Just about anyone who grew up in Oregon will remember the Ramblin' Rod Show, a long-running cartoon show hosted by the preternaturally dapper "Ramblin' Rod." The show was the place to go for Looney Tunes cartoons, plus it famously featured a "smile contest," in which the camera would pan across a studio audience of grinning kids until Rod announced who had the best smile.
The 3rd Floor takes children's entertainment as the theme of their new show, and Ramblin' Rod gets a pretty serious shout-out. Kidshow! is structured like the 3rd Floor's previous efforts: a series of sketches based loosely on a theme, plus a narrative thread giving the whole show some structure. The storyline here involves an assortment of girl and boy detectives (Nancy Drew, the Hardys, and my all-time favorite, Encyclopedia Brown. So logical!) who discover that Ramblin' Rod is somehow connected to a murder.
The running Ramblin' Rod gag might not work for everyone: It's very Portland-centric, and though a blurb on the program explains who Ramblin' Rod was, it might be hard for someone who didn't grow up on Rod to understand the affection and rancor he was capable of inspiring.
This reviewer, however, was on the Ramblin' Rod Show in 1990, and did not win the smile contest. Some skinny bitch from my daycare won it instead. And I gotta admit, in a town flooded with so many people who aren't from here, it's smugly satisfying to be in on a joke that only a real Oregonian would get.
Even if you don't get the Portland jokes, Kidshow! still offers plenty in the way of audacious, over-the-top humor, from a magazine for gay babies ("gaybies"), to a talking sperm who visits a boy in the middle of the night to explain about wet dreams. If I have any complaints, it's that the show seemed less polished than I've come to expect from 3rd Floor: A few obviously flubbed lines hurt the show's momentum, causing some sketches to drag, and a reliance on non sequitur seemed like a shortcut in a few sketches. For the most part, though, it's a solidly funny night with enough genuinely clever bits (plus that nerdy 3rd Floor sensibility that I like so much) to make it more than worth the cost of a ticket.