recording updated versions of songs that already exist, and hitting hard on the charts with them? Yeah, this song parodied those redoings, complete with Bolton/Carey’s head exploding at the end, women fighting over his hair, and token white guy Jim Carrey being responsible for the crooning.
I used to purposely laugh hysterically at this in front of my mom, because she LOVED Michael Bolton back when this was a thing.
MC Hammer: “Can’t Touch This” (from Season 1, episode 11)
If you ever want to hear an already rowdy audience scream like they’re at the Apollo Theater or, worse, a Luther Vandross concert, just watch anything that involved Tommy Davidson taking off his clothes. Same effect, I swear.
This music video (which retains the original song’s title), is all about MC Hammer and his giant pants. Davidson did versatility (and boxers) well, and when the giant pants become too much for “MC Hammer” to handle, the laughs just get louder.
Come for the dancing, stay for the moment Davidson rips the outfit off and proceeds to dance in boxers. It’s awesome.
Crystal Waters: “My Songs Are Mindless” (from Season 3, episode 9)
This song was a parody of “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” in which “Crystal Waters” (played here by Kim Wayans) sings about the joy of cable (“100 channels!”), and how it directly effects her singing career. She knows you’re sucked into her stuff and that you’re mindless (“like me you’re mindless”).
Vanilla Ice: “White White Baby” (from Season 2, episode 15)
What better for the token white guy of the cast than to depict the token white rapper of the early 1990s? Jim Carrey (complete with awful bald cap) raps about how he’s white to the run of “Ice Ice Baby.”
So, nothing rhymes with Winkle?
Prince Butt Out Jeans (from Season 3, episode 3)
This one isn’t a music video, more so than it’s a commercial parody styled into a music video, all for the sake of promoting jeans by Prince, complete with your butt cheeks exposed to the world.
And if you’re worried about NSFW, don’t worry, Jamie Foxx’s “butt” is fake.
Paula Abdul: “Promise of a Thin Me” (from Season 3, episode 8)
This video parodies “Promise of a New Day,” and is a direct reference to Paula Abdul’s weight gain in the early 1990s. And no, they can’t do that to Wilson Phillips.
Jimmie Walker: “Mama’s Gonna Kick Me Out” (from Season 3, episode 4)
I’ve officially lived – I danced the Soul Train line at Hip Hop to the actual version of this song (LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out”). Since I didn’t listen to LL Cool J back then (never really have), this was the one instance where I knew the parody before I knew the actual song. It’s Jimmie “JJ” Walker (played by Shawn Wayans) singing about how he needs a comeback, cuz he ain’t worked in years. Oh, and mama has some housework he can do upstairs.
Michael Jackson: “Am I Black or White” (from Season 3, episode 14)
Remember the controversial Michael Jackson music video where he morphs from panther to person, sings about racial equality, Macaulay Culkin “raps,” faces morph…and then the extended version where MJ goes on a tirade, smashes a car, and grabs his crotch?
This is the lighter version. Instead of crotch grabbing…he grabs his inner thigh. Seriously, that’s how they made it SFW before there as such as thing as SFW.
Again, Tommy Davidson never fails to show his diverse side when it comes to singing and dancing. And if you liked the MC Hammer video from earlier, this one doesn’t disappoint either. This time around, MJ is trying to figure out if he’s black or white.
And then there was that Jodeci performance, but it’s not on the video I found on You Tube.
But I did find the song. It’s not bad.
Video uploaded by cobbrobin77
Have fun finding this special, as it doesn’t exist outside of rerun airings. Due to licensing and copyrights, the episode was omitted from the In Living Color: The Complete Third Season DVD boxed set. In the early days of FX, it was aired as part of a “Viewer Appreciation Night.” As you may remember, FX was the first network to air the series in reruns during its final gasp on the Fox Network and after its cancellation in 1994.
And you too can partake in the actual special (sans Jodeci), thanks to the magic of You Tube! Wooba-wooba-wooba!
Video Uploaded by tuncakstar
It’s a shame this was one of the last truly great episodes from the best era of the show. I remember a time in the summer of 1994 (a little over two years after this episode aired) watching the final episode to air on the Fox Network (it was a rerun from that season, but I can’t remember what episode) before the show was removed completely, and knowing, at eleven years old, that this show had met an unspectacular end. It was a total shell of itself by this point, and it was hard to accept that an edgy show from an edgy network was over, and it’s end wasn’t even remotely memorable.
It’s why I love nostalgia, folks. It’s easy to find the good stuff and block out the stuff that disappointed us so much.
Allison simply loves music. She also loves parody. Combine music with parody, and she’s a happy girl. She’d also be happy if you took a look at her blog, Allison’s Written Words, follow her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut, or subscribe to her blog’s Facebook page.
She contends that her words aren’t mindless.
(Michael Boomton? -Vic)