Yes! It's been a steady climb upward for Michael & Michael, and it didn't take long for them to knock one out of the park. "College" is the best episode of the series so far, and one of the funniest TV episodes I've seen of anything in a while.
Apologies for the hyperbole, but I'm especially thrilled that Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, comedians I've long been a fan of, are finding success with a show that's tailored especially to them. One thing I've always respected about the two of them is their commitment to their comic style, to work in as many projects as possible that allow for that voice to come through—as opposed to other comic actors who prefer to work mainly as guns for hire. Because of that commitment, not everything's going to be a success; but if this episode is any indication, they made the right choice with Michael & Michael.
Right from the gate, "College" began playing to the pair's strengths. After four episodes of starting the show in the writers' room, it starts like an episode of the show-within-a-show version. It's surprising at first, but this is definitely a different style episode; behind-the-scenes stuff is still at its crux, but the guys have left the office and have hit the road to do a college stand-up gig. (The only office scene in the episode mostly serves just to set up the Michaels sharing a hotel room—and to once again allow us to relish in the torture they force the office workers to undergo: "Did you tell them I was on VH1? I Love The '80s? Ed? Did you say I was on Ed?")
Black was the golden boy in the last episode, and this time it's Showalter, who sets out to do all the things Black hates. He masturbates in the bathroom while Black's trying to take a nap—a great progression of Showalter finding ways to explain bring his laptop and lotion in with him, then running all the water at once and the presence of "sex sounds". He one-ups Black in the debate over whose stand-up should open for whose—Black thinks he's trapped Showalter when he goes out first only to introduce Sho, but then realizes Sho is doing 90 minutes. Then Showalter brings a girl back to the room, forcing Black to sleep in the bathtub. The progression of each event is drawn out and labored, which Michael & Michael uses to its advantage; deciding who will perform first becomes a chance for one Michael to take pot shots at the other, like "It'd be like the Rolling Stones [Black points to self, pauses], opening for Blind Melon."
The episode also finds the Michaels embracing their cheesy sides, much more than they've done in earlier eps—Showalter's stand-up is the lamest set ever, yet the crowd is going nuts, like a dagger to Black's side. But it's best on display in the best sketch so far: Showalter's parody of one-man shows, just the last lines; his closer for "Nana's Yard" followed by the mime-picking of a real apple is one of the funniest things I've seen on the show. And the other video sketch, a parody in which people are disgusted by "same-age couples," contained the shocker, "Who's next, the Jews?" (That line's more outrageous than silly, but I laughed all the same.)
More than anything, "College" proved this ostensibly formulaic show doesn't always have to be that way. Too bad this season's only seven episodes long.
- No matter what happens, the boys still have to work together, and their audible defeat in the final car scene capped the episode off nicely. "Nice campus…"
- The cuts to Black's face in the tub were priceless. He's quite the mugger. Must be all those VH1 shows.