The world can be a trying place. What with war, disease, natural disasters, politics in general, climate change, antibiotic resistance, peak phosphorous, and the looming specter of The Hangover Part 3, it’s only natural to occasionally suspect that the human race will never get its shit together. But sometimes, just sometimes, in the midst of such darkness a light may appear, a light of such majesty and splendor that the darkness is banished, and peace and order are restored to the world.
I speak, of course, of the return of Sifl & Olly.
The Sifl & Olly Show is the two-headed brainchild of writer/musicians Matt Crocco and Liam Lynch. The show originally ran on MTV from 1997-1999 in the brief, magical period after MTV abandoned music videos and before they descended to the lowest tier of Reality Television Hell. It was a musical variety show, but like no musical variety show the non-acid taking world had ever seen. It’s hosts were two libertine twentysomething sock puppets: the pragmatic, resourceful Sifl and the impulsive, charismatic Olly. Over the course of their televised antics and unbroadcast third season they encountered Ninjas, Robots, Hell Beasts, and many, many prostitutes, engaging them all in panorama of musical virtuosity. Rap, disco, punk, new wave, heavy metal, salsa, they did it all, compressing all musical genres into bite sized songs about ghosts and spaceships.
It was too good to last, and it didn’t. Cut down in its prime like a gazelle leaping into the blades of a helicopter, the Sifl & Olly show was banished to the obscure reaches of YouTube, never to produce a new episode again.
Until now! That’s right, Sifl & Olly are back and reviewing fake video games and therefore better than ever. Why?
They’re tech savvy.
Lynch and Crocco are used to doing more with less. MTV didn’t break its budget financing their original show, giving them little more than a studio and a camera. In order to give life to characters that originally appeared in shorts in between music videos on MTV Europe, they turned the green screen behind Sifl and Olly into a living canvas. Not just using it to set scenes and make transitions, Lynch and Crocco were pioneers in lo-fi 3D animation, turning a weakness into a strength by using their relatively primitive tech to enhance the series’ cartoony feel. It’s a technique that’s become de rigueur in indie games, where limited resources force developers to create unique, unconventional environments to attract an audience. It’s an attitude that’s ideally suited to internet shorts, and it would make me wonder aloud why they didn’t think of doing this before if I wasn’t already certain it was for bullshit legal reasons.
They move seamlessly between genres.
Sifl & Olly have no ideology, save a commitment to weirdness, music, and weird music. Genres like Shooter and RPG and Puzzle games mean nothing to them, and since they owe no allegiance to markets or industry conventions, they’ll be inventing and reviewing their games with a refreshing abundance of silliness and candor. We’ve all thought at one time or another ‘Hey, that’d make a great video game!’ but we don’t do it because the vast majority of us don’t have the wealth of time, skill, and masochism needed to build a game from scratch. With their new shorts, Lynch and Crocco will do us one better, inventing whole new forms of video game entertainment, then criticizing that invention and writing a cool little song about it. I can’t presume to know what they’ll do, (though the promo mentions games like Electric Whipping Post, Feed the Shark, and Slap That Ass) but the possibilities are intoxicating. I’m imagining new genres like Ninja Defense Attorney! Door to Door Laser Salesman! Quantum Physics Rap Battle! The real ones will be better.
They’ve created a whole world.
Granted, newcomers won’t be immediately filled with glee to see old mainstays like Scar, Jimmy, Peto and Flek, and, God willing, The Panda Man, unlike this old war horse. (points to self) But there’s a reason why Sifl and Olly are being revived, instead of Liam Lynch just folding fake game reviews into his podcast Lynchland. The Sifl & Olly Show comes complete with a legacy of its own customs and institutions. The fake video game will be like a pebble dropped into the Sifl & Olly pond, rippling through a diverse universe of transvestite astronauts and carrot lovers. It’s a malleable, accommodating structure, and one that will fit the universe of video games like a glove. They can go to space to review sci fi games, resurrect the dead to review zombie games, travel through time to review strategy games, or have controllers grafted onto their sock bodies. No matter what happens, it’ll fit seamlessly into the mythos they’ve created.
Their comedy is video game flavored.
One of the mainstays of the old Sifl & Olly show was an infomercial for an insane product from the Precious Roy Home shopping network. Precious Roy was an irascible old charlatan who sold impractical, inane, and most of all incredibly dangerous products to an unsuspecting consumer public. During their days at MTV Sifl & Olly shilled for contraptions like the laser peeler, the black hole vacuum cleaner, the squirrel zapper, the sasquatch feeder, the luxury coffin, the pirate crippler, and the electric chair on a stick. There’s a familiar comic sensibility behind these insane doodads and googaws, so much so that they would seamlessly fit into the world of Fallout or Ratchet & Clank. Video game humor thrives on the impractical, the exaggerated, the absurd and the ultra-violent, all of which Sifl & Olly have in spades. Had Sifl & Olly been conceived during the brief flowering of adventure video games it’s not inconceivable to think they may have gotten a title of their own, like Sam & Max. (another team that’s overdue for an internet comeback)
It’s pure creativity.
We gamers can be a fickle lot, like Goldilocks if the Three Bears had a message board Goldilocks could spam with death threats. Still, we’re not without our redeeming qualities. We appreciate the little things. We pour over every nook and cranny of the developer’s creation. We can bathe when we have to. Most imporantly, we appreciate creativity, lateral thinking, and innovation. Sifl & Olly is the product of a lifelong friendship, two guys who loved music and comedy and wanted to share their vision with the world. It turns out the world can sometimes be unkind to musical sock puppets, but the internet, mercifully, is not the real world. At long last Sifl & Olly have returned, more dynamic and creative and literally on fire than ever, to an internet populated with space marines and exiled greek gods and insane supercomputers and whatever the hell Kirby is. We owe it to Sifl & Olly, to ourselves, and to creative weirdos everywhere to finally give these guys a home other than feet.
Welcome back, gentlemen. Let me be the first to raise a glass to you, and get drunk.
Get drunk on panda mystery.