What really hooked me about the opening episode of Kroll Show, aside from it being a funny sketch show created by and starring a comedian I like, was that it paid attention to form. As Erik noted in his review of the pilot, Nick Kroll eschews the Chappelle’s Show convention we’ve seen repeated on Comedy Central’s latest sketch hit Key & Peele, where a comedian comes out onstage and sets up bits with a random bit of stand-up material. Instead, we get a brief monologue blast at the top of the episode, and then that’s it. At first glance, the sketches are whizzing by with no particular rhyme or reason, but this show has a very solid structure to it, looping back to its big sketches and peppering in references to the smaller sketches to give it a very admirable consistency.
I’m glad to see this happen because, as much as I adore Chappelle’s Show and think the Chappelle monologues are crucial to its success, every time Key & Peele cuts to its forced onstage bits, the whole show comes to a screeching halt. Kroll Show keeps blazing through, down to the dubstep theme song and hilariously egotistical titles, and has much better energy for it.
But “Soaked In Success” doesn’t have quite the hit rate that the pilot did. “Wheels Ontario” and “Overheard On The Court” were laugh-out-loud funny; nothing really hits those heights here, except perhaps for the first appearance of Bobby Bottleservice, one of the most reliable weapons in Kroll’s arsenal. Bobby B is a well-worn stereotype at this point: With Jersey Shore off the air, it’s kind of amazing that he’s still funny. But he is, and having him webchat with Chelsea Peretti as wannabe “musician” Farley was pretty fantastic.
Peretti excels at playing this vacant, vain type (no slight intended), but the laughs largely come from Bobby B’s weird turns of phrase. “You can absolutely implicitly trust me,” he assures Farley. “I could see myself shooting on your face, or something; that would be respectful.” The sketch maybe didn’t do quite enough to establish the character (I know him well from listening to Comedy Bang Bang all these years), but by the time he’s choking up talking to his mother, we have a pretty good sense of him.
Much like the first episode, the spine of “Soaked In Success” is a Bravo-type reality show, spinning off the plastic surgeon for pets Armond from last week’s “PubLizity.” I like the meta-meta joke of having a dire spinoff happen so quickly, and the attention to detail is clever, down to the billing of Liz & Liz as executive producers, but otherwise, this sketch feels a little samey. It’s spoofing a different type of reality show, the “rich wacky family” thing (Andy Milonakis killed as the obnoxious son), but the beats are broadly the same, and Armand is too weird and monotone to carry a sketch. He works far better as a one-line supporting player since the funniest thing about him is his blank stare.
More fun was the first appearance of the Rich Dicks, played by Kroll and Jon Daly, who will be showing up throughout the season, I’m sure. The gag here is even simpler: They’re a couple of spoiled trust fund kids, one old money and one new, who go around spending wildly, doing drugs and generally being dicks to everybody. The sketch quickly spins out of control (they go to Tijuana in search of drugs and run into some bad dudes), but I think that’s the point. Since the characters are inherently excessive, pretty much any joke can work for them. The best gag is that Daly’s character is “living with AIDS,” which he talks about wearily, like it’s crabs or mono.
Sprinkled in throughout are the “soaked in success” theme, where anyone who wins at life gets doused with a bucket of Gatorade by a football player, and references to Chikk Klub, an even more racist, more virulently homophobic version of Chick-Fil-A, nonetheless endorsed by a broad cultural swathe of dudes who just want that delicious chicken, whatever the moral cost. Even though neither of these jokes were that original, I liked the way they were woven into every sketch.
The format of this show is pretty killer, so each week, it’s going to come down to the material. Kroll’s a fun performer, and he’s surrounded himself with the toast of alt-comedy. I would say he should stay away from broad targets, but that’s honestly where he succeeds as much as he fails, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else is up his sleeve.
- “I don't even know what race I am, but I do know this sandwich is delicious,” one ambiguously ethnic Chikk Klub fan tells us.
- Kroll has noticed some similarities between the very rich and very poor. “Both wear a lot of robes and boating caps, and are difficult in supermarkets.”
- Armand licking his wife’s mouth and ejaculating was pretty fantastically gross.
- “I think of myself as a very cool, very white Jay-Z, and I'm very much looking for Beyoncé.”
- “I'm going to tell my teacher you molested me.” “Nobody likes a tattletale.”
- “This is blacker than Seal.” “It's so funny when racism is casual.” “Speaking of, let's hit Chikk Klub on the way back.”