It’s almost indisputable that with a sketch show, any sketch show, the second season is where it’s at. It’s where everything gets decided. Is your show kinda crappy? Then it’s gonna be obvious not long into the second season. The new characters won’t pop quite as well, the old ones will start to feel stale, and it’ll be immediately obvious that all the good ideas have already been used up. On the other hand, season two of a sketch show can also be the moment things click: all the mistakes have been made, the show knows what recurring stuff really works, and it’s all systems go.
That’s how I felt about Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, and based on the premiere, it’s how I’m going to feel about Kroll Show this year. Maybe it’s just that I was missing the PubLizIty girls, and the Oh Hello Boys, and C Czar, but there’s a real confidence to this season opener, a sense that Nick Kroll and his writers have really nailed down how to present the serialized nature of their sketches over the upcoming weeks.
We open on one of the weirdest, most impressionistic things the show has ever done, and unsurprisingly it involves Zach Galifianakis (his first appearance on the show). Wearing a chef uniform, Zach gleefully tosses out cake after cake at a crowd of possessed people chasing a train. There’s … kind of a punchline involving C Czar, but it really has nothing to do with anything. It feels like Galifianakis making his mark on the show a little bit, but it also sets the tone for a weirder, more uniform approach. The first season of Kroll Show had some individual sketches unrelated to anything, but this is a little different—it’s being woven into the texture of the episode a little bit, giving the audience a strong hit of decadence and absurdity, and then taking us right into the life of C Czar.
As we might have guessed from the events of last season, C Czar has knocked up the pretty Liz (Jenny Slate) and is now preparing to be a dad on his own show, where he is taught fiscal responsibility by a square-looking dude and a mean baby sitting in a leather chair. I wasn’t hot on this character when he first showed up but I love him in this new setting, wavering between aggression and dumb naiveté (his reaction to the dump of a house he gets to live in felt pretty genuine).
This is intercut with the adventures of Liz and Liz, with Kroll-Liz initially struggling to hide her jealousy at her co-worker’s pregnancy, then bonding with her bizarre niece who comes to visit named Denise (also played by Slate, who plays bizarre spoiled folk like nobody’s business and should probably have a whole show of her own to be weird on). Things are gross, Will Forte plays a molest-y photographer, and Denise may never be seen again, but the mixing of the two storylines and the narrative drive are great to see in this first episode.
Then we have the Oh, Hello boys. I’ll never not find them funny! Sorry! It’s never, ever going to happen! They harass an English lady played by Lucy Punch, they give her too much tuna, they don’t let her eat any of the tuna, and then John Mulaney tells his bit about Marty McFly. The candid conversations between Kroll and his actors are great—only cropped up in the last episode last year, but I’d like to see it in every episode this year.
- “He’s calling ME C Czar. Is that…”
- “Thanks for referring to it as the wolf pack. I never get tired of that.” “I’m sure.”
- “You made me fly all the way over here from London?” “Why didn’t you take a boat?” “Yeah, I thought you were going to take a liner.”
- George is baffled by his English friend’s confusion. “Do you have fucking Memento disease?”
- They yell at her for taking the sandwich. “You don’t get that. We’re gang-shooting these today!”
- Poor Cassandra. She should get a spin-off episode.