The 20 Best Olde English Sketches

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The 20 Best Olde English Sketches

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

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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.

5. O’Doul’s

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.

11. Boxcar

Boxcar is a great example of Olde English’s storytelling abilities. This sketch manages to captivate you with great performances and a half-improvised script about a bygone era when taking boxcar was a phenomenon among youths. Is it an addiction? Is it a way of life? Is it a way of getting from city to city by train? Take boxcar, and see where it takes you (warning: it might be a bad Thomas the Tank Engine acid trip).

12. Arthur Got a Haircut

Centering on a dinner party that becomes strangely awkward, Arthur Got a Haircut is an Olde English classic (I actually have no idea how popular this video really was back then, but it certainly feels like it should be a classic). My favorite parts include how earnestly Adam Conover delivers the line, “Does it raise the price of the spoon?” and when Dave Segal starts salting himself with a salt shaker.

13. King of My Balls

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Watch it here.

If you can’t get behind a sketch that centers on Raphael Bob-Waksberg being the king of Adam Conover’s balls, then don’t watch this video. One of the saddest things about the demise of Olde English is that we’ll never get more sketches about the wacky adventures of Raphael and Adam as roommates.

14. Totally Crazy

Written and performed by Raphael, Totally Crazy is that work colleague you know who awkwardly tells long-winded and pointless stories about their mundane weekend you don’t care about, taken to the extreme. Jesse Novak provides the music, and while Raphael cannot rap to save his life, that is simply part of the video’s charm.

15. Akon Calls T-Pain

I think it’s fair to say that this video accurately represents how a real life conversation between Akon and T-Pain would transpire. One of Olde English’s most popular videos, this sketch riffs off the idea that because of the use of vocoder, both rap artists pretty much end up sounding like the same person. Watch the seductive stylings of Akon Calls T-Pain, and then watch T-Pain watching Akon Calls T-Pain.

16. Pokemon Day

The story behind this video is that the group went to film a sketch in Bryant Park, but upon arriving discovered the area was celebrating the anniversary of a Pokemon festival. What follows is an impromptu sketch of the Olde English members goofing off as themselves, highlighting their superb improv skills and reveling in the joy of spontaneous Pokemon puns.

17. Time Capsule

Four friends come together to dig up a time capsule they buried 80 years ago. Does it make sense? No. Time Capsule, which stars some of the earlier members of Olde English, is a great example of Olde English’s subtle absurdity, where everyone inexplicably has a girl’s name, and no one questions the idea of putting a baseball diamond into a time capsule. If only Sue Ellen hadn’t screwed everything up in the end. God, Sue Ellen.

18. Funny Face

Strap yourself in and get ready for a storytelling ride, as Olde English delivers a tale chronicling the clash between a high school basketball game and a Sakajawayway concert, told from multiple perspectives. Full of twists and turns, you’re never sure where the story is going next. You’re also not sure why you suddenly care about the fate of Native American hip hop, but that’s the magic of this sketch.

19. Gym Class

The first Olde English video to go viral way back in 2003, Gym Class isn’t so much of a traditional sketch with jokes and punchlines, but rather an excellent send-up of the shoot-’em-up genre. The sound effects are superb, but what really makes this video is the complete and total commitment of all the performers to the admittedly silly premise.

20. Hello? Fuck!

A true Olde English classic produced in 2003, Hello? Fuck! follows a sleepy Dave Segal as he attempts to answer his phone, which he just can’t seem to find. This video became so popular that it unfortunately gained the attention of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, but that’s not Olde English’s fault.

Elena Zhang is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Her writing can be found in HelloGiggles, Bustle, The Mary Sue and PopMatters, among other publications.