Out of all the performers and artists out there whose careers stalled badly after a certain point or who never seemed to get as large of a following as they deserve, Julie Brown (not to be confused with “Downtown” Julie Brown) has always been at the top of my list.
Sure, maybe her shtick had an expiration date on it, since it initially depended a lot on the ’80s’ own nostalgia craze for the ’50s and on mocking the late ’80s/early ’90s phenomenon of the “rock bimbo,” but even in her heyday she didn’t seem to get the credit she deserved. Although we’re now pretty much in a post-Madonna world (sorry, older gay readers, but deep in your hearts you know it’s true), Medusa: Dare to be Truthful is still one of the greatest works of pop culture satire ever, if just for the song “Party in my Pants.” Since then, sadly, her career has been marked by projects that did not make as much of a mark as her first big show, Just Say Julie! That includes the 1993-1994 sketch comedy, The Edge.
Even more than Julie Brown spearheading the show, “The Edge” is known for being full of soon-to-bes. The show’s initial producer David Mirkin was between producing cult hit Get a Life and his historic run as the showrunner for The Simpsons, Wayne Knight was about to get a career boost from playing Jerry Seinfeld’s eternal nemesis Newman, Tom Kenney would go on to be the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, and, well…
Yes, the star of Leprechaun!
Besides its notable future star cast, The Edge had other ways to set it about from the ur-American sketch comedy, Saturday Night Live, like the fact that every episode began with the entire cast being killed. Over the course of the show’s run, the cast had been set on fire, sucked into a vortex to Hell, shot with arrows, shot with a gun, and of course, decapitation:
But even with making a recurring gag out of the brutal homicide of the entire cast, was The Edge really edgey? Yes and no. Like most FOX offerings of the early ’90s, The Edge was, even more than SNL, ready and willing to not only seize the lowest common denominator, but do so with pride and aplomb; a kind of meta-sleaze, if you will. Also The Edge is generally faster paced with more overlap between its skits, which gives it a fundamentally different feel from SNL. Yet it just didn’t go the lengths of David Mirkin’s cult hit Get a Life or later skit comedies like The State and Mr. Show.
You do get pretty dark skits like the “Armed family,” featuring a family encouraged by their patriarch to gun down anyone that looks at them crosseyed, including a car full of teenagers who try to pass them.
But like with too many attempts at “morbid” humor the “morbid” element becomes the entire joke. The other kind of skits that fall flat are the ones that are a little too SNL-like and come across as one of 30 Rock‘s parodies of comedy skits, like Cracklin’ Crotch, the cowboy with…a cracklin’ crotch!
It’s a cliche to say that a sketch comedy is a mixed bag, but it’s a cliche for a reason, and The Edge is…a mixed bag, so there’s good to be had as well. A recurring skit has Julie Brown and Jennifer Aniston play a couple of rock groupies (for a very thinly disguised Guns N’ Roses) and it’s funnier than you’d think what is essentially a series of “dumb bimbo” jokes would be. Then there’s a parody of “heartwarming” made-for-TV movies with Kevin Nealon portraying a man who received an ass-transplant from a baboon.
Another episode has a fast series of clips titled “People Not Connected 2 Reality”, with a nerdy pizza guy calling Madonna and Claudia Scheffer for dates and a New Jersey yuppie trying to bribe an IRS agent with a $20 bill. My personal favorite, though, is their special sweeps episode, where morally outraged newscasters show the very lingering shots of half-naked women that they decry, all while being watched by three housewives who nervously chow down on phallic fruits and vegetables as they plot counting T&A shots from Basic Instinct.
When The Edge gets it right, it really gets it right, but the show is uneven even by sketch comedy standards. Nonetheless, it’s worth watching for fans of Julie Brown or David Mirkin’s work on Get a Life and The Simpsons. As far as I know there aren’t any fan-made DVDs circulating (emphasis on as far as I know), but there are some full episodes posted on YouTube, just not all 18 episodes from the show’s one and only season. What is out there, though, is definitely worth sampling.