Human Giant: Season One
It may seem that the television skit comedy show is a fairly recent invention. Many would be quick to point out Saturday Night live as the first one to hit the tube back in 1975. The truth of the matter this format is as old as television. In 1950 Cid Caesar had what was truly one of the first, ‘Your Show of Shows’. While technically a variety show it heavily depended on the comedy skits. It is also historically accurate to state that many of the best comedic talents have at one time or another come from this background. For the Sid Caesar show such comedy luminaries including Carl Reiner started out there. The list fort Saturday Night Live is even longer albeit often with mixed results. Because of this history behind the format it a new show of this type can not be readily dismissed. You never know who might come out of it. This may be something to keep in mind while watching the latest skit show from MTV, ‘Human Giant’. The series started in the spring of 2007 but the New York City based troupe had some experience before that. The three men in the series are Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer. Some of the skits presented began as internet videos which in some ways helped to legitimize this means of discovering new talent or at least getting some public recognition. Both Scheer and Hubel were featured in several episodes of the cult hit ‘The Upright Citizens Brigade’, another skit series. MTV is releasing the first season of the series through Paramount Pictures. It is irreverent, often crude and rude but also at times extremely funny. Just a little note of warning, this is not something to watch while younger children or easily offended adults are in the room.
One thing to keep an eye out for in this season set are some of the guest stars. A couple of the skits have Mary Lynn Rajskub who later went on to become a featured character in the Fox television mega hit ‘24’ and the much less successful ‘Veronica’s Closet’. Former comedy partner of Scheer, Rob Riggle, is now working as a ‘reporter’ on Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’. Also in a couple of episodes is Brian Posehn who has appeared as a regular on ‘Just Shoot Me’ and has partnered with Sarah Silverman on her series, film and act. One of the more familiar faces is Patton Oswalt who is a regular of many of the Comedy Central Roasts as well as his regular role in ‘King of Queens’. Even though I had never seen this series while it was running on MTV last spring I figured if these guys could attract comedians I have enjoyed in the past to their show it can’t be all that bad. Fortunately, this turned out to be the case. As is the case with any skit show it is uneven. Each week they trio would present a number of skit and it is only natural that some worked while others were complete failure. The point is they are trying to do something and even with the worse of it the effort is well intended. Part of this is the individual styles of the members of the troupe are often radically different. When they mesh it is nearly brilliant but when the each try too hard to take center stage the result is a mess.
Most of the humor is on the level that a drunken frat guy would appreciate. Let’s face it puerile gags have their place in the world. When you get home from a hard day at work and want to let that inner child out for awhile this brand of comedy is perfect. The fact that some bits started as streaming video on the net should give you a clue. After all this is the medium that provided a dog on a skateboard and that guy crying over Brittany Spears. Anything can become popular on the net and lately it looks like the same holds true for MTV. Didn’t that used to be a music video station back in the eighties? On occasion even MTV comes up with an idea with potential and this series has flaws but the possibility of something special is there. This is also not a series that will be overly appreciated by women of any age. The jokes are male oriented, read into that childish and gross. There is more than the usual share of violence and bloodshed. This is sketch comedy for the Jackass aficionado. Guys, unless you like sleeping on the couch save the viewing of this set until your night out with the boys or your wife or girlfriend decides to visit her family.
In the first episode the gang introduces one of their recurring sets of characters, the Shutterbug agency. They are a group of men working for a talent agency specializing in baby and child actors. They start right out as Aziz and Rob are berating a client for not doing anything to help her career. They are the best agency in town and will represent only the best and they have to be willing to work hard. As the camera angle shifts we see they are talking to a little girl of about five or six. They call her a has-been and announce she is no longer their client. Variations of this skit are played out several times through the first season. Many of the settings and situations are geared to the college demographic. In one bit Aziz approaches his professor after class to complain about a bad grade; something many watching have done. When the teacher will not change it Aziz takes out a dog whistle and blows it. A huge German Shepard comes out of nowhere and brutally attacks Aziz. The professor is so upset that he changes the grade. Aziz tells his friends about it and assures them it is instant sympathy and gets you whatever you want. Rob’s story of how it works as his girlfriend who has cheated on him and wants to break up sees the dog attack and tells him she loves him. Another skit has the guys hiring a moving company only to have a young woman show up. She is played by Linda Cardellini from the Scooby Do flicks ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and ‘ER’. Her helper is her son who is four years old. Her character was in an accident and with a surge of adrenaline pickled up a car to save her boy. Now when something is too big for her to move she has her son get trapped under it and then she can move it. When she has to open a stuck jar of mayo she has her son lie on the kitchen counter, places the jar on top of him, and then screams that she will save him and opens it. Like many of the bits here she was very funny, better than the guys, but the skit is allowed to go too far and too long.
This is the major problem with the show; they don’t know when to stop a bit. Something starts off as funny drags on to the point where all the humor is gone. Some of the humor is just in bad taste. One example is a recurring gag that spoofs the street magician Chris Angel. Here Paul in the typical black garb of Angel does a card trick at a funeral pulling the required card out of the nearly buried coffin. This gives an amateurish quality to much of the show which treads the line between being fresh and foolish.
MTV has given this disc every opportunity to succeed. All eight of episodes of the first season are included. Most have at least one commentary track by cast and crew, many have two. Instead of just canceling the series MTV gave them a chance by giving them a 24 hour marathon. The best of this endeavor is included here. There is also over 90 minutes of their improvisation and deleted scenes which is frequently funnier than their show. Some unaired ‘Shutterbugs’ and ‘Illusionist’ bits are included. Lastly there is some early footage of them live and a preview of a couple of new sketches set for season two. It is gross, crudely presented and will provide a few laughs. Just make sure you have copious quantities of beer and pizza on hand.