Raphael Bob-Waksberg has recently been enjoying a whirlwind of press for creating the critically acclaimed Netflix series BoJack Horseman, a cartoon about a depressed talking horse. But many people don’t know that before he was slinging emotional truths alongside animal puns for Netflix, Bob-Waksberg was bringing that same weird humor to life as a member of sketch comedy troupe Olde English. Founded in 2002 at Bard College, its core members included Ben Popik, Bob-Waksberg, Adam Conover (of TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything), Dave Segal and Caleb Bark.
Their sketches were often absurdist bordering on surrealism, but never in a high-brow kind of way. They excelled at setting up elaborately ridiculous premises for their sketches and creating fantastic music videos, peppering each with puns and nonsensical jokes. Gorilla humor? Why not? Dirty dishes that sing? Sure! A lot of their videos have a rough-around-the-edges quality to them, but the Olde English members approached each sketch with such joy and charm that it’s not hard to understand why the group earned a cult status among college students.
Although the group disbanded in 2008, they did make a wonderful farewell movie called The Exquisite Corpse Project, and many alums can now be found on BoJack Horseman—Adam Conover and Dave Segal return frequently as guest voices, and Olde English collaborator Jesse Novak is the show’s composer.
See where it all started with this list of Olde English’s 20 best sketches.
1. Dishes Like to Be Dirty
This musical-style sketch, written by Raphael Bob-Waksberg with music by Jesse Novak, was based on the days when Raphael and Adam Conover used to be roommates and both of them would avoid doing the dishes like the plague. What if the dishes told him not to do them in a song? Raphael wondered one day. This video realizes the full potential of that question—with dishware puppets.
2. Michel Gondry
Released in 2007 at the height of Michel Gondry fame, this sketch parodies both Gondry’s directorial style and MTV’s Cribs (remember when everyone owned a DVD of Scarface for some reason?). Raphael Bob-Waksberg is perfect as Gondry, and the video even caught the attention of Gondry at a live show. Gondry’s response after seeing the video? “Eh, no hard feelings.”
3. Cave Miners
Watch it here.
Step into a magical world where cave mining is a lucrative business. Think there’s only one way to find a cave? Think again. This documentary-style sketch follows the inspiring story of a scrappy underdog company going against the industry’s top dogs, CavernTek and Chasm Industries. I personally believe in Cave Trapper’s philosophy, but you’ve got to make up your own mind about this. The best part of Cave Miners, though, which stars all five of the Olde English members, might have to be Ben Popik’s inimitable New Zealand accent.
4. Peanut Butter’s Birthday
Look, this sketch is weird—I don’t think anyone is going to deny that. But just because a beatbox rap about peanut butter doesn’t make sense does not mean it can’t also be brilliant. Watch it to see Raphael Bob-Waksberg spread peanut butter on his belly. Watch it for the random Julia Stiles reference. Watch it for the glory of peanut butter.
O’Doul’s is the epitome of every non-alcoholic beer joke you can think of. Why would anyone want to drink a disgusting non-alcoholic beer, you ask? This infectious rap music video, featuring Dave Segal, Caleb Bark, and Jesse Novak (who rocks a white tux), provides an answer of sorts. Look out for Raphael Bob-Waksberg as a confused-looking cop, and knock back a dozen or so O’Doul’s while you watch.
6. Adam’s Orange Stand
This was the first Olde English sketch I ever saw way back in high school, and I never looked back. It’s an old-timey style video where Adam Conover creatively sells an orange to Caleb Bark—simple, but completely charming. Set to music by the legendary Django Reinhardt, this video manages to captivate you until the very end.
7. One Picture Every Day
This is probably Olde English’s most well-known sketch, which went viral on YouTube in 2006. A parody of the Noah takes a picture of himself every day for 6 years video, One Picture Every Day showcases Olde English’s enormous talent and work ethic, wherein they painstakingly made each frame of the video completely different, so that frame by frame there are hidden background jokes for the observant viewer to enjoy. Starring Ben Popik, be sure to pause often while you watch.
8. Steven The Vegan
What makes this sketch great is that instead of taking the lazy route and making fun of how dumb vegans are, the video targets the other side and points out how annoying everyone else must seem to vegans. Featuring Ben Popik arguing with himself, this video answers all your vegan-related questions, like, “What if a monkey made you a sandwich? Would you eat it then?”
9. Voice Your Choice
Voice Your Choice stars Hana Scott-Suhrstedt and Caleb Bark as two bumbling but well-meaning patriots trying to get the vote out at a rally. No one really knows what they’re talking about (just like real life, am I right), as exemplified by this exchange: “It’s important to exercise every day!” “Totally! Exercising your choices!” “Your choi-, right, that.” Inevitably, the rally quickly becomes an afterthought.
10. The Food Rap
The Food Rap is an example of how Olde English used to incorporate videos into their live shows, which they used to perform frequently during their college years. Watch Dave Segal and Jesse Novak go to extreme lengths to find some snacks, from the cafeteria, to the vending machines, and finally to a live audience.