Among great grudge matches, who can forget the time Arnold Schwarzenegger nearly terminated Sylvester Stallone with a rocket launcher? Or the night Hillary Clinton mangled Monica Lewinsky? Or when Mick Jagger's tongue eviscerated Aerosmith's Steven Tyler?
So what if Arnold and company were only clay-action animated figures? Their satirical slice-and-dice brawls have made MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch (Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET) one of cable's hottest draws. Allow its mild-mannered, Manhattan-based creator, Eric Fogel, 29, to explain the show's appeal: "Fans live out this fantasy fight of people who would never be in a room together, let alone a wrestling ring."
On Long Island, N.Y., where he grew up "a loner," the older of two children of Martin, a car-service owner, and Irene, a high school teacher, cartoon buff Fogel would create his own toys out of clay or papier-mâché. The Mutilator, an animated sci-fi short he made as an NYU film student in 1991, caught the attention of some suits at MTV, which ran Fogel's first Deathmatch bout last fall: shock-rocker Marilyn Manson vs. his namesake, convicted killer Charles Manson. The real Marilyn was "pleasantly surprised," says Fogel. So was Mariah Carey
. Her May 14 battle with Jim Carrey was "pretty funny," she says. "And I'm glad I won."