Shy Tony’s Revenge: The VIBE TV Clip That Outlives Its Wack Progenitor.


VIBE’s 1997-1998 syndicated TV show was an utter mess, as the dates of its miniscule timeline suggest. For some reason, its creators didn’t see, and were completely unable to translate from print, the dynamic and sparkly juxtapositions that made the magazine, at its peak, an unusually incandescent hit. (The periodical was completely uninvolved with the TV broadcast.)

screen21The program always felt sluggish and old. (Hiring Sinbad, right, as the second host, after comic Chris Spencer’s anemic few months, did little to correct this.) It was as if someone had found a tattered, bled-through copy of the magazine in a trash heap, saw the name, liked it, and decided to make a program with it out of whatever stage props they had on hand. When it debuted, I watched it at a nearby bar with others from our office, but almost never after that. It’s not a high point in the magazine’s hallowed history.

There’s one moment from VIBE I remember, however, and it’s the only bit I ever saw there that not only still cracks me up, but that, to me, hinted at the show’s possibilities.

screen6It was a riff featuring show staff writer Hugh Moore and his dummy, Shy Tony, right. In the sketch, Moore, a ventriliquist who has no talent, gets around his deficit by creating a partner too shy to speak out loud. Tony will only whisper his ideas to Moore, who then, relay-style, yells them to the audience.

It’s not the world’s most original premise, arguably. What took it to the next level, though was Moore. With his making-it-up-as-I-go-along brio, chew toy-ratty-looking sidekick, and ghetto stream-of-consciousness shoutouts—”Shy Tony said, “WU-TANG IS GOOD, BUT PUFFY IS THE BEST!”, or, my favorite, “Shy Tony said, “I’M CUCKOO FOR BIG-BUTT FREAKS!!”—Moore left the audience in unexpected convulsions.

And the hopes of the show in the toilet. Though Moore made other appearances, some of which you can see on his YouTube channel, VIBE never took the bait. It stuck to its desk-in-my-uncle’s basement set and retread format. Not only, as stated, did VIBE never catch the magazine’s stardust, it never truly figured out what kind of TV it was.

In the ashes, however, and, thankfully, now on the net, are hints of what its future might have been. Somewhere, Shy Tony is laughing…albeit very, very softly.

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