Sadness for Breakfast
This whole show has the feeling of a late-night infomercial for a product you ultimately don’t want to buy.
—Richard Huff, Episode One commentary
Larry: Andy, what are you doing?
Andy: I’m being stupid. It’s The Stupid Stupidnakis Show.
—Episode Two commentary
The best moments in The Andy Milonakis Show are rarely his. In one ketch, he’s handing out balloons to strangers on a New York street. The objective here is to confuse unwitting foils by presenting the balloon with a sad message, like “I hate myself” or “I had sadness for breakfast.” The strangers react appropriately, a little scared by the weird kid with the smiley-face balloons, but willing to accept his gifts just to get him out of their faces. At the end of the sketch, Andy hands off a balloon to a guy with the line: “I have no soul.” Without breaking his stride or turning his head, the guy grabs the balloon and retorts, “I don’t have one either.” Even Andy is taken by surprise.
This old guy’s confession of a soulless existence (and, boy, does he look like he means it) lifts Milonakis’ attempts at absurd comedy. At its best, the show is a half-hour parade of silliness with brief instances of middling hilarity. At its worst, it too lacks soul, ripping off Michael O’Donoghue’s Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979), without comprehending what made the film so brilliant.
While O’Donoghue’s sketches are scripted, Milonakis mixes his scripted bits with Candid Camera-style stunts. He looks for laughs in everything from conning strangers into cleaning their teeth with giant floss to simply shouting in their faces and running off. This blending doesn’t work because Milonakis is not appropriately skilled in the stylised writing of an O’Donoghue, and he lacks the super-quick-wit required for on-the-street abuses such as those carried out by, perhaps, Jamie Kennedy.
In the first episode, for instance, Andy orders some mooshu pork to be delivered to his NY apartment. The delivery guy arrives to see Andy tied to a chair with peanut butter smeared all over his face. He begs the delivery guy to come in, rub some more butter on his chin, and then shouts at him to get out. What is the joke here? Is it the freaked out delivery guy, the peanut butter, Andy’s eventual tantrum, or all three? Neither works particularly well. The delivery guy does everything we’d expect him to do, and Andy (as he does in so many sketches) acts the goat until the “joke” loses steam (via the delivery guy’s non-reaction) and he puts an end to it.
What eventuates is a sort of non-gag, and it happens often. The worst offender is the “Know What I’m Sayin’?”-o-Meter that counts off the number of times Andy can fit the phrase “Know what I’m sayin’?” into a conversation with a stranger. Andy racks up 30-odd uses while gibbering to a confused senior citizen who only mumbles, “What are you talking about?” when she can get a word in.
Absurd for absurd’s sake just isn’t funny. But when Milonakis picks a recognizable target, he can be entertaining. The “Spoons” sketch in Episode One is an example. Parodying those late night “You need a vacuum that sucks up a bowling ball” commercials, Andy eats soup with his hands until an announcer introduces a brand new invention—the spoon! Andy eats all the items the announcer suggests: “Granola! Raisins! Olives! Macaroni and cheese! Chocolate Pudding! Shampoo! Catfood! Spoons!” This joke is pushed so far that it’s funny in spite of itself.
Another great sketch, in the DVD’s deleted scenes, has Andy trying to get adults to buy him an apple, as though he’s asking them to buy alcohol. “We know each other!” he shouts to no one in particular, as one old guy makes the clandestine purchase. It’s a cute idea, involving an unsuspecting adult in a covert mission to purchase a non-offensive product. And the old guy’s weirded out but utterly complicit reaction is too adorable not to work. Basically, as a sketch, it works (although, again, someone else is helping Andy get his laughs). Conversely, sketches featuring Andy dancing stupidly in front of strangers or shouting, “Race ya, bitch!” to guys with walkers is only offensive.
Which is where the show’s new two-disc DVD set comes in. With commentaries, outtakes, interviews, extended sketches, and deleted scenes, you’d think it would explain why Andy and his crew enjoy terrorizing the elderly. But aside from the rare mention of his writing processes (usually to note how long a joke took to write or the difficult network clearances for certain sketches), Milonakis spends his time watching the action and laughing at the “jokes”. On the Episode Seven commentary, Andy and show co-star Ralphie “rap” over the onscreen action in a pseudo-narration that quickly bores. In the final episode commentary, Andy bets Ralphie he can’t eat a whole pizza before the credits and much of the conversation revolves around this.
The only worthwhile extra on the disc is an introduction to Episode One and entire episode commentary by New York Daily News TV editor Richard Huff, who slammed the show when it premiered. Giving Richard airtime is a joke in itself, a sort of “We don’t care if you hate us” type thing. It’s cheeky, but Huff—not a comedian—is the funniest thing about the DVD. During Episode One, Scene One, he says, “This is where the first show went downhill for me.” During “Spoons,” when Andy is eating “Mandarin oranges! Blueberry Yoghurt!”, Huff suggests, “Poison!... A funny bone!” It’s quick and hilarious in ways Andy doesn’t achieve over eight episodes.
But Andy doesn’t care if you hate his show. He’s having a good time, and someone likes it: MTV2 has signed him for a second season. Meanwhile, Mr. Mike and his bunnies are rolling in their graves.