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Workaholics -- The Funniest Show on TV

Posted: 06/20/2012 5:51 pm

An assertion: Workaholics now reigns as the best comedy on TV.

Second assertion: Workaholics now finds itself within its groove, its flow, it apogee. No show delivers week in and week out with these consistent results.

Initially, people dismissed Workaholics as wholly derivative, not expecting it to last for more than half a season. Now, in the middle of season three, the show not only does well in the ratings departments, but monopolizes that time slot for the 18-34 male demographic. Here goes the stereotype about this show: "Dudes/Bros" love it, most people don't care, and others see it as puerile, eroding the quality of TV, or a testament to the morally reprehensible world of TV. I feel like I need to defend the first of these assertions not because of its presumptuousness, but because we can't fathom that a "dirty" show deserves to be spoken about in the same category as "intelligent" comedies, especially in the Golden Age of TV. In a way, the onslaught of intelligence has spoiled us to different forms of intelligent humor. Workaholics is hands down the funniest, least predictable, most exciting comedy on TV right now. Not the most important, or the wittiest or the most politically relevant, but it retains the highest laugh per minute ratio, all in a deceptively genius manner.

Workaholics follows a friend family, recent college graduates, who work as cold callers to pay for their slacker lifestyle. Sounds cliched, I know, but they infuse creativity and write the most absurd plots that they easily transcend any boundaries of genre or cliche.

If we look past our prejudice about what type of comedy we are allowed to like, then we will find a show that creates its own vivid world, full of warm, lovable, and yes, even complex characters and with its own jargon that seeps into our jargon. I find myself saying tight or loose butthole in way too many situations, none of them appropriate. My friends and I look to get real weird with it, as do I imagine, a whole legion of fans. I feel happier with the whole crew in my life, even Alice, the shrew of the boss who cannot handle her acid trip but loves herself a little Norah Jones at the end of the day to calm down. It's not simply living vicariously through their shenanigans, though that helps, but I love the obvious vulnerabilities of these characters. Adam DeMamp, plays the semi-self aware knave, in some ways, as good as early Steve Carrell in The Office. DeMamp ridiculously overestimates his abilities in life, his muscles, and his desirability to women, and when reality smacks him in the face, he cries, and we feel for him, but he moves on with ease. Blake, a real softie, a closet Bieber fan, just wants his friends to be happy, and Ders, always teetering on the border of adulthood, provides the perfect contrast to the insanity of DeMamp.

We tend to only value, these days, comedies that understand the deep sadness and hurt to life. We see unabashedly funny and happy comedies as cartoonish, as less than, as dreams of life more than depictions, as the childish hopes of immature stoners/slackers afraid to grow up. Judd Apatow obsesses over similar man-child-stoner characters who, unemployed, do nothing but watch movies, play video games, and generally lack the tools for intimate relationships. However, Apatow always feels the need to apologize or rationalize, or explain this lifestyle as escapist. He always ends his movies with a conservative note: the importance of growing up, embracing responsibility, family. Workaholics, while it works within the stoner/slacker tradition, feels no need to pander to our bias that people like this cannot possibly live a happy life, even for short period of time. Drugs must afford them an escape from the sadness of their lives, or they lack the true self-awareness to realize what adulthood entails, the meaning of responsibility etc. etc. etc.

Stoners/slackers, in our culture, must either hide a pathological inability to grow up, or represent a sort of rebellion against consumerist materialist culture. While Apatow characters represent the first category, the Dude from The Big Lebowski represents the second category. Workaholics signifies a third category. A group of people who live simply with their friends, doing the things they love. People try to compare Workaholics to well-tread material, but every attempt doesn't capture the uniqueness of the show. Considerably less misanthropic, racist, self-centered and misogynistic than the crew of It's Always Sunny, less cynical and more genuine than the usual ironic slacker, these characters don't remind me of anyone but themselves. With regards to women, the usual knock on these type of shows runs that they only see women as objects. But here, they just don't see women, besides for their close friend Gillian, of course. They don't run train on anyone, they don't buck, they fear powerful gorgeous women, and for the most part don't even care to understand the opposite sex, mostly out of fear.

I hesitate to attribute any larger artistic intentions to these creative and clever writers, mostly because they seem to enjoy making fun, hilarious TV without thinking about it. But you cannot make this kind of high level TV show without some real intuitive comedic brilliance. People think raunch is the easiest form of humor. Make a dick, fart, sex, or boob joke and people will laugh. While perhaps true that on the lowest level, in a comedy club, everyone boozed up, people will laugh at this, my larger impression finds that people quickly get bored with bad raunch. (See the recent slate of Adam Sandler movies.) We get tired of repetition, but Workaholics not only manages to keep the intensity, but magnifies the intensity through increasingly absurd episodes that speak to a real nuance of humor, albeit, raunchy humor. Initially, their episodes felt inconsistent, built of bits and gags instead of larger concepts and threads running throughout the show. Now though, they create episode after episode of interweaving narratives that complement each other, perfectly.

In fact, I can think of no show that gets as real weird with it, embracing many of the fringe part of our cultures, but without the snarkiness of South Park, or the patronizing manner of other TV shows. The Juggalo episode, one of their best, could easily, like It's Always in Sunny have slipped into non-intelligent humor that ridicules the easiest of targets, but instead, the show attempts to do that culture justice in a hilarious way. They perhaps pay the highest respect to the mentally handicapped community by treating B-Rad as one of the crew, as treating him no differently than other person in the world. Again, this show doesn't seem to care about this agenda, per se, though I would love to sit down with all of them, but they work with a real talent for finding the humanity and humor in the strangest of places. (See Fat Cuz, Gillian with her cats and deadpan execution of some real low self-esteem, Karl with his wonky eye, water-trash smell, awful drug dealing skillz, and his Rape Van, the Juggahos, homeless people and Belieber fans.)

While the show needs no excuse for its tastes, the abiding truth, or moral you can glean from this show lies in the importance of friendship and loyalty. These friends love each other like brothers. They would do anything for each other, often giving up either job opportunities or swallowing their pride because of their overflowing non-ironic love for each other. They know one another better than anyone else in the world. No matter the situation, even if you steal the wizard beats to go to do naughty things with a cougar, they will save you from consequent embarrassment. They don't fear emotionality at all, in fact, DeMamp cries at least once an episode. In a sense, this keeps the show grounded in the non-cartoonish world.

Perhaps the one true knock on it lies in the fact that most women I know think of it as stupid, crude, but mostly unwatchable. Which makes sense, though lamentable. I don't think you can blame a great show for catering to a very specific kind of person, or mentality. I never watched Sex and the City, but I respect it. While Workaholics contains the trapping of a cult show, I think that categorization unnecessarily creates an in-group/out group type of feel where some people "get" Workaholics and some don't. I tend to think that most people don't give it a chance because of the burdensome stereotypes surrounding this show. You need to accept that for 20 minutes things are gonna get real weird, but try it out, you will love it. I promise.

 

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