[6 April 2008]
If I’ve learned anything during my near 30-year ride on this broken roller coaster we call life, it’s that the art of comedy is subjective. One man’s Adam Sandler is another’s Buster Keaton. Show a Marx Brothers film to any average American and they’re liable to say, “Cute, but it’s no Henny Youngman.” Proclaim on a busy street corner that Strange Brew was the apex of humor in the 20th century and someone will surely come back at you with a few choice words concerning Pee Wee Herman.
People are fickle, I guess is my point, and I am no different. My comedy must have a certain voice, one of a cool older brother who does not constantly harangue me about my choice in girlfriends or music. It must be absurd, unafraid to wear all manner of garish outfits, and introduce bizarre new phrases into my lexicon. Above all, my comedy must be commanding, feature gratuitous violence, and have a cool theme song. Human Giant meets all the aforementioned criteria, and it’s a welcome relief from all the wishy-washy, pussy-footing comedy that’s been grazing at my doorstep lately.
Funnymen Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, and Aziz Ansari have given Generation Y its first truly great sketch comedy show, a comedy blitz so electric that they didn’t have to go looking for a television home—television came to them. MTV, whose general programming makes its very name the height of absurdity, caught wind of Human Giant via the Internet and immediately snatched the trio up before Comedy Central or Spike TV had a chance to blink. This was mutually beneficial to both parties: Human Giant would now receive more widespread exposure on the most basic of cable channels, and MTV could finally prove that not every decision it makes is based on the perceived thought process of vapid, fashion-obsessed 14-year-old girls.
What makes Human Giant work so well is the troupe’s willingness to go for broke, to take each silly idea as far as they can until it simply can’t get any funnier. Take “Sea Land Psycho”, in which Heubel plays a man convinced his girlfriend is cheating on him with a whale. So angry is he that at one point the scorned lover orders a couple of fillet o’ fish sandwiches from a local restaurant just to mercilessly pound them with his fist in the parking lot.
Another fine example is that of Clell Tickle, the independent music marketing guru played by Ansari who uses intimidation and violence to break his bands. Mild at first, but the skit really heats up when we get an in-depth look at Hambone, the muscle Tickle enlists to insure his clients’ success. Hambone is an ultimate fighting champion and convicted child arsonist.
“That’s right,” Heubel’s straight talking FBI character says. “He lights kids on fire.”
Huebel is the latent star of Human Giant, a performer whose young, raw take on the Odenkirkian style has already established him outside of this hilarious series (moviegoers know Rob as “Inconsiderate Cell Phone Guy”; couch potatoes might recall him as “Candidate Zero” from a 2004 NetZero ad campaign). Sketch comedy is where the Hueb really shines, though, mostly as average joe-types with a considerable amount of crazy bubbling below the surface. Witness his manipulative character in the semi-disturbing “Corn Maze” skit and your nightmares will be filled with visions of the South Carolinian’s piercing gaze.
I don’t mean to diminish the expert work of Scheer and Ansari, though. Both are excellent at playing dopey idiots and slimy business people, respectively. Both have excellent comic timing and are able to carry seemingly empty ideas to fruition. I have a specific soft spot for Scheer’s haughty French blogger from the Clell Tickle skits who, after being prompted as to why he didn’t post a particular MP3 on his blog, bitchily states, “I didn’t taste it.” Part of the appeal is the ridiculously large mustache Scheer sports, adding a sideways-placed ball cap for further accent.
In addition to the entire first season, this Human Giant DVD is loaded with enough extras to satiate the entire range of yuk fanatics. One to two commentary tracks for each episode, crazy deleted scenes, highlights from your MTV marathon (including Cracked Out’s incredible performance of their hit “Mad Bennigan’s”), and a Season 2 preview. It’s off-the-charts hilarity and I challenge anyone to watch even a minute of it and not be at least slightly amused.
One caveat: there are two credit rolls at the end of each Human Giant episode. I’m not sure if this is some new form of comedy that’s lost on older gents like myself or if these guys are just super proud of their gaffers. I suppose it’s not that big of a deal. It just confuses me a little. What else can I say? I didn’t taste it.