Mourning Ken Ober, MTV Icon

Gen-X bloggers offer fond remembrances of MTV's first non-music TV show host

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Over the weekend, former MTV game show host Ken Ober passed away after complaining of flu-like symptoms. The 52 year old comedian was mourned across the Internet beginning late Monday night. Ober is best known to audiences in Generation X for hosting MTV's first non-musical show, the pop-culture themed "Remote Control." Some of the shows cast-members and contestants have gone on to become household names, including Adam Sandler and Dennis Leary, and have since released statements of condolence and remembrance.  Although Ober's career wasn't as high-profile as his contemporaries, he left an indelible mark on MTV and a generation of viewers, as the following reactions suggest:

  • Infectiously Fun  CNN Entertainment Senior Producer David Daniel recollects his experiences appearing as a contestant on not just Remote Control, but on Ober's hosting gig for the lesser-known show Smush. Looking back, he acknowledges Ober's impact on his own life: "I had fun, mostly because of Ken, who seemed to be the perfect low-budget game show host: he was friendly, told bad jokes, and kept the game moving.  He appeared to be having a blast, and that attitude carried over to the rest of the show staff and the players…Taping a game show takes very little time: not much more than the half-hour of the program's running time.  But those two half-hours, out of the hundreds of thousands of hours of my life, are extremely fond memories – memories that will now be somewhat bittersweet.  Thanks for the fun, Ken."
  • Class Act  Jeff Kahn, a former writer for Remote Control and the Ben Stiller Show, recalls the first time he encountered his recently departed colleague, when the two competed for the chance to be a spokesman in a national commercial back in 1986. As he writes, from the moment he saw Ober, he was instantly intimidated: "Who was this guy? He seemed everything I wasn't: Confident, professional, gregarious and totally relaxed. With ten grand on the line, I had become nervous, gassy, reserved and totally tense. Of course, the New York comedian went on right before me and killed. He didn't have puppets, guitars, harmonicas and sing silly songs, he had actual jokes, with set ups and punch lines…After all the comedians had finished their routines, the winner was announced... It was that New York comedian, Ken Ober." Kahn also mentions that Ober was a cordial winner, going out of his way to console and praise his fellow contestants.
  • The Best of Old-School MTV  At the blog Tonic, Wynter Mitchell confesses that the only show he loved more that Ober's Remote Control was Nickelodeon hit Double Dare. Still, he says that Ober represents the best of MTV's bygone early-era: "If you're between the ages of 25 and 40, you probably remember this show — and if you do, you remember Ober. Besides being one of the reasons we yearn for the MTV of the past, he was one of the last few people that gave us memories to last for a lifetime."
  • Gen X Icon Similarly, Palm Beach Pulse TV blogger Leslie Gray Streeter enumerates the many reasons why Ober's MTV was superior to that of 2009.  She also explains how Ober's seemingly earnest, unself-conscious obsession with pop culture made the show such a hit: "For a lot of then-young Gen-Xers, 'Remote Control' was a celebration of the stuff  we thought we invented, like rudeness and snark, and the things our parents introduced us to, like game shows, a love of fun and prizes, and an earnest delight in not having to pretend we were too cool to like something. For me, it sparked my crushes on Colin Quinn (which has passed) and Denis Leary (which never, ever will)…To this day, I miss 'Remote Control,' and I thank Ken Ober for his contribution to an MTV era that I can’t imagine now – when it had fun in not taking itself so seriously."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.