(For the next several days, some of our writers will be swapping duties on some of our most popular shows. Some of them will like what they see, but for different reasons. Some of them will have vastly different opinions from the regular reviewers. And some of them won’t be all that different. It’s Second Opinions Week at TV Club.)
I don’t know about you, but I had a friend growing up who fancied himself a standup comedian. Not in the sense that he wanted to go into comedy, but he could not stop telling jokes. Sometimes, they were funny; a lot of the time, they weren’t, but what was most disconcerting about his compulsion to spout out material was that it stemmed from a need to be the center of attention all the time, deriving his confidence and happiness from how long and how intensely he held the attention of a room. Needless to say, it was difficult to bring my friend around to meet other people I hung out with.
That, in a nutshell, is Skip’s dilemma on tonight’s episode of Regular Show, only it’s even harder for him, since it’s a family member causing the disturbance: his cousin Quips.
My opinion of Regular Show isn’t too far off from Alasdair’s: I think it’s a big ball of crazy, surreal mania—and that makes it a thrill to watch. I like the romantic elements when they’re done well, like in last week’s stellar episode, but mostly, I’m a fan of the batshit insanity inherent in the premise and in nearly every plot. I mainlined the entire series last fall, and I found the dichotomy between Rigby and Mordecai’s slacker attitude and the exuberant animation positively endearing.
Quips’ reputation precedes him, as every other park staff member groans when Skips tells them his cousin is coming to game night. Everyone is excited to play Drawesome, but once Quips shows up they almost entirely lose their enthusiasm. Skips promises to have a chat with his cousin, but when they’re alone Quips reveals he lost his job at a comedy club, and wanted to visit his family and friends to regain his confidence. Unfortunately, that means barrage after barrage of terrible jokes.
It’s impressive that Quips is actually, genuinely annoying in his incessant joke telling, especially how he punctuates nearly every single line with the awful attempt at a catchphrase, “Zing-o!” (Though to be fair, I did laugh at how badly some jokes fell flat, which is kind of the point.) Regular Show pushes that annoyance right to the edge, where it could overwhelm everything else and ruin the episode. In a half-hour format, enduring any more would definitely be too much, but the quarter-hour limits the bad jokes so that Skips’ friends turn at precisely the right moment, and the Guardian of Eternal Youth loses his cool and traps Skips and Quips in a cube together.
What I like best about Regular Show is that in the midst of a gaggle of memorable regular characters, zany recurring minor characters, and a fantastical animation style, it still manages to create motifs for its condensed themes. Skips is unable to be forthright with his cousin about his lame jokes and in-your-face behavior, then gets trapped in a cube with his cousin after Quips insults the Guardian of Eternal Youth one too many times. When Skips still can’t come clean, another bad joke from Quips makes the Guardian shrink the cube, forcing Skips and Quips closer together. It visually represents Skips’ struggle and what he has to do not just to diffuse the fight, but also to help his cousin start to recover from losing his job.
In that one scene, there’s fantastical action, laughter, and surprisingly emotional catharsis. Though it’s not at pitch-perfect as last week’s supernatural use of minty ice, the cube prison is a great visual metaphor for how trapped Skips feels when confronted with having to break bad news to his already saddened cousin. But Skips is nothing if not a resourceful friend and cousins, giving Quips the opportunity to find an audience that laughs at everything he says: as a clown for birthday parties in the park.
I never needed to go through quite what Skips did with my friend. We got older, he mellowed out and grew out of the attention-grabbing joke marathon, and everything was fine. But “Quips” combines the surreal visual style, wacky humor, and just the right dash of message to make a truly balanced and successful episode.
- I love Second Opinions week. Thanks to Alasdair for taking a look at Family Guy last night so I could drop in on the park tonight.
- Skips-centric episodes are often pretty great, and hearing an episode with more of Mark Hamill’s voice work never gets old.
- I will say that it’s about time to retire that wahmbulance line. I’ve heard it in something like five different shows in the past month.
- “It’s funny because I said zing-o.”
- “Meteor balls? Yeah I’m still working on it.”
- “I don’t need luck. I was a communications major.”