Skip to comments.Ken Ober, Host of Classic MTV Game Show Remote Control Dies
Posted on 11/16/2009 4:04:45 PM PST by My Favorite Headache
Remembering Ken Ober, The Voice Of 'Remote Control'
Posted 41 minutes ago by Kyle Anderson in Music, Television
This was a sad day at MTV, as we had a death in the family. Ken Ober, the longtime comedian, television producer and host of early MTV game show "Remote Control," passed away at age 52.
Arguably, Ober's most indelible legacy is "Remote Control," which premiered in 1987 and was one of MTV's first attempts at crafting an original television series. The premise was delightfully low-fi: Ober posited that he hosted a media-obsessed game show out of the basement of his parents' house, and he was joined by a cast of characters who wandered through the set (including fellow comedian and former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Colin Quinn, who acted as the Andy Richter to Ober's Conan O'Brien). The show featured three contestants getting asked a barrage of pop culture questions about movies, music, television shows, sports and, of course, music videos. Along the way, the show was interrupted by comedy skits, guest appearances, projectiles thrown at the contestants and plenty of Ober's trademark wit.
It can't be understated how important Ober was to the show. His jokes were always acerbic and steeped in irony, but his love for junk culture gave him a warmth that made him lovable. He kept the MTV audience connected to the world of comedy and also provided exposure for a ton of videos and pop culture touchstones that were hard to access at the time. In the age before the Internet, DVD and video on demand, it was sometimes difficult to find a place where lines from "Jaws" could be mentioned alongside David Bowie lyrics. Ober brought the geeks and the cool kids together to hang out in his basement, and that melding of two worlds helped make MTV the definitive television destination for youth across the country.
But mostly, "Remote Control" was just supremely weird, and made MTV a place where you could find subversive comedy (most of it Ober's). For example, take the clip below: It features a college student playing for a series of prizes by being spun around on a wheel, Colin Quinn as the "Evil Dwarf," a random model and a ton of confetti. It was loose, it was loud and it was incredibly fun to watch.
Longtime MTV “Remote Control” host Ken Ober has passed away at the age of 52, the comedian’s representative confirmed to MTV News. The cause of his death was not available at press time.
Ober’s career began in the mid-1980s with a turn on the talent competition “Star Search” and in more recent years segued into behind-the-scenes production positions on comedy shows like “Mind of Mencia” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
Starting in 1987, Ober hosted five seasons of “Remote Control,” which, along with “Club MTV” and “The Week In Rock,” was MTV’s first foray into series television. A quiz show that tested contestants’ pop-culture knowledge, the set bore a strong resemblance to a suburban home’s basement. Standing behind a makeshift lectern and next to a giant television screen that helped guide the show, Ober would ask questions about celebrities, movies, TV shows and music videos. Participants sat on colorful La-Z-Boy chairs with food and drinks on trays in front of them as they tried to answer the questions and avoid elimination. The show helped launch the careers of Adam Sandler, Denis Leary and Colin Quinn, who made various appearances on the show, acting out sketches that functioned as quiz questions.
After “Remote Control,” Ober went on to host other game shows, like “Smush” and “Make Me Laugh.” In the years since, Ober worked as a supervising producer on “Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn,” a consulting producer on “Old Christine” and a writer and producer on “Mencia.”
“Ken Ober was one of the sharpest, quickest, sweetest guys I ever met,” Sandler said in a statement to MTV News. “He was always a great friend and I will miss him very much.”
Ober’s agent, Mark Measures, confirmed the comedian’s passing but could provide no information as to the cause of his death. According to The New York Times, Ober’s manager, Lee Kernis, said the comedian was found dead on Sunday, a day after he complained to a friend about a headache and flu-like symptoms.
Remember it well. Remember not really getting Adam Sandler (”Stickpin”), who Ober clearly wanted to plug.
Also Kari Wuhrer was a feature.
Liked it a lot.
Damn. That was quick. Wonder what he had?
I remember Remote Control well. I remember it seemed to be the beginning of MTV rapidly transitioning away from music videos.
This is really depressing. How time flies. Had a D&D character in high school named Kari.
We had drinking games all through college to Remote Control...but we we really watched it for Kari Wauher!!!
RIP Ken Ober
I actually attended a taping when I was a kid...had the shirt I got there until a few years ago. Classic...so young...way too young.
Greatest episode: The 1970s "long lost episode.
Dang that’s crazy. I’m heading into my late 30’s. Getting old enough that I feel I could drop dead anytime.
Yep, that’s where Adam Sandler got his start, as “The Stud Boy.”
I totally understand what you are feeling. I am 35 and seeing people like Michael Jackson and Ken Ober dead within months of each other? I can’t believe 1989 was 20 years ago.
One of my favorite shows in college.
I saw Ken Ober in person once. He’d come to my school because it won some kind of collegiate fundraising contest and filmed a segment close to my dorm building. He was rather short but he was funny, warm, and personable. The rest of the MTV crew were utter bastards, but he was cool.
I’m 50+, and all that humor you enjoyed through Ober’s efforts either flew over my head or under the radar. MTV has never appealed this old fogie, but I find it refreshing to see a 35-year-old haunting FR. Does the heart good.
Don’t DO that! I though you were saying she’d died. Martha was a big crush in my early teens — some of my friends had a thing for Nina Blackwood, but they were clearly insane. I think most of them died of syphilis.
Dang, Martha’s on Sirius? I may have to re-think my objections to pay radio.
Not only did I work the first season on Remote Control as a question writer, I actually helped hire Ken. He did a great audition. FYI...Ben Stiller auditioned and was horrible.
So sorry to hear this. He was a nice guy.
“but I find it refreshing to see a 35-year-old haunting FR.”
Haunting :-) ... there’s a lot of us on here :-)! I don’t think I could function without this site :-)!
50+ isn’t old fogie either ... My dad just turned 69 and I am trying to convince him that he’s not going to die “soon”.
Knowing myself, I am going to look at that sentence I just wrote, hopefully, in 20 years and wonder what the hell was I thinking :-).
Yep. Its amazing that Ken was at that time one year younger than I am now! It seems like just yesterday that the Berlin Wall was falling, Eddie Murphy was still funny, and cell phones looked like bricks.
Not guilty! I’d still hit it.
Then I’d be a Martha Fu... never mind.
Hunh. An unknown side of you is exposed.
Not bad. I still have “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin” by Mojo Nixon on my jogging playlist.
Sounds like Wayne’s World was a ripoff of this show.
It was a lifetime ago. Are you a Seinfeld fan?
I’ve seen a few eps and know some of the memes, but probably not a fan.
Do you remember the ongoing character, Joe Davola? Crazy Joe Davola?
I’ve seen scenes on YouTube. He’s, well... crazy!
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RIP. That’s too young to go.
I wasn’t a big MTV fan, but I watched this one (OK, maybe because Kari was on it — I was a fan of her later, ahem, “late night movie” work — she was on General Hospital a few years ago and you could tell her, um, “athletic” prowess during the love scenes. I think even the male actors had to tell her to take it down a notch, since it ain’t Showtime).
I remember when this show was on MTV during my early teen years. That was back when they actually had music. This show was one of the few things that wasn’t music. I always changed the channel or turned off the TV when it came on. lol
Mr. Ober, who lived in Santa Monica, Calif., was 52. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Lee Kernis, a manager at Brillstein Entertainment Partners who represented Mr. Ober for more than 20 years, said that Mr. Ober was found dead on Sunday. He said that Mr. Ober was last heard from on Saturday night, when he spoke to a friend and complained of a headache and flu-like symptoms. Mr. Ober told the friend that he was going to take something and would see a doctor as soon as possible.
Joe Davola was the Producer of Remote Control and he was freaking nuts. he was sexually harrassing me. So when the whole thing went down with Anita Hill, I knew she was lying. When you’re truly being sexually harrassed in the workplace, you don’t want to be anywhere near that person. He became the head of comedy development at one of the networks and that’s how Seinfeld met him. That character was based on him. Crazy Joe Davola.
At the time, I was dating a guy and I would complain about Davola to him. He finally said, what do you want me to do, beat him up? I knew I had to take care of it. I was probably about 28 years old. The last time he harrassed me I whipped around and I said, “I don’t appreciate these comments you continually say to me and I want you to stop...you will stop.”
That was that, he never bothered me again...but then again...I wasn’t invited back for the next season. No big loss.
I worked on the first season...wrote questions. Originally, that show was supposed to be a sitcom...a game show within a sitcom. The plot was this loser who is obsessed with game shows who lives in his mom’s basement. It was really very clever..but when push came to shove, the suits went with the safe choice. Too bad...it would have been an instant classic.
Wow. (A) Yikes, sorry for what happened to you. Creep. Got himself a Hildy-slapdown. (B) They used an actual guy’s name for an insane character, and didn’t get sued?
LOL! I was talking about Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper just yesterday!
A "web site" was where a spider decided to set up house, "twitter" was something grown men did not do, a "face book" was something published by colleges that couldn't manage a full-blown yearbook, and we were stuck watching TV shows at the specific time they aired.
I used to like “Beat the Bishop”.
Sounds like a funnier, less psychotic version of Rupert Pupkin in "The King of Comedy."
I guess if you have the most successful show on TV, you can just about do anything!
I guess if you have the most successful show on TV, you can just about do anything!