One of the foundations of comedy is the idea of normality. There are core societal assumptions that we have, and characters who break, or try to break those rules lead directly to humor. It occurs on different levels, as well. Putting beer on cereal? Funny. Deciding to sell “beereal” for frat boy breakfasts? You’ve got yourself a sitcom plot! Bob’s Burgers uses both the superficial and deeper forms of norming to create its humor in “It Snakes A Village,” and both work well.
The superficial norm that this Bob’s Burgers deals with is Gene’s phobia of snakes. Throughout the entire series, Gene’s seemed fearless, ready to throw himself at anything weird. So it’s amusing that suddenly he’s too scared of snakes to join his sisters in a search for $100, as he invents excuse after excuse to stay at base camp, like that he’s the tech guy, hacking into a mainframe: “Activate spellcheck, go. I’m in!”
The norming happens when Gene is forced to confront his fears in order to save his sisters. When push comes to shove, he’s able to blast past his phobia and do the work. This is a common, perhaps even necessary on television shows. It’s not realistic, perhaps, but for the purposes of satisfying short-term narratives, it has to be done. Regardless, Gene being creeped out by snakes is a good little quirk for the character to have (and one I can sympathize with, myself.) Plus he got a song, showing Linda’s genetics and influence can be as strong as Bob’s.
In the main plot, Bob and Linda are forced to deal with what they see as entirely abnormal behavior: Linda’s parents have moved into an old person’s swingers society. Linda is grossed out, while Bob thinks it’s funny. H. Jon Benjamin’s readings as slyly amused Bob makes for one of his most Archer-like performances yet. The “you care about something I think is funny” chuckle he gives is pure Sterling Archer.
But when Bob discovers that his in-laws aren’t participating, and that that might get them kicked out of the community and forced to live with him and Linda, he takes serious action. This entails him trying to figure out what stopped his father-in-law from joining the swingers, and remedying that. I can’t imagine that trying to uncover your wife’s dad’s kinks is a pleasant conversation to have, but Bob does it effectively and diplomatically.
While his motivations may not be pure, Bob’s actually being a good guy here. The kink he reveals is mostly harmless, it helps his in-laws have a better sex life, and everyone ends up with a better living situation. It’s another good example of Bob’s Burgers’ general embrace of the weird, and it’s actually fairly sweet for an episode about elderly swingers. The sweetness doesn’t prevent Bob or Linda from being disturbed—nor does it keep the show from making jokes about it—but that’s a fairly healthy reaction: You can be made uncomfortable by something abnormal, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
“It Snakes A Village” is, like Bob’s behavior, effective and sweet. It’s builds the main characters a bit while widening its base to include Linda’s parents as more than simple antagonists. Nothing special, but they can’t all be special.
- The Belcher car is shown departing New Jersey! I think that’s the first time the location of the show has been specified.
- “Because I am… going to kill myself.” “YES!!!!” Kristen Schaal’s exuberant line reading here wins a lot of points.
- “Forget the buckets, just spit!”
- “Wow, the red pairs nicely with the white.” Bob gets wine.
- Great little bit of comedy as Bob tells Linda the seniors are swingers. “Like dancers?” “No.” “Golfers?” “No.” [Drops glass.] “Yes.”
- “Why can’t they live with your sister, her life is already ruined.”
- “w w w dot woman inflates a balloon and sits on it until it pops dot com” I figure that would be a tumblr.
- “Don’t TOUCH my STUFF! No one gets ANYTHING! I leave it all to my ghost!” Really, Schaal is on fire for most of the night—one of the stronger Louise episodes
- “Oh, you’re a hero cause you got my parents TOGOTOASEXPARTY?!?” Depending on how much that down payment was, yeah, I’d say that’s heroic.