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The State's Legacy

Black and white photo of cast members sitting and standing on a table
Early cast photo.

After the deal with CBS ended, The State found themselves without the regular television exposure necessary to support their various side projects.  Throughout the winter of 1995-1996, the troupe embarked on a college tour and collected material for a book, State by State With the State: An Uninformed, Poorly Researched Guide to the United States (initially titled Roadkill). In January they adjourned to Chris Blackwell's Compass Point studios in the Bahamas to record a comedy album for Warner Bros., Comedy for Gracious Living, that remains unreleased. Various attempts at extending the life of The State brand fizzled or lingered in development throughout the late 1990s, including an Internet series not unlike You Wrote It and several film projects (many of which, proposed by David Wain, resembled the tone of the troupe's 2001 cult hit, Wet Hot American Summer). Most importantly, the CBS debacle exposed fissures in the troupe's egalitarian working methods, and various members began leaving to pursue their own projects.  Garant, Lennon, Kenney, and Black spun-off a State sketch into Viva Variety (1997-1999) on Comedy Central in early 1997, and similar clusters of State alumni would continue on the network into the 2000s with Stella, Reno 911!, and Michael and Michael Have Issues and on film with Night at the Museum, The Ten, and Role Models.

The July 2009 release of The State on DVD has rejuvenated interest in the group, and it occasions an opportunity to revisit the program with the benefit of hindsight.  With the troupe's dogged avoidance of topical shtick, many of the sketches seem as fresh and inventive today as they were 15 years ago.  While the DVDs feature a mostly new soundtrack (lack of rights to the pop music made available by MTV in the 90s prevented a more timely DVD release), Starr's collection contains all episodes of the series' MTV run with the original music intact.  These materials, of interest to fan, academic, and historian alike, underline television's crucial role in negotiating the cultural identities of its various audiences and highlight the especially contentious nature of comedy as a site for that negotiation.

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