Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pop Art Snark


Saturday Night Live is going through one of its sucky periods (even when Justin Timberlake is on board), but don't fret.  There is now a delirious alternative.  Sketch comedy has never been done so stylishly and meticulously as Kroll Show, Nick Kroll's funky, Pop-Art/Snark extravaganza on Comedy Central.  (They are working on Season Two right now.) 

Watching all eight episodes on-demand is like witnessing a James-Rosenquist painting diorama, with a jolt of good old-fashioned infomercial kitsch and hootspa.  The graphics on Kroll Show are 50% of the kick.  Created by Nick Kroll, Jonathan Krisel, and John Levenstein, Kroll Show has a peacock flourish that gets worked out through the way every skit looks, moves and jitters.  Krisel seems to be the main creative force behind the show's visuals.  He is one of the geniuses behind the preeminent high-style nonsense of Time and Eric's Awesome Show, Good Job and Portlandia, both TV sketch comedies that riff on, and rip off, reality-show/infomercial Day-Glo iconography and visual languages.  Krisel uses trashy graphics and jump-cuts to produce universes of junk that have both a sinister sheen and a mind-boggling verisimilitude.  Paying such close attention to pop-culture bull-shit makes the humor somehow deepen into the best kind of meaninglessness. 

Krisel is at the peak of his powers in Kroll Show, collaging bits and pieces of Bravo-TV-reality gorgeousness and cheap local TV ad desperation to frame in the equally at the-peak-of-his-powers Kroll.   Kroll's menagerie of fools includes Bobby Bottleservice, a macho-freak stand-in for all those macho-freak street-magicians and pranksters that populate almost every direct-cable network, Gil Faizon, co-host of the cable-access prank show Oh Hello, and number two of a pretentious uptown NYC senior-citizen duo that also includes Georg St. Geegland, and most incredibly the Workaholic Liz, who is the main foil to the I-Wanna-Have-a -Great Life Liz in the reality show PubLIZity. 

PubLIZity features two extremely annoying ladies running a PR firm in Los Angeles.  The un-workaholic Liz is played by the incredible Jenny Slate.  Kroll's Liz is the penultimate 21st Century Bravo-TV/E-TV reality maven, all vocal-fry, sparkly, sparkly lips sucking on big-strawed ice-coffees, constantly self-congratulating while running her fingers through her perfectly streaked blond coif.  The mannerisms and plot points of PubLIZity are so succinct and perfect they become a virus in your head.  Try watching Millionaire Matchmaker or Kim and Kourtney Take Miami after watching PubLIZity, and you'll find yourself richer for the experience.  Kroll Show mockery makes you feel more connected to what is being mocked somehow, a good-spirited meanness that allows the joke to encompass almost every aspect of media.  And the Lizes' penchant for amazeeeing cupcakes and "events" really gets at the way almost everybody lives now in this egotistical, media-soaked age.  It's excitement fetishized into a prepackaged sense of entitlement, glossy and sad and extravagant, but never satisfying.  The Lizes  are the poster-ladies for 2013 "Entrepreneurship," making sure their business-sense savvy and "brand" are always the topic of the conversations they have with possible "clients" who always end up completely underwhelmed. 

There's nothing underwhelming about Kroll Show.  It's on a shiny, ridiculous path to greatness.