Brickleberry debuts tonight on Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
“If you weren’t so dumb, I’d be offended.”
When a line from a show unintentionally encapsulates everything that’s wrong that show, well, that’s like TV reviewer’s Christmas. And, frankly, critics and viewers alike could use a little present after watching Brickleberry, the new animated series executive produced by Daniel Tosh. An animated Family Guy wannabe about the relentlessly repellent adventures of a group of forest rangers in the titular national park, Brickleberry hails from the “deliberately provocative” school of comedy, where obviously offensive things are tossed out for shock value and if you don’t laugh, you’re a tight-ass who doesn’t get the other levels to the jokes. Unfortunately for Brickleberry, creators Roger Black and Waco O’Guin fail to indicate that there’s another level to the show’s humor beyond reinforcing stereotypes, portraying all of humanity as mean and stupid, and arguing for the undeniable humor of scatology.
The pilot’s opening scene sums it up perfectly as lilting music wafts over peaceful (if flatly drawn) natural splendors, until a pair of copulating animals is spotted. And then another. And another. Soon, every deviant woodland sexual practice the writers can think of is being depicted, culminating in a meadow teeming with animal orgy. The camera pans to find a gaggle of gape-mouthed cub scouts and a park ranger proudly explaining, “Welcome to Brickleberry!” Yup—welcome to Brickleberry.
Voiced by all-star utility voice man David Herman (Futurama, Office Space), ranger Steve Williams is an incompetent, mean-spirited blowhard with more than a passing resemblance to Peter Griffin. But unlike Family Guy, there’s little snap to Brickleberry’s dialogue and no life to its characters. The roster here is a monument to wasted talent and dreadful writing. Alongside Herman, the other rangers are voiced by Kaitlin Olson (whose work on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia shows how to make “everyone is the worst person in the world” humor transcendent rather than spirit-sapping) and Mr. Show vets Tom Kenny and Jerry Minor. Even Tosh, playing a cuddly (if indifferently drawn) bear cub with a snarky attitude and a filthy mouth, is a moderately funny stand-up comedian (recent controversies aside). In Brickleberry, however, none of these very talented people make any mark at all. It’s difficult to assemble a group of people this funny and produce something so woefully unfunny—unless you give them nothing to work with. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what writers Black and O’Guin have done.
The first two episodes of Brickleberry offer no memorable lines. (Minor’s guess that the downward-pointing arrow on a chart is “the devil’s penis” comes closest, but that’s mostly due to the actor’s reading.) Instead, the show represents an incessant parade of the most offensive topics possible, one after the other. Making fun of a young amputee? Check. Blackface? Check. AIDS, old ladies with Parkinson’s disease, blind kids, vomit, feces, the KKK, indeterminate sexuality, and pedophile priests? A check for them all. Oh, and of course rape, although the word is that, in the wake of Tosh’s recent… unpleasantness, a lot of the rape jokes were taken out. Which leaves only a lot.
Of course, here’s the point at which the creators would say, “you’re just uptight and humor-impaired.” Which, sure, any topic, no matter how dark and twisted, can be funny—if it’s funny. Some of the best comic minds in history (George Carlin, Louis C.K., Mel Brooks, even Voltaire, if you want to get artsy) dedicate their genius to mining the depths of humanity’s worst impulses for comedy, throwing a light on what that persistent awfulness says about us as a species. Brickleberry just rolls around in the poop and expects you to think it’s funny that it did so.