The State was (is? they aren't officially dissolved, as far as I know) a sketch comedy troupe which formed at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 1988/89, originally under the name The New Group. Several short films made at Tisch feature and/or were written and directed by members of The State: Aisle 6 and The Waiters being two of them. If you're very nice to Walter, he may show them to you.
The members, at the outset, were:
Michael Ian Black neé Schwarz ("which I changed because I'm ashamed of being Jewish", according to one sketch)
Michael Patrick Jann (who, as the director, rarely appeared on stage or camera)
Kerri Kenney (the lone female, requiring The State to participate in that great sketch comedy traditon: transvestism)
Joe Lo Truglio
After several years of NYU-confined hilarity, the group approached MTV about creating a series for themselves. They were rejected, but submitted demo videos to the network's new You Wrote It, You Watch It program (hosted by Mr. Jon Stewart). Later that same year, 1992, the group changed its name to The State: Full Frontal Comedy and signed with the William Morris Agency. MTV came to its monolithic sense and offered the team a segment on 13 episodes of You Wrote It, You Watch It. At this point, "Full Frontal Comedy" was axed, and the group was now simply called The State.
The State was given an MTV series to call their very own in 1993, and the first season ran for six episodes. Reviews and ratings were famously bad (leading The State to shoot the wonderful "Miserable Crap" series of promos), but viewers loved the show; a situation not unlike that of My So Called Life, a show MTV would attempt to resurrect after being unjustly murdered in its youth. MTV gave The State a second season as reruns of the first garnered higher ratings than the original broadcasts. Season two went very well, and the show was renewed for a third.
The State had ambitions larger than a "music" television network could support. They wanted to go "big three", and during the production of season three the troupe told MTV they wouldn't be back. CBS was courted, and accepted The State in an attempt to give NBC and Saturday Night Live something to worry about. A Halloween special and a New Year's Eve special were greenlit to audition The State for a CBS audience, and founding member Todd Holoubek quit.
The Halloween special failed. Flopped. Badly. In later years, the team would admit that the pressure of doing a network debut show seriously affected their writing and their confidence in general. CBS chose to revoke the New Year's special and cancelled The State's contract.
The State would never appear on television again. There followed a book (State by State with The State), an unreleased comedy album (Comedy For Gracious Living), a few live tours (including a stop at Caroline's comedy club in New York City which ElmwoodJones and I were lucky enough to attend), and ephemeral plans for a The State movie. MTV released a compliation VHS cassette titled The State: Skits and Stickers. Unfortunately, the group was only seen, intact, in public twice after 1996: once at a 1997 Texas improv festival, and once at the 2000 New York Comedy Film Festival.
Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney and Michael Ian Black later had brief success as the hosts of Comedy Central's Viva Variety. Thomas Lennon can also occasionally be seen in movies and television commercials, while Michael Ian Black found steady work on NBC's series Ed. The film Wet Hot American Summer was written by David Wain and Michael Showalter and also directed by David Wain. Showalter, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio and Michael Ian Black appeared in the movie. Michael Patrick Jann directed Drop Dead Gorgeous. A really horrible unreleased movie called Big Helium Dog (that Walter and I had the dubious pleasure of seeing at a test screening) stars Michael Ian Black, and he's really the only good thing in it.
Spending enough time in Greenwich Village near NYU will practically guarantee a sighting of a member of The State, usually with a "I coulda been a contender" look on his (or Kerri's) face.
The State, at its best, could easily hold its own with peers The Kids In The Hall, and it's a shame that the world is currently deprived of their hijinks.
THE THEME SONG
A wonderfully loopy and broken-sounding theme song introduced the show in its MTV incarnation. The singing mostly sounded like unintelligible gasping and yelping, but there were, in fact lyrics. And they are:
Boys and girls
The song was written and perfomed by Eli Janney of Girls Against Boys and Craig Wedren of Shudder to Think.
Much thanks to my memory, http://www.members.aol.com/thestate (the official site) and http://www.krispypops.org
Episodes of The State can currently be found at http://www.statemedia.net