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Lost Classic: The Steven Banks Home Entertainment Center

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One of the most amazing lost performances of all time, Steven Banks: Home Entertainment Center was a one-man show filmed as a 1989 Showtime special. Introduced and lauded by Penn and Teller, the fact that this gem is mysteriously unavailable on DVD is one of the bigger crimes in the entertainment world’s current landscape.

If you’ve ever seen Banks, it was probably in the movie The Aristocrats, Penn Jillette’s tribute to stand-up comedy’s dirtiest joke. Banks silently acted out his version of the tawdry joke in the guise of Billy the Mime, leading many to comment that it was the first time in the history of mime they had ever been amused by one.

Home Entertainment Center is nothing less than one of the most amazing one-man variety shows of all time. Besides being hysterically funny, Banks in the course of an hour, sings and plays banjo, flute, bass, drums, harmonica, and both electric and acoustic guitar. He’s not an impersonator, but that doesn’t stop him from doing brief tributes to Elvis, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Van Morrison.

Home Entertainment Center is the story of a pop culture-addicted Dilbert, a young man rapidly growing older who is desperately hanging on to his teen dreams that he’d actually someday become a rock star.

Essentially, he’s every single one of us, except for the fact that he really is magnificently funny and musically gifted. Unfortunately, he’s not a rock star and the rest of the world is finding his daydreaming less and less cute.

The onstage Banks conducts his life as if he were living out some weird rock and roll version of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Arriving home from his dead end job, he immediately changes into his pajamas to the strains of an imaginary crowd cheering his name as if he were Sting with an arena full of rabid Police fans demanding an encore. Banks, Banks, Banks, Banks!

He lives in a dingy one-room flat decorated with a couch, a drum set, tons of rock and roll posters and enough crappy action figures to entertain thirteen nursery schools. He also has a refrigerator full of Jolt Cola (does anybody remember Jolt Cola?). Oh, don’t worry, he won’t starve, because he’s got three cabinets full of instant Toll House Cookie mix to keep him nourished.

What do you do if you’re Steven Banks and you’ve just come home from work? Well, obviously you put on a show. What do you do if you’re Steven Banks and your enraged boss calls you wondering where the speech you were supposed to write for him is? The speech he needs to give in one hour? The speech your job depends on?

Well, if you’re Steven Banks, you try and write that speech pronto. Show over? Not when you have the attention span of a tse-tse fly.

In the course of the hour, Banks sings about seven seemingly improvised songs, loses his apartment, plays with toy dinosaurs, bakes some cookies, loses his girlfriend, dreams about his high school crush, flings number two pencils out his window, reads a Jehovah’s Witness newsletter, answers his phone as Bob Dylan, reenacts the taming of the West with plastic Cowboys and Indians, and plays the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with his nose and a wooden toy flute.

What he never exactly gets around to doing is writing that speech. He uses his typewriter, but mostly as a percussion instrument. This is a life rapidly going down a toilet that doesn’t flush in hilarious and soul-affirming fashion. Will Banks finish the speech or will he find himself yet another lost insane street hobo with a dream?

Home Entertainment Center should have made Steven Banks a star. It didn’t. The Showtime special led to a short-lived but equally brilliant PBS series that was essentially a show just as much about nothing as Seinfeld ever was.

He hung on in Hollywood as a writer for Spongebob Squarepants, and still performs as Billy the Mime. Will this masterwork ever come to DVD or will its rabid fans continue to have to pass on faded copies that they videotaped over fifteen years ago? We can only pray, but hopefully someday Showtime will wake up and acknowledge the diamond that’s been forever gathering dust in their basement.

Here’s an episode of his PBS Show where he reenacts the history of the Beatles!

Banks! Banks! Banks! Banks!

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About keithcrime

  • http://www,bradlaidman.com Brad Laidman

    The rest of this show is over on You Tube as well as an episode of his PBS show – the one where he reenacts the history of the Beatles.

  • http://amysusanne.livejournal.com amysusanne

    i love steven. i was just reminiscing about the HES a couple of months ago. in my mind, if you’ve heard of steven you are instantly elevated up a couple of notches on the cool ladder.

  • gypsy

    Hay, I think I wrote here before but I found my old tape of episodes of Steven Banks I taped off of PBS years ago. Can’t remember when? Early 90s? At any rate gunna watch it tonight and hopefully its viewable. i do remember taping a bunch of them when I accidently tuned into his program one night and lost my mind.

    One night my sis-in-law came over after her and her hubby got into a huge fight. After she boo-hooed a while, I told her I had something to cheer her up. I never saw her laugh so hard and she forgot all about her meany hubby. LOL!

  • rae

    Every few months I do a search for this & hope it’s somehow turned up on DVD unbeknownst to me.
    Here’s hoping.

  • Scott Lavoi

    I really hope that this comes out, I am so thankful for youtube for giving me at least one last chance to watch this example of creativity at its absolute finest, before it disappears into oblivion. I used to borrow my friends copy until he moved to Florida a couple years after it was originally aired. I actually bought a copy on vhs off of ebay a few years ago when some guy was selling copies but the audio was so low, you couldn’t hear it unless your tv was all the way up. I am still desperately looking for a quality copy that I can transfer onto dvd and keep it in decent condition. Now with youtube, I am 34 and I still watch the show at least every six months, introducing it to someone who had never seen it and they are amazing every time.

  • porkchop_Xpress

    I’m attempting a purchase from a guy on youtube who hosts the videos there and says he has a quality DVD copy he made from the original airing. I’ll let you all know how it turns out so you folks reading this can contact him for a copy.

  • jimmy

    i cannot beleive that the steven banks show is not on dvd.i was 12 years old when i saw it on showtime,and it was and still is 1 of my alltime favorite comedy shows.so what can we do about this people?!this is a must dvd!so how do we convince whoever 2 make it?

  • Jeff

    Steven Banks died at 109, he was the greatest rock-n-roller of all time…to bad nobody saw him in his prime!

    I was 7 when I first watched HEC my dad recorded it to VHS and a few years ago he had to wrestle the tape back from me.

  • randy

    Steven Banks just blows me away whenever I hear a Bob Dylan song or think about show business people who have been denied their due. If you’re someone in the “business” do something, reach out and give Steven a hand up. The public needs to be able to laugh again.

  • Jim

    I have been guarding my HEC video tape for years now. I cannot think of one person who has watched it and not loved it. I keep checking to see if somebody has released a DVD version of the show. (I transferred my VHS to DVD just to make it easier to watch, but a quality conversion would be great).

    I think I hear it now; banks!, Banks!!, BANKS!!! Got to go watch it again…

  • Tina Johnston

    ABSOLUTELY PRICELESS!!!! What a talent this guy is. His DVD not being available is truly a crime. I say we bombard the industry, maybe with enough noise…it may become available yet. It’s worth a shot…HE is worth it. Where is he now? Anyone??

  • http://bradlaidman.com/uncategorized/i-tracked-down-the-wonderful-steven-banks/ brad laidman

    i emailed him

    he wrote back

  • Tina Johnston

    Thank you!! I hope Showtime steps up to the plate on his material. BTW… Can anyone email him??

  • David Hightower

    Anyone that has a decent copy of Home Entertainment Center on dvd , I will happily reimburse for a copy . I taped it on VHS , but can’t locate it

  • Ryan Towell

    Out of all the comedic performances I have ever seen, Steven Banks H.E.C. is still my all time favorite. I once had a copy of it on VHS as well, I wore it out by watching it at least once or twice a week for years. It never got old. I wish this was released on dvd or shoot at this point I’ll take another vhs copy. Love Steven Banks, and it’s a shame that no one but us few got to see him in his prime! Everytime we BBQ, I always say we’re gonna go to the B hyphen B hyphen Q U E…And of course the whole bit of rock stars that have died..Great song. Where he’s wearing the “Druid” cape and jamming the bass…Timeless. And I hate Marty Fox..Steven is the best drummer ever.

  • Sarah Andrews

    I would like for Showtime to the Steven Banks on DVD. They would certainly make a lot of money on it. Does anyone have the full episode?