Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Marvel’s Kang the Conqueror—bah. Mere amateurs. There is but one true master of the multiverse, and his name is Sherman McDaniels, the seemingly immortal host of Sherman’s Showcase, the Soul Train–Solid Gold–In Living Color–inspired Black-variety-show spoof that just wrapped up its second season on IFC. (Both seasons are available for viewing on the IFC site, Hulu, and other fine streaming vendors.) Created by Bashir Salahuddin, who stars as Sherman, and Diallo Riddle, who plays Sherman’s dodgy producer, Dutch, each compilation episode of Sherman’s Showcase offers a bulging goody bag of comedy, satire, in-jokes, inspired gyrations, backstage intrigue, and guest-star appearances as it bounces from decade to decade, musical genre to musical genre, without losing its bearings or missing a beat.

Binding its centrifugal elements together is the maestro force of Sherman’s ego. Where Soul Train’s illustrious host Don Cornelius introduced and interviewed the guest performers in a mellow-jazz voice that could be poured like Kahlúa over ice, Sherman comports himself as more of a ringmaster in resplendent finery, his array of electric-rainbow jackets cut sharp and snug to contain his splendacious aplomb. “Hey there, cats and kittens,” he greets the audience, wielding his long-stemmed microphone like a wand.

Salahuddin in a scene from Sherman’s Showcase.

A television swami and showbiz idol, Sherman also fancies himself a business impresario, casting his brand widely if not wisely. Most of his spin-offs are either shameless boondoggles or misguided effronteries, such as the board game Hip Hop Whodunit, where kids try to figure out who offed the rap star; the animated copycat rip-off of Fat Albert called “Dumpster Buddies”; and the low-rent Sherman fan fairs, where fans have to bring their own food.

Essential to Sherman’s mystique is that, despite being on syndicated TV for 40 seasons, the man never ages; his wardrobes change patterns to reflect the era, but Sherman himself remains unalterably smooth, dashing, and immaculately preserved. (In the Season Two finale, we learned the diabolical secret to his pristine condition.)

Similarly, no matter where the Sherman time machine deposits us, the production values gleam as if newly minted. In an era of greenish-grayish dystopian palettes, Sherman’s Showcase is a candy treat. The choreography (by Brittany Riddle), musical homages, retro designs, movie spoofs (an Ocean’s Eleven raid on Berry Gordy’s mansion by disgruntled Motown stars), and media re-creations (such as Sherman’s clunky video game from 1996) are executed and presented with just enough extra “pop” and polish to look hyper-real—not a simple parody of passing fashions but a parallel reality.

Evan Williams, Salahuddin, Precious Gilbert, Dave Carter, and Larry Berry in a scene from the show.

As conceptually ingenious as Sherman’s Showcase is, it wouldn’t click on a deeper level if it didn’t connect as comedy—as inspired silliness. The humor comes not only from the hilarious set pieces (such as the ill-fated “Live from Vietnam” special, where Sherman has to be choppered out of the war zone) but the recurring gags, surreal juxtapositions, non-sequitur wisecracks, the exploits of the Sherman’s Showcase Dancers, and Sherman’s testy, transparent efforts to bluff his way out of trouble.

Extended exposure to Sherman’s Showcase produces an infectious effect. Two or three episodes in and you’ll find yourself laughing without knowing quite why you’re laughing, tickled by anticipation, something that’s seldom happened since the glory days of SCTV. And then there is Sherman himself, capable of projecting micro-expressions of amusement, incredulity, simmering irritation, and sudden dismay without removing his sunglasses. That, friends, is acting, the kind of acting that doesn’t win awards, but who needs awards when you’re king of the cats? —James Wolcott

Sherman’s Showcase is available for streaming on IFC

James Wolcott is a Columnist for AIR MAIL. He is the author of several books, including the memoir Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in the Seventies and Critical Mass, a collection of his essays and reviews