Prometheus and Bob

Prometheus and Bob was a short segment on the Nickelodeon animated series KaBlam!, which ran from 1996-2000. It was created by Cote Zellers, and produced at Luna Vox Studios. It’s hard to believe there are students in college who were born after the show ended. But because of that, I hope I can introduce some people to what I think was the best part of KaBlam!, and explain what made it so successful.

These stop motion animated scenes were very short. Each segment began with this narrated introduction.

Nine hundred thousand years ago, an alien videotaped his attempts to educate a caveman. The Prometheus and Bob tapes.

Boom! With just two sentences, the audience knows what’s going on. After that, there is an episode title, such as “Glue” or “boxing” which will further focus the audience, and prepare them for what’s going to happen. It is super efficient at pulling you in.

There is almost no dialog, as the alien is trying to communicate non verbally. It’s all physical comedy. As Prometheus is trying to teach Bob very basic things, it’s simplicity is extremely easy to relate to, which is crucial in creating broad comedy. Here is “Tape #1”

The name Prometheus, for those who don’t know, came from the Greek myths. Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to people. It’s a grand name. Bob, on the other hand, is quite a humble name. Even within the title, they have already set up a contrast between these two characters. And that is the first lesson.

In comic duos, there is often a “smart” character paired with a “dumb” character. The gap in intelligence between these two is probably the largest ever. An advanced alien would have a nearly god-like intelligence, and a caveman would be about as dumb as a human can be. But there is even more to it than that.

In European circus, there is a classic pairing of two clowns. The White Face and the Auguste. The White Face is a high-status character. He wears magnificent clothes, has a great command of language, and has an air of sophistication about him. The Auguste is like a bum. He is shabbily dressed and has bad manners. The White Face is the boss to the Auguste. But it isn’t easy to get his way. The Auguste has ways of fouling up everything. Prometheus and Bob have exactly this same relationship. Prometheus, like the White Face, believes himself to be superior. Bob is a natural fool, and can’t get things right. Prometheus NEVER succeeds in teaching Bob anything.

That alone could create some good comedy. But Zellers wisely threw in a third character, Monkey, to create a trio. He is the wild card, made to do whatever he needs to do. That expands the comic possibilities substantially. Monkey is actually smarter than Bob and is a sort of trickster.

Occasionally they introduced new characters, like this robot.

While the animation is crude, the videotape concept is brilliant. It allows for a stagey setup, and the turning on and off of the camera is a natural way to edit everything. That and the camera being knocked down. The clever Monkey is also given the job of turning off the camera when Prometheus is incapacitated. Most of the episodes are available on YouTube HERE IS A LINK TO SEE THEM.They are remarkably consistent in quality, and the more of them I watch, the more I laugh.

Apparently there was an attempt to develop a live action feature film, but it didn’t go anywhere. Maybe now?

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