It’s 1988. You want a VHS tape. You don’t know of what, or even why – you only know that we all need as many VHS tapes as possible to weigh down our bookcases and fluff our garage sales. There are special bins between the checkout stands at the supermarket exactly for this madness. You dig through one. 99 Cents! the sticker says. It covers another sticker, and another. A parade of compromises that nobody made. This tape has been on a journey. For .99 cents, you actually have to buy it – its journey, all this time… it was coming here, to you.
You just bought Larry “Bud” Melman’s Couch Potato Workout.
Brockway: The premise here seems self-evident. Look up “couch potato workout” today and you’ll find tons of low-impact workout videos for folks who’ve fallen out of shape.
That is not what this is.
This isn’t a workout tape, which might actually be a thing you’d want to buy so you could rewatch it regularly as you exercise. This is actually a short parody of a workout tape hosted by Larry “Bud” Melman, a comedian you do not remember from sporadic sketch appearances on The David Letterman Show. This is not a thing you’d want to buy so you could rewatch it regularly. And yet that’s all this is – it aired nowhere. It was only for sale. For who? FOR WHY?
This tape does nothing, and it is for nobody.
There was never an audience for this, and yet it got made. Somebody threw away up to $300 and a personal favor from the night manager of their apartment building’s gym to make this special a reality, and they never asked themselves one vital question: Wait, what the fuck are we doing?
Seanbaby: This is so much worse than the limpest joke idea anyone anyone has ever had. It’s something you’d suggest in a Mad TV pitch meeting to see what it takes to get Andy Daly to throw a punch. It’s something that should either come after the words, “Grandson, now that you have a job upholstering puppets for Jeff Dunham, maybe he’d like to hear my idea for a skit,” or before the words, “Unfortunately, Garfield cannot accept unsolicited pitches from prisoners.” If you or anyone in your family had any part in the production of Couch Potato Workout, fuck you and the maggot-filled corpses of your ancestors.
Seanbaby: It starts with a witless fake health warning which, combined with the VHS box and opening title, means they’ve already run the bit into the ground. We haven’t started it yet. We haven’t watched an actual second of it and this middle school pep rally skit of an idea has fully run its course.
Brockway: For every joke, there is a specific idiot in this world waiting to misunderstand it in a fatal way. They were born just to die when Dennis Miller tried out his new catchphrase “jump in front of a tractor, bubula.” But we didn’t know that until about 1993, so back in 1988 you could actually do these joke warnings. They weren’t funny, but no one could legally stop you. Real human lives had to be lost just to stop this joke.
Brockway: Bud Melman narrates this warning, and because you need to know when to laugh, he also laughs for you at the end of it. They actually transcribe the laughter, and then for some reason hit it with heavy reverb and fade effects. It is very ‘neighborhood haunted house.’ From delivery to execution, you would never guess this laughter is meant to signify a good time, unless your definition of a good time is getting non-consensually scare-groped by a divorcee in a rubber wolfman mask.
Seanbaby: What if we did this article as a top 10 list, but a parody of top ten lists? So #10 would be, like, “Forty reasons this isn’t numbered. Number one: mother-in-law?” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!
Brockway: Hit that laugh with cave-reverb and touch me in a prosecutable way because much like a haunted house werewolf’s teenage daughter’s friends, I’ve been yours this whole time and I just didn’t know it yet.
Brockway: Let’s get this straight out of the way: Bud Melman may not be a comedian, Bud Melman may not be talented, Bud Melman may not technically meet the criteria for a human being, but Bud Melman fucking rules. He looks like a homunculus built out of Drew Carey parts and he talks like a dental patient making fun of Rip Taylor. He wears a bedazzled “I Heart To Sit” T-Shirt and by the end of this video, you will understand that he means it.
Seanbaby: He just screamed, “Wouldja rather watch the Brady Bunch than breeaathe,” and everyone went, “YEAH!” Which means they chose this life not out of apathy or sloth, but because of their passion for television. It also means the writer was trying to think of funny things everyone loves to do and settled on “breathe.” As a comedy writer, this seems like an impossible failure. It’d be like if your job was naming ice cream flavors and you brainstormed, “Sweaty groins… maybe mundane, fundamental facilities?” Does that make sense? My point is, I look at this Brady Bunch & breathing joke the same way a shopper might look at a pint of “Jake’s Cinnamon Penis Infrastructure.” How did such a thing ever become an option, much less make it into the final draft?
Brockway: This was the late ‘80s, so the standard joke answer is “cocaine.” Nobody involved with this was cool enough for cocaine. This was a sketch conceived of and written under the intoxicating side-effects of mixing prescription constipation meds and Bartles & Jaymes.
Brockway: Half of our supporting cast are exactly who you’d expect for a joke workout video about the lazy: fat people. In the 1980s “like a person, but fat” was a solid joke. That was the whole thing. Setup and punchline. “Fatty thinks he’s people [pause for laughter].”
Here’s the weird part: The other half of this cast are clearly in fantastic shape. There are two women and one 1950s mechanic who are all visibly fit, and it’s not explained. Not the fit part, and oh, certainly not the mechanic part. Like it’s not revealed later that these were models who showed up for a workout video and accidentally found themselves in a parody — that would actually be a joke. This joke video does not make jokes. Instead the fitness models state several times that they love junk food and hate exercise, and all pretend to struggle with basic human motions just like the overweight ones. It’s a crazy decision that will make a lot of sense two images from now.
Seanbaby: Every crazy decision I’ve made was because of two things: titties. Is it titties?
Brockway: It is NOT titties.
Our co-host is yet another attractive woman in a leotard, and she’ll be the one leading us through the exercises, because Bud Melman hearts to sit, you guys. I know the video told you it was Bud Melman’s, but that is not the first or last lie it will tell you today. Bud Melman hearts to sit so hard he won’t even host the workout video he’s hosting. This is June:
Brockway: I guess the joke was supposed to be that Bud Melman shouldn’t have a workout tape, so I’m not sure what the joke is now that he doesn’t.
Seanbaby: How simple did this concept have to be for these people to not fuck it up? They got a fitness model to teach us how to sit and eat chips? This is like writing a sitcom about a chimpanzee mayor and sticking to the script when the animal wrangler brings you a giraffe. Fucking insanity.
Brockway: I would watch that so hard, you could call it MonKey to the City and name the giraffe Mr. Bobby Bananas and I would-
Seanbaby: Wait, hold on. I thought about that analogy and decided Couch Potato Workout‘s casting decisions are more like sticking to the plan after you open a crate labeled “SEX HORSE” and it turns out to be a beautiful human woman.
Brockway: I already miss Mr. Bobby Bananas. Hey, here’s that second image I mentioned-
Brockway: Okay fine, it was titties.
Seanbaby: I knew it! Those are titties!
Brockway: Couch Potato Workout may be a crime against comedy, it may be a crime against logic, it is certainly a crime against the retirement center they filmed it in, but it does not break Workout Tape Law: There must be mild cleavage and ass shots.
Seanbaby: It could be that when the casting call went out for “fat, pathetic fucks needed for zany one-note greeting card joke adapted for retail home video audience,” they didn’t get a lot of female responses and had to settle for regular bikini models.
Brockway: Once again Couch Potato Workout does a mostly standard thing – exercise tape a 13 year-old can masturbate to – and then yanks the wheel for the last exit into Bugfuck Town. They don’t just conspicuously zoom in on cleavage like every workout tape… they actually take extra time out to show all the men ogling the women uncomfortably.
Seanbaby: Jesus, they look at these women like it’s the first time seeing one outside of a pantyhose ad. To this day, at least seven different cast members list their greatest sexual conquest as a pair of panties they stole from the set of Larry “Bud” Melman’s Couch Potato Workout.
Brockway: There’s no payoff here — they’re not caught and slapped and turn to the camera like “it was worth it!” The leering is not acknowledged. They silently pant and engorge at the women and then we cut away. Cue laugh track?
Seanbaby: And as is Couch Potato Workout tradition, they even fuck that joke up. The chubby guy in the blue wrestling unitard wakes up from a heart attack and leers at his workout partner’s armpit so closely and strangely it stopped reading like a sex thing to me. I thought the actor was making the decision his character wants to kill her and eat her saltiest parts. Could the gag be that he’s been morbidly obese for so long he misses armpits? Is it simply how his head was pointed while his arteries squeezed a sandwich into his ham chamber? Is armpit gazing the 1988 version of putting your foot in a butt? Wait, what? Oh no, I know what this is. My brain is synthesizing insanity to try to get inside the minds of this tape’s producers. We need to keep moving; this isn’t safe.
Brockway: Let’s check in on Bud Melman per his contract, to make sure he didn’t die with his eyes open.
Let me explain:
There is no explanation.
They’re doing the Remote Control Thumb Press, a joke exercise where all they do is press a button on a remote control, and Ginger starts having that seizure. Bud Melman breaks the law of inertia to stand and cross over to her, somebody yells “Ginger’s in the Outer Limits!” and then Bud slaps the epilepsy right out of her. It’s a bizarre and humorless non-sequitur in a VHS that’s already doing nothing with almost no premise.
Or… is it?
Seanbaby: He hit that woman. He hit that woman in the comedy workout parody and they all cheered. Have we checked to see if this production had any survivors? Like, are we making fun of the last known footage of 12 missing people?
Brockway: We have absolutely been mocking a comedic mass snuff tape, and hey speaking of things you hear before murder — it’s time to “BARE THOSE TOES!” And if you didn’t want to hear Bud Melman holler “BARE THOSE TOES” while attractive young women pause a workout video to show you their toes, well then this is the wrong world for you. You’ve skipped dimensions while you slept and you have no compass with which to navigate home.
Seanbaby: Wait, no! I heard him tell those women to “BARE THOSE TOES!” That can’t be! We need to pause! My brain hasn’t gone back to normal yet!
Brockway: Every exercise is punctuated by short skits involving some of our support cast, who bring all the creativity and energy of a dementia ward improv troupe. For Toe Curls, the inexplicable greaser tries to feed the bus skank with his feet. Now, all improv troupes need one male performer whose every character is “wants to fuck the women.” In Couch Potato Workout, that’s all of them! But especially the mechanic. When our resident aspiring Ratt groupie refuses, he tries to feed the sassy lunchlady a chip with his feet, and she happily agrees — only to turn it around and feed him the chip instead! He hates this! It was the punchline!
Seanbaby: It’s sort of wonderful looking back on a time when our country not only cared for the mentally ill, but gave them any costumes they asked for and filmed them feeding each other with their feet.
Brockway: That hasty sketch would be followed by “we can beat that” at any community college theater course warm-up period across this great nation. But it’s actually a step up from Barney’s sketch, who was given the prompt “you’re fat and something about toes!” and also started pretending to eat chips from his feet, but alone and without the chips.
Seanbaby: Oh my god. Oh fuck.
Brockway: That’s Barney’s one move: Fat guy who hates dignity.
Seanbaby: Barney’s performance is a combination of “ape grooming” and “desperate raccoon stealing garbage.” He seems terrified he will get caught doing this thing he was commanded to do on camera. The whole premise was for everyone to eat snacks from their filthy feet and he’s acting like a dog whose owner is screaming for him not to swallow a chicken bone. The entire production of this from concept to script to casting to performance is like a game of telephone that started with “Low Fat Jake’s Cinnamon Penis Infrastructure.”
Brockway: Next up is an exercise called The Milk Bud Toss where they pair off and throw candy into each other’s mouths. The punchline is already “we’re just eating food,” then they cut to Barney joylessly hoovering them down, alone. Barney is actually an amazing physical performer. Like in this scene he says “I angered a witch and she cursed me with endless hunger, I hate the beast I’ve become” and he does it with only his eyes.
Seanbaby: Barney is amazing. And other than Larry “Bud” Melman, he was the only other principal cast member listed on IMDB. This sometimes working actor, Bart Sumner, must have eventually tried a real workout program, because he lost the weight!
Brockway: I think being cast as ‘Barney Blubber, Unloved Mass’ would be plenty of motivation to lose that weight, and that’s before the director asked him to eat from his feet, “like all you fatties probably do.”
Brockway: Elsewhere, our resident Mook rapidly jams Milk Buds down the lunchlady’s shirt. She, like all women, loves this. No explanation is needed. That’s the punchline!
Seanbaby: To fully explain their sexual dynamics, these two seem like they knew each other from before. They’re not a couple, but they’ve definitely fucked. She gets jealous and violent when he gropes other women in front of her, but forgives him the moment he throws a box of Milk Duds down her leotard. It’s the way you’d think human relationships work if you thought digging Doritos out of your toes is how human eating works.
Brockway: If you’re wondering where Bud Melman is in his own comedy video, it’s quietly sitting in his own chair, not engaging.
Brockway: Exactly like his shirt promised.
It’s… it’s actually starting to get pretty funny.
Every once in a while they try to trick him into a sketch, like this bit about how he has a robot chair:
Brockway: But he barely acknowledges it. He delivers his lines as flatly and quickly as he can so they can cut away from him and he can go back to softly breathing while looking straight ahead.
Seanbaby: Yeah, the producers definitely worked against the only thing good about this concept– letting a confused elderly man misunderstand what was going on. If this was an ordinary workout video he kept fucking up rather than a bad campfire sketch he kept fucking up, it’d probably be my favorite Bart Sumner role.
Brockway: Yeah, that spot definitely still goes to Love & War, where he played “Man with Salmon.”
Brockway: Let’s take a break from all none of the jokes we’ve done in this joke video, and jump instead to a sketch about the inventor of the Couch Potato Workout, Dr. Spud.
Seanbaby: Jesus fuck, I already know this is going to suck. And in directions I won’t be able to prepare for.
Brockway: What do you mean? Look how cute Dr. Spud is!
Brockway: Oh sorry, that’s not Dr. Spud.
Brockway: And instead of a silly little potato doctor, he’s an unrepentant former Nazi scientist, which of course means he’s doing his best Constipated Dracula accent. Here we get into the deep lore of Couch Potato Workout, which you did not expect to have any lore at all.
See, the Couch Potato Workout was designed as an evil Nazi plan to get revenge on America by making us all lazy. Which we explain with – you guessed it! — a skit within this skit, wherein Dr. Spud electrocutes a man into liking TV more than eyeball-groping an unhappy woman.
Seanbaby: Couch potatoes were invented by a bumbling Nazi scientist? Well, I certainly did “Hitler” that coming! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! I’m eating candy out of your tits! What even are jokes anymore?
Brockway: I know you, the readers, went into this thinking it was a low concept comedy – that was your fuckup. You own that. Bud Melman was the Charlie Kaufman of late ‘80s parody workout tapes and you would know this if you did the homework we assigned you.
I’ll prove it! There’s a skit within that skit about the side effects of this process – that’s three nested sketches deep, mind you — where they reveal that Ginger was actually catching Nazi mindcontrol madness from the Remote Control Thumb Press.
Seanbaby: So the explanation for why the main character of this comedy workout video hit a woman is buried in a story within a story within a story leading back to Hitler? This sounds like a transcript of someone representing themselves in court for hitting a woman.
Brockway: The stages of Couch Potato Insanity consist of Paranoid Reaction, Eroticized Reaction, Meta-externalized Reaction, and Total Break from Reality. By process of deduction, the only treatment for them is getting smacked in the head by Bud Melman.
Which will lobotomize you.
It’s heavily implied that Ginger has some kind of brain damage for the rest of the tape, either from the Nazi mind-programming, or because the sheer Hulk-like power of a Bud Slap turned her language center into jam.
Seanbaby: The last desperate hope this video had for success was to convince us these men and women existed in a universe with cartoon rules. And yet here they are, demonstrating the very real consequences of violence. She will never be the same again. Each of these people sucking frosting off their own toes will die alone, covered in bed sores, forty years early.
Brockway: Just a reminder — this tape is a half hour long! That’s plenty of time for a B-plot about a beautiful young woman getting her frontal lobe destroyed by vengeful Nazis!
Seanbaby: A half hour long? This tape is five thousand lifetimes of childlike hubris. We are endlessly drowning in a swamp of dispiriting stupidity, as we have always been.
Brockway: Let’s do the phone skit!
Brockway: Good job, Ginger. You’re trying your best. The phone is mad when it rings and we do answer it with BLART.
Seanbaby: I feel like we should try to figure out what they were trying to do so we can explain to everyone what was supposed to be happening h– ha ha, I just looked at what I was typing. Fuck me. Fuck the entire concept of anything.
Brockway: Here’s what the Boston Market Strangler put together when somebody handed him a phone and told him to riff:
Brockway: It’s the best acting in the video. This is the only part I believe.
Seanbaby: Why did they do this? What are they parodying when they stopped the workout video to take phone calls? Is it my brain trying to tell me none of this, none of them are real?
Brockway: Well, canonically speaking, your brain is being devoured by the memetic disease Nazis implanted in-
Hold up, we’re doing a fat guy choking gag.
Brockway: Holy shit, it took us this long to do a fat guy choking gag? Couch Potato Workout, I am amazed at your restraint. You know what? You earned that. After the meta-referential Nazi brain-weapon skits, you earned that extreme close-up on the gasping vomit of an overweight pervert.
Seanbaby: The obvious gag here would be a hidden pump to blast vomit out of his mouth for a half minute. Kudos to this performer for doing his own stunt work and simply holding three pounds of dip in his throat until the director called action.
Brockway: We’ve done two minutes of workout video, it’s clearly time for another extremely long, barely related sketch. Bud has to stand for this one and he is not happy. Look at him. He nearly quit.
Brockway: Yes, it’s a cooking sketch, and yes, it plays out exactly like you’d think: They make something gross and unhealthy. It’s what a 7 year-old would do if you gave them no prep time and said “your prompt is food! Don’t use the word ‘butt’!”
Fuck! I used it!
There is one moment of that trademark Couch Potato Workout lunacy here, where the camera cuts back too soon and reveals Bud Melman absolutely savaging June.
Seanbaby: Oh, Jesus Christ. What?
Brockway: I’m not sure if the joke is that Bud is a surprisingly sexual man and June loves it, or that Bud is a surprisingly sexual man and June was not prepared to fend off an attack from that direction.
Seanbaby: No one could know what these people thought would be funny or how it resembled what they ended up filming. Like everything else, it feels like a bit Larry “Bud” Melman did not fully understand. Maybe they were supposed to come in on a creepy old man getting fresh and he instead started actually licking the actress? Maybe he was cleaning off half-swallowed dip splatter? Or maybe, back to my other theory, fuck you none of this is real.
Brockway: Dream within a dream is a very Larry “Charlie Kaufman “Bud” of Workout Tapes” Melman thing to do.
Our last group exercise is the Dash to the Can and finally, finally we come to the endgame of the witch’s revenge: Barney is simply too fat to live.
Brockway: The task is to get up and take two steps.
Barney gets up, takes one step, then dies from it.
This is the natural progression of the Barney character. His arc demanded it end this way. His one personality trait was ‘food’ and his motivation was ‘to death.’
What is less expected is when Bud leaps to his feet, hollers “LET’S BEACH THIS WHALE!” and then starts yelling TV shows at Barney’s dead face, still biting for errant sausages like a decapitated cobra.
And it works!
Seanbaby: None of this is happening.
Brockway: This happened! Bud leaned down and screamed “THE FLINTSTONES” right into Barney’s corpse, and he came back to life yelling “WIIILMAAAA!”
This went exactly as they planned. Everybody was so happy with the flawless way this sketch went, they couldn’t imagine anyone needing any more clarification. They’d look at you like you were insane if you asked them what just happened here.
Seanbaby: I always knew when my mind shattered it would take the form of a fat man dropping dead on the way to an outhouse in the center of a workout video set brought back to life by an obscure pop culture figure screaming the names of cartoons. This “video” is my dying brain’s Ready Player One.
Brockway: Classic Meta-Externalized Reaction.
Seanbaby: Why is my mind still doing skits? How long is a brain supposed to live without air? Fine, let me see this Advanced Workout, “Bud” Melman. If these are my last moments let them be spent cursing your shitty madness.
Brockway: The Advanced Workout is the part where a stunt double puts on a wig specifically to not look like Bud Melman and then does gymnastics in wacky fast motion. There is an uncomfortably long pause on the spinning crotch of the stained sweatsuit. Yes, I did GIF it for you.
Seanbaby: Ha ha ha, you sons of bitches. The fact that this final hallucination is still going means nothing can kill me.
Brockway: Now let’s gauge how much of a Couch Potato we are which, please remember, is actually a test of how hard Nazi mind control has melted our brains. This is represented by a friendly potato with a pencil.
Brockway: Here’s how the test works: On one side of the screen, porn scientists – no, fuck you, we’re almost done, we will not slow down for questions — on one side of the screen porn scientists will start fucking, and on the other side will be a still image of a twinkie. We will not slow down for questions! The Nazi brain damage will determine which we’re more interested in — no questions! — by sliding the image left or right.
Seanbaby: hahaha ha ha ha ha HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAHAHA!!!
Brockway: Hey, there’s Total Break from Reality!
Brockway: We begin, and in keeping with the theme, nobody gave the porn scientists any direction. They panic immediately, and the man starts slapping the woman’s breasts with a stethoscope. No other ideas occur to him, so he just keeps doing that as fast as he can. She loves this.
Seanbaby: Do I choose Twinkie? I feel like these two want to be left alone, and that dirty Twinkie fucking needs it. Ha ha what am I saying? None of you can even hear me. ha ha, I’m being eaten by birds.
Brockway: The joke is supposed to be that it worked — Nazis have gelatinized our brainmeat and now we’re more interested in Twinkie than pornography — but that only holds true if the sound of unseen breasts being slapped with medical equipment is intensely erotic for you, and if it is, thanks for reading our comedy website, Armie Hammer.
Brockway: There’s only one way this video could end.
Seanbaby: With Larry “Bud” Melman rapping?
Brockway: With Larry “Bud” Melman rapping.
Brockway: He has the raw charisma of microwaved chicken and the sick flow of Ginger’s dying brain losing the connections between sounds and meaning.
“I’ve got a head of mashed potatoes,” he flatly recites.
“Got a heart full of fries,” he reluctantly reads.
“I’m a spud through and through, til the TV dies.”
The dancers croon “♪ oooooooh, he was born to SIT ♪”
Bud Melman thinks of home.
Seanbaby: I can feel the serenity creeping in through the cracks in the madness.
Brockway: Hey, I bet you didn’t think you were going to see art today.
Seanbaby: The madness has fully surrounded me again. I knew you were a coward, serenity! Ha ha ha, this shit is nuts. The scientists studying my brain tissue are going to win an award.
Brockway: Roll credits!
Roll all those fake credits, because nobody wanted to use their real names for this project!
Brockway: Don Angst wasn’t even trying to hide. He just wanted you to know what he thought of this project. So you sit through those lies. All the way to the end. You’re a god damn fool if you turn it off now. You’ll miss the previews for-
Brockway: Which is, holy shit, exactly what it sounds like!
No more than what it sounds like!
Brockway: It’s brick wall comedians telling gross jokes! Only not here, in the preview — they can’t give a single nugget of gold away for free. There are no jokes in the trailer for Gross Jokes, a bold sales tactic aimed at the core audience of Couch Potato Workout: newly sentient plants with the credit cards of their devoured owners.
Seanbaby: “You ladies like my tiara? They gave it to me because I’m the queen of losing tampons! I swear last week my gynecologist found eight gallons of wet cotton up there along with my first husband’s competitive farting jersey. Thank you. I’m serious, dating is hard…” haha ha my goddamn brain is still firing. Ha ha ha ha ha I just realized this could go on forever. Ha ha, these fake priced-to-own VHS tapes might be my eternity now.
Brockway: It had to end like this for you. You built this prison. It took you decades.
Anyway if you, like an idiot, turned this video off at the credits, you would never know about Dirty Tennis!
Seanbaby: Yes, misfiring synapses of my oxygen-starved brain. Yes. Tell me what Dirty Tennis is.
Brockway: Which is — what!
It’s another fake workout video hosted by an old comedian who doesn’t want to be doing this!
Brockway: It aired nowhere, you had to buy it!
This was a genre!
Seanbaby: hahaha I wish people could see how the garbage cluttering my idiot mind is reknitting itself during these, its final moments. Ha, this one is an ad for a show about Dick Van Patten teaching you how to cheat at tennis! Ha ha ha and you had to buy it! My dying brain thinks this was a genre!