Anyone remember MadTv? Back in the 90s and 2000s, if Saturday Night Live wasn’t your style, chances are you turned to this show for laughs. It gave us iconic and hilarious characters like Miss Swan and Stuart. After In Living Color, it’s still one of my favorite sketch shows of the 90s, even though I probably shouldn’t have been watching. It also gave us some killer performances. Since the last few seasons of the show and the shoddy revival weren’t that great, it’s easy to forget the big names MadTv pulled in. Featuring new acts and legends helped the show stand out from its competition. So, let’s take a look back at some awesome MadTv performances you probably don’t remember.
The Cure – “Maybe Someday” (2000)
How MadTv managed to get The Cure to perform on the show is a mystery. Robert Smith can get picky about where he plays and a lewd comedy show featuring a grown man in his underwear doesn’t seem like one he’d be a part of. However they did it, the show got The freaking Cure to play “Maybe Someday” in 2000. It’s a solid performance with Smith and the band sounding amazing as usual. Sadly, it’s a condensed version of the song with Smith not singing the first verse and going straight into the breakdown after the hook, but he’s Robert Smith. He can do that if he wants. I actually remember seeing this right as I was getting into the band. Smith and his wiry black hair captivated me just as much then as he does now. This is still one of my favorite MadTv moments.
The Strokes – “Is This It?/NYC Cops” (2002)
MadTv alum Bobby Lee introduces The Strokes as his favorite band and they kick off their two-song set with “Is This It?” As always, frontman Julian Casablancas looks disinterested being on stage. Things get more lively for “NYC Cops” as fans get out of their seats and rush the stage. The scene never gets chaotic; everyone just wiggles and dances in the background while Casablancas looks distraught. The weird part comes at the end when we see Frank Caliente and Mo Collins as George and Babara Bush complaining about MadTv being over and trying to find something else to watch. The scene would be more enjoyable if they actually let The Strokes finish performing.
Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows” (2003)
This was around the time QOTSA hit the mainstream, despite releasing two albums prior to Songs for the Deaf. Both this and “Go With the Flow” are a blast to watch. Josh Homme and co. go at it hard like they’re playing one of their own shows. The crowd kind of just sits there and politely nods, which is strange. With our current image of Homme being clad in leather, covered in tattoos, and looking slightly haggard, it’s funny to see a young, fresh-faced Homme. Though I can’t get over his creeper mustache. Luckily, he doesn’t revisit that too often.
Sum 41 – “Still Waiting” (2002)
Sum 41 absolutely kills it with this performance. Not only do they sound great, they’re energetic and go it hard bringing some aggression to the MadTv stage. It’s short, sweet, and straight to the point. No weird sketches or tricks here. It’s just the band doing what they do best. But you can’t help noticing the crowd just sitting there nodding their heads to the music. With the hard driving nature of the song, you’d expect people jumping around or least dancing in their seats. It’s kind of weird.
Creed – “Higher”(2000)
Okay, so this performance isn’t that awesome; it’s just funny to look back on. Believe it or not, there was a time when Creed wasn’t a stain on music. Even though the show made funny Creed parodies, even they couldn’t deny how successful the band was. Listening to the performance now, it makes you wonder how people sat there and took Scott Stapp’s vocals seriously. It sounds like he’s doing a bad Eddie Vedder impression throughout the entire song. And seeing him give “sexy” faces to the camera makes you cringe. Still, it’s better than the time Stapp forgot all the words to his songs, so that’s a plus.
Green Day – “Blood, Sex, and Booze” (2001)
After a weird joke from Will Sasso, Green Day takes the stage to perform “Blood, Sex, and Booze,” something they rarely play live. They play with the same passion, fire, and fervor they do in their massive stadium gigs. It’s a pretty cut and dry performance for the band that’s still a blast to watch. While I didn’t like the band at the time this aired, I remember rushing home after school around the peak of American Idiot to catch a rerun featuring this performance. They also played “Warning,” which is a solid performance, it’s not as fun as the previous one.
Ja Rule featuring Ashanti – “Always on Time” (2002)
Remember when Ja Rule and Ashanti ruled the airwaves? These two had a number of hit singles on their own, but they seemed to work best when singing with each other. Regardless of how you feel about Ja Rule and his antics now, you can’t deny he was one of the most popular rappers ten years ago. And while Ja Rule’s gravely vocals can be laughable, the two actually sound really good here. As someone who loved singing this song on weekend drives, this throwback is a blast to watch.
Alien Ant Farm – “Smooth Criminal” (2001)
This performance not only features Alien Ant Farm playing their one smash hit, it also has Aries Spears (remember him?!) doing his best Michael Jackson impression. Donned in a suit, fedora, and white makeup making him look like really creepy, Spears teases MJ’s then comeback, pulls off a couple of kicks, and gets carried off by two young boys. Afterward, the band launches into the song while the crowd dances and waves their arms from the comfort of their seats. Seriously, did the show have a no standing rule or something? The energetic performance and Spears’ impression makes this a memorable MadTv moment. Too bad AAF couldn’t manage to score another hit.
Marilyn Manson – “Personal Jesus” (2004)
MadTv really tried to make this performance “edgy” and “cool” with the twisted camera angles and dark lighting. Unfortunately, things are so dark you can barely see Manson and the rest of the band. Compared to his other TV appearances this one is quite tame and he seems a little bored. John 5 and Tim Skold exude more energy than Manson. Being the newly minted Manson fan I was, I ate up every minute of this performance. It’s still better than his recent concert appearances.
Blondie – “Call Me” (1999)
Since the show has been off the air for almost 10 years, (we won’t count the “revival”) it’s easy to forget how many iconic musicians have played the show. Bon Jovi, Wu-Tang, and Ice-T have all made appearances, but Blondie’s is one of the best. While the performance is great even though it’s cut short, it’s the skit with Miss Swan that stands out. Miss Swan fronts the band singing her own incomprehensible version of the song prompting Debbie Harry to come out and ask what the hell she’s doing. Miss Swan then insists she wrote the song on tuba but allows Harry to sing only if she plays nice. It’s a weird bit you’d never imagine the singer being a part of, but it happened. But hey, this was when Miss Swan was at her peak. Who wouldn’t want to be in one of her sketches?
No Doubt – “Bathwater” (2000)
For anyone who remembers No Doubt at their peak, this is how they picture Gwen Stefani. The weird, alt girl with her own style and sound. Stefani is slinky and cool as she sings, while the rest of the band ham it up for the camera, especially a topless Adrian Young. It’s a fun, energetic performance that reminds you how awesome both No Doubt and Stefani were. While I don’t mind her current work, it’s just not the same.
Tenacious D – “Tribute” (2002)
You’re never sure what kind of performance you’re going to get from Tenacious D, but you know it’s gonna be weird and it’s gonna rock. The duo didn’t disappoint with this MadTv appearance. Featuring Dave Grohl on drums, Jack Black recounts a tale of singing the greatest song in the world for a beast. The thing is, they can’t remember it. Black gives his usual hammy rockstar performance that’s fun to watch. The best part comes when he gently sets down his guitar, rips off his shirt to show off his flame painted gut, and “breathes fire” out of his mouth. Clearly, they’re a perfect fit for the show. Too bad they didn’t have them on more often.
There are so many performances I wanted to include, but couldn’t find like Outkast and Wu-Tang Clan. So which MadTv performance is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!