Oliver Lee Bateman explains why four somewhat overlooked sketches are rip-roaringly funny and why one very famous Andy Samberg digital short isn’t.
There’s no accounting for taste. How else can one explain the willingness of people to spend perfectly good money on tickets to movies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and Jack And Jill? Surely this stuff isn’t funny; surely I’m right and the ticket-buyers are wrong. But am I? Adam Sandler makes far more money than I do, which brings us to our first sketch:
1. Mr. Show, “Worthington’s Law”
There’s not much I can say about the David Cross and Bob Odenkirk-fronted Mr. Show troupe that hasn’t already been said, but I will emphasize the following point: they were Generation X’s Monty Python. The sketch presented here is timeless rather than topical–Darryl Strawberry was mostly old news by the time it had been produced–and it does as a fine a job as anything I’ve seen in terms of satirizing the connection between money and quality that is often accepted at face value.
2. “H’amb,” Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!
Until you’ve watched versatile character actor William Sanderson (of “Deadwood” and “Newhart” fame) give voice to desperate, failed fathers everywhere (“Why don’t you get another job?” “THAT’S NOT AN OPTION”), you haven’t lived. In this fake ad for a ridiculous product (“You think we can afford lamb?” “It’s not lamb–it’s h’amb!”), the mad geniuses behind Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! manage to convey the miseries of domestic life much more effectively in four minutes than Jonathan Franzen did over the course of 600 pages.
3. “Dom Mazzetti vs. The Friend Zone,” Mike and Gian
At first glance, the “Dom Mazzetti” character appears to be yet another not-at-all transcendent parody of the “bro” subculture. And, as regards some of Mike and Gian’s earlier Mazzetti videos, that’s not too far from the truth. But later videos, particularly this one, have fleshed out Mazzetti’s deeper and far more pathetic backstory. He’s still a somewhat deluded optimist, but his rough bluster belies an inner life built around chronic masturbation, frequent rejection, and the gradual recognition that he isn’t half the person he thinks he is. In other words, he’s just like the rest of us.
4. “Bob Pitches a Movie,” Bob Odenkirk
Perhaps because it first appeared as a one-off video on a now-defunct humor website, this video from Mr. Show co-creator Bob Odenkirk has managed to slip through the cracks. Nevertheless, it’s the finest skewering of the Hollywood’s ruling class yet offered–a product of the bitter frustration Odenkirk, who has helmed a series of lackluster feature films, experienced when dealing with the clueless old men to whom he owes his livelihood. There are some fantastic lines in here: “Wisconsin? Is that like Narnia?” “Self-esteem? Is that a Hogwarts thing? Is that from a magazine article?” “Will Farley, Orson Wilson…those are names I know, and they’re all going to play teenagers going to the prom.” And surely this can’t be too far from the truth. How else can one explain the spate of horndog “teen” comedies starring thirtysomething actors out to get their cherries popped, or the seemingly endless stream of Scorpion King and Transformers sequels?
5. “I’m On A Boat,” SNL Digital Short
Then there’s this, which is the worst of brahsome, be-fro’ed Andy Samberg’s many wretched (and possibly even stolen) offerings. SNL hasn’t been a home for cutting-edge comedy since the Carter administration, but these digital shorts–intended to “go viral,” in the buzzwordy parlance of the executives mocked by Bob Odenkirk in video #4–constitute the show’s latest attempt to stay relevant. They’ve been successful, at least to an extent: bros quote them, bros repost them on Facebook, bros buy t-shirts with catchphrases like “I’m on a Boat” on them, etc. Never mind, of course, that this song doesn’t make a bit of sense, contain a single joke, or distinguish itself in any way from the T-Pain single it actually is. Why would we expect such things from Samberg (cleverly mocked here in the Whitest Kids U Know’s excellent SNL send-up), who finds a way to work sophomoric, homophobic gags into nearly everything he does? Not to say that he’s completely talentless, of course: Hot Rod had its moments, although those were largely provided by Ian McShane and Danny McBride, and “Like A Boss” could’ve been a great song about a not-so-lovable loser if its author hadn’t decided to include a bunch of pointless lines about fucking fish and sucking dick.
Ah well. What the hell do I know? I didn’t like Friends, either.