A few weeks ago Dr. Steve Brule’s outing with his parents reminded me of The Simpsons, and not just because everything in the world can be tied to a Simpsons reference. Tonight, Dr. Steve did an entire episode dedicated to his greatest fear, puppets, and it was again hard not to recall Homer’s similar greatest fear, sock puppets. Again, it was a pure coincidence, but noticeable all the same.
My contact at Adult Swim had inadvertently hyped this episode up the most of the entire series as perhaps being the best Check It Out!, and it’s hard to disagree even though I felt it could’ve gone much further. I mean, we see Dr. Steve Brule having a nightmare in a puppet theater—a deeper peek into the man’s distracted psyche—and it gets cut pretty short. But I’ll back up a little first.
Brule begrudgingly admits that to do a show on fears, he’ll have to face his own. So he heads off to the aforementioned theater and gets increasingly on edge while the co-owners show him around in a Borat-like sequence where they have absolutely no idea why Brule is interviewing the puppets and waiting for them to strike. A minute later, Brule’s sitting on the ground waiting for his private puppet show to begin, and as has been the trend in Check It Out! when something important is about to happen, he gets drowsy. This episode was pretty chock-full of WTF? brain-hurting moments, and this was the first of them: Brule is alone on the stage, bathed in harsh spotlights, and wearing just an undershirt and his undies and still clutching his microphone. He tries to walk away but it seems like he’s stuck in place. Also, his arms and hands are dragging in a way similar to how a puppet’s might, but there’s no acknowledgement of this whatsoever. Instead, a young boy puppet appears, which for some reason is a comfort for Steve. They head behind the curtain, where apparently a bunch of puppets just surround Steve—and then he wakes up. Man, the rest of the episode could’ve been this dream. It was kinda a shame to see it be cut so short, but then we would’ve missed what perhaps caused Brule’s fear of puppets, or “marinaras” as he calls them.
Apparently Steve used to host another show, Steve’s Puppet Show With Jane And Dan Smiler. That’d be Jan and Wayne Skylar, acting out scenes with Brule as puppet versions of themselves. As we saw a couple episodes prior, the Skylars don’t exactly have the happiest of marriages—and it seems that neither do their puppet counterparts. For some reason though, Brule is much more perceptive to their troubles in puppet form, and remarks that they’re always bickering. When things get a little too out of hand and the real Jan and Wayne start arguing, Brule asks if this is part of the show, which, then again, could itself be part of the show. Everything spirals out of control when Jan’s wig (who knew?) got ripped off, and she just screams. If that isn’t a traumatic enough experience to make someone fear puppets for the rest of their lives, then what is?
Then, another familiar face comes to chat with Brule about puppets, singer-puppeteer David Liebe Hart. Hart was able to ease Brule’s feelings about puppets when he points out that the doctor probably wouldn’t be scared of the things if he was able to produce a sexy lady puppet. But as we’ve seen through all of Awesome Show, Hart doesn’t have any puppets like that, of course. Hart coaches Brule on how to use a puppet, which yields one of the best moments in the episode: Brule running away after spooking himself with a puppet he was controlling. So crazy.
Finally leaving puppets behind for a bit, Brule carves some jack-o-lanterns with a woman whose expertise isn’t ever really made clear: she just has some pumpkins. Like the panini-cooking segment from Awesome Show (which is still one of my all-time favorite Tim and Eric sketches), Brule just tries his darndest to derail whatever the more knowledgeable person is trying to do. He’s even less successful here, but seems to really hurt her feelings when remarking off-the-cuff that she looks a lot like a witch and asks if she owns any black cats. Also, this started a couple episodes ago, but it seems like Dr. Steve Brule is just taking a wild guess at whatever his guests’ names are. A first and last name can become “Dringus” or “Grunderson,” just adhering to those suffixes but at least starting with the right first letter. Just about nobody has corrected him when he’s made this mistake, but I suppose that’s also the least of the weird behavior a regular person would be experiencing with Brule. For example, Brule accidentally cuts off one of his own fingers while cutting up his pumpkin, and the woman is just stunned. She doesn’t seem worried, doesn’t seem to think it’s real, but she also doesn’t say or do anything. Steve just faints, and then later he yells at his cameraman friend Denny for throwing away his finger in the garbage can. What a dummy.
Sorry to say there’s only one more Check It Out! after tonight’s episode. Although it’s been hit or miss so far, the best moments have been much more memorable than the safer or less interesting ones. And still, the show has been wholly unpredictable, which I guess is to be expected with Tim and Eric (and John C. Reilly) at the helm. Other than Spaget, I don’t think there’s another Awesome Show character that I’d really be stoked to see more of in their own show. We’ve learned a lot more about Dr. Steve Brule at this point, but at the same time, we still know next to nothing about him. And I’m fine with that.
- “They don’t have puppet blood or guts inside of them?”
- “Puppets that hang from strings are called marinaras”
- “Not all puppets are bad. Some are sweet ladies.”
- “The real star of the show was the free show I was going to get.”
- “Oh thank goodness: there’s a little boy.”
- “For your pluppets.”
- “It’s not soft like a body, it’s made of wood.”
- “Puppets come from marinara.”
- “It helps to touch a friend’s puppet.”