August 11, 2014 5:17 PM EDT

It’s hard to imagine today that, half a century ago, TV was essentially the Internet: a wicked cool invention that experimentalists would toy with just to see what crazy stuff they could make it do. Ernie Kovacs was the most innovative of TV’s early mad scientists, using his comedy hour to spoof such then-new creations like newscasts and ads and using visual effects like upside-down pictures and tilted sets to appear to defy gravity. Comedy is lying done amusingly, and Kovacs knew that TV—which purported to show all but hid everything beyond the outline of the box—was a divine medium for lies. Kovacs would have been a natural in the age of YouTube; instead he made TV into HimTube.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

Read More From TIME

Related Stories