Going beyond “Washington” with the online cartoons of Brad Neely
In 15 Minutes Or Less, The A.V. Club looks at the best in web series and short-form TV, recommending entry points that will take up no more than a quarter-hour of your time.
Brad Neely has written for South Park, headed up the Adult Swim series China, IL, and courted the wrath of Warner Bros. by recording Wizard People, Dear Reader, a gleefully crass alternate soundtrack to Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone. Yet for all those credits, the Internet at large will likely best remember him as the voice and pen behind “Cox + Combes’ Washington,” two minutes of devilishly catchy hip-hop misinformation that fills in all the important facts about George Washington that the history books typically gloss over. (You know, like his hatred of British children.) “Washington” led Neely to a gig making web videos for Turner Broadcasting’s short-lived Super Deluxe, a pair of series that would eventually entangle themselves to form the bizarre, “Animal House in reverse” world of China, IL.
Keywords: limited animation, alternate history, bro grabs
Where to start: Though produced separately from Neely’s Super Deluxe series, The Professor Brothers and I Am Baby Cakes, “Washington” contains trace elements of the shorts that followed it: a blend of the philosophical and the sophomoric, casual Prince allusions, and a herky-jerky animation style that’s akin to making a slideshow from the panels of a hastily sketched (yet stylized) comic book. The Professor Brothers’ “History Lesson (JFK)” is essentially “Washington (Redux),” with the key addition of Frank and Steve Smith, foul-mouthed academics with skewed perspectives on their areas of expertise. Point of view is the cornerstone of The Professor Brothers’ and I Am Baby Cakes’ humor: The latter wrings most of its laughs from the man-child naïveté of its protagonist, while the former has its fun with the way centuries-old stories are warped and/or improved upon with each successive retelling. Frank and Steve twist history into something that’s no longer the truth yet not entirely fiction—and there’s no arguing that their flying, telepathic, robotic-but-somehow-descended-from-Christ version of Kennedy actually deserves the hero-worship piled on the genuine article. If education was always this fun, the academic shambles depicted in China, IL wouldn’t be so much of an exaggeration.
Super Deluxe went dark in 2008, but Neely’s YouTube page has archived the full runs of The Professor Brothers and I Am Baby Cakes, along with assorted oddities like the soulful anti-Schoolhouse Rock! satire America, Now.