• Steve Martin - a wild and crazy guy (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Given a one-off special to make their own, some of TV's greatest talents can't help themselves. They produced some of the most unusual and straight-out weird television. Today we celebrate their achievements.
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21 Nov 2017 - 4:58 PM  UPDATED 21 Nov 2017 - 4:58 PM

This Thursday on The Feed they are making the grave mistake turning over their entire half hour to comedian Mark Humphries for a dedicated half hour to all-new sketches and mischief. 

Comedy specials on TV are usually just recorded stand-up comedy specials, but over the years a number of comedians have made one-off shows with a common thread running through all of them: they get a bit weird. Given the freedom of a one-off show that doesn't need to come back the following week, the entertainers are often left to their own creative instincts. The result is some of television's most delightfully weird TV shows.

Not all of the specials turn out to champagne comedy. For every great one there is also a Paul Lynde Halloween Special level catastrophe. 

Thankfully, most of the time they prove to be gloriously odd.

 

Andy's Funhouse

Andy Kaufman specialised in pushing the boundaries of his performance art and testing the audience's patience with material that often left audiences wondering if he was for real. 

The special was taped in  1977, but the US ABC network didn't air it until 1979. While the special is packed with all of his regular bits that he was known for, it went beyond what most viewers and the broadcast network expected. Opening with his 'foreign man' character, recognisable to fans of the ABC sitcom Taxi as Kaufman's character 'Latka', the show went on to include special appearances by the puppet Howdy Doody, The B Street Conga Band, and Laverne & Shirley star Cindy Williams. The special is best remembered for a sequence in which the screen deliberately froze, causing viewers to think there was a problem with the TV signal.

 

A Very Murray Christmas

Directed by Sofia Coppola, this 2015 special has Bill Murray hosting a Christmas TV event live from a New York hotel. When a snow storm hits, Murray is concerned that his guests won't be able to make it to the taping, prompting him to make do with guests from inside the hotel.

Special guests on the special include: George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, Rashida Jones, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman, Paul Shaffer, Michael Cera, and Jenny Lewis.

While it's not an overt comedy, the special is overflowing with Murray's laconic humour. 

 

Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life

A parody of waffly travelogue documentaries, Alan Partridge offers us a glimpse into his every day life as we join him on a tour of his home county, Norfolk.

Partridge, known globally for his work on the wireless at North Norfolk Digital, treats the viewer to a visit to the Norwich Markets where he advises on the best way to take advantage of free samples, and the public pool at Riverside Leisure Centre. Along the way, Partridge learns a bit about Hitler and is adamant that he did not like the facts that he heard.

 

Inspektor Herring

Concluding the third and final season of Mad As Hell forerunner Newstopia, this one-off special delivered a full episode of Inspector Rex parody Inspektor Herring. It was described at the time as 'The Manchurian Candidate meets Herbie Goes Bananas'.

The highlight of the special: a nod to Battleship Potemkin as Fyodor and Inspektor Herring try to stop an assassin at the ballet where the question becomes: Will guest musician Andre Rieu make it out alive?

 

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash

A TV movie airing on NBC in 1978, All You Need Is Cash is a series of sketches that take the form of a mockumentary that tells the story of the fictitious band The Rutles with a history that hems closely to The Beatles' career. Produced by Lorne Michaels company Broadway Video, the show starred Eric Idle,Neil Innes, John Halsey, and Ricky Fataar as the bandmates. Eventually the fake band from the film became a real band that still perform to this day.

 

John Denver & The Muppets Rocky Mountain Holiday

John Denver took The Muppets camping. Hilarity and folk music is sure to ensue. Throughout the hour-long special Denver takes the Muppets to the Rockies for an excursion that includes fishing, hiking, and camping. Not ideal activities for anyone made of felt.

 

Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty

It's easy to forget that the silver-haired comedian was never actually a member of Saturday Night Live like so many of his contemporaries, but he was certainly no stranger to sketch work. In this, the second of a series of specials he recorded for NBC, Steve Martin performs in a number of sketches including: Marty Robbins' "El Paso" with monkeys; "The Death of Socrates;" and "Bizarre Oddities of the World."

It turns out he really is a wild and crazy guy.

 

The Feed: Mark Humphries Comedy Special debuts on Thursday at 7:30pm. You'll be able to watch it again and again straight after at SBS On Demand.

 

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