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I am – Hercules!!

The set of “Mad TV” has got to be a happy place these days.

Turn to page 102 of Entertainment Weekly’s Sept. 10 “Fall TV Preview” issue and find Josh Wolk’s feature taking stock of the long-running series. This much is certain: the article is funnier than anything I’ve seen on “Mad TV.” I couldn’t find a link to the piece, but here are the opening paragraphs:

Mad TV is celebrating its 10th season, a television anniversary often met by showers of tributes from the industry and critics alike. Here’s the showbiz testimonial that cast member Bobby Lee got this summer: He bumped into a “really popular, hip comic” (whom he declines to name) who asked, “Are you still on Mad TV?” Yes, replied Lee, to which the comedian crowed, “I can’t believe that show’s still on. It sucks!” Reflecting recently on this unsolicited ego dropkick, Lee says, “I walked away and started to weep a little bit. Some people just don’t think our show’s cool.”

What was especially notable about this encounter was not the cruelty of the unnamed comic but the fact that anyone described as “popular” and “hip” uttered the words “Mad TV” in the first place. In 10 years, Mad has been unable to generate an iota of the buzz and respect of its time-slot competitor, Saturday Night Live. “There are sketches that we do that I’m so proud of, they’re so funny,” says head writer Scott King, a seven-season Mad veteran. “And you’ll pick up a magazine or listen to a radio show and it’s just ‘Look what SNL did this weekend!’ You can’t help but feel, Man, could someone please pick us up?”

The piece goes on to note:

* While SNL produced comedy giants like Murray, Belushi, Murphy, Myers, Sandler and Ferrell, “Mad” vets include a blonde supporting player on “King of Queens” and the black guy who starred opposite David Duchovny in “Evolution.”

* While SNL characters have spawned many a movie (even some really successful ones, like “Wayne’s World”), no one is lining up to greenlight “Mad” creations for the big screen.

* While it’s hard for new players to get significant roles in the sketches “SNL” mounts, the “Mad” cast seems to be aware that the show really doesn’t help anyone’s career, so there’s a lot less competition for air-time.

* While “Mad” always loses badly to “SNL” in adults 18-34, “Mad” was actually ranked higher than “SNL” among teens last season. Which begs another excerpt:

With giddy teens stacking the studio audience, the resulting adolescent whooping caught on tape makes any sketch – no matter how smart – sound like Screech’s pants just fell down. Says [cast member Ike] Barinholtz, “I think the show would hip up a lot if any time you make a reference to sex or drugs, you don’t get that “OoooOOOOOOoooh!”

But really, what grown-ups are going to show up for a taping of this terrible show?

And meanwhile, just try to get tickets for even the dress rehearsal of “SNL”!

If you want to see how funny Lorne Michaels' creation remains almost 30 years after Belushi and Michael O’Donaghue discussed wolverines, check out tonight’s Lindsay Lohan edition, and especially its pee-producingly funny Debbie Downer sketch.

“SNL” returns with new episodes Oct. 2. The dependably self-deprecating Ben Affleck returns to serve as the opener’s guest host.

“Mad TV”: 11 p.m. Saturday. Fox

“Saturday Night Live”: 11:30 p.m. Saturday. NBC.

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