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Comedy Bang! Bang! (2012)
Random humor. Next to offbeat it's my favorite kind of humor.
Let's start by recognizing that Comedy Bang Bang is made for comedy connoisseurs. This is the American talk show deconstructed: it is not so important that you "laugh" so much as you appreciate the aesthetics of the bit; it is not so concerned with jokes as it is concerned with the technique and form of jokes. Disagree? Look, it cannot be a coincidence that the season one guest lineup is a virtual Algonquin Round Table of all the major figures in the alt comedy scene: Galifianakis, Poehler, Oswalt, Tompkins, Helms, Rogen, Odenkirk, Forte, Kroll, Rudd, Barry, Arnett, Cera, Koechner, Cross, Black, Scott, Lennon, Scheer
and you get the sense that this is the kind of material that they would perform for each other if there were no audience around: esoteric, experimental, and with a healthy amount of self-aware meta-humor. This is, in other words, hard-edged alternative comedy for the dedicated enthusiast, not the more palatable and softened version that you get from, e.g., Portlandia, Parks and Recreation, etc. Indeed, that most viewers will find this show alienating is kind of the point a big part of the reason that one out of ten people will love this show is because they know the other nine are going to hate it. Add to that great chemistry between Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts and pitch-perfect character performances from both and you have, in my opinion, the most consistently interesting television that I have seen in years. Hey, one out of ten people can't be wrong, no?
Kroll Show (2013)
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
I really like this show. But I'm not shocked that many people dislike it. The sketches don't all stand up well by themselves, lacking the clearly-defined, singular premise that is the hallmark of traditional sketch comedy (e.g., SNL, Mad TV, Chappelle Show, Whitest Kids U Know), where a humorous situation is set up and then played out to further and further extremes. There is not much here aimed towards water-cooler recaps. Nor is the satire offbeat enough for the show to achieve that surreal, absurdist quality that you get from Mr. Show, Portlandia, Comedy Bang Bang, or even Monty Python. Kroll does not venture too far from reality show parodies. But where Kroll Show may shrug off mainstream expectations as sketch comedy, it nails its target as social commentary: a kind of stream-of-consciousness symphonic poem aware only of the circular, ephemeral landscape of trashy television and internet memes that exists in front of its own eyes. At its best, the show is to Bravo and E! what The Onion is to bad journalism, the joke not so much on the idiots that it caricatures but rather on all of us for letting them happen. If you don't feel a little ashamed of yourself by how recognizable all of this is then yes, you are probably missing the point.