There is a lot of homoeroticism on Workaholics. The show keeps forcing a catchphrase about sphincter tension and once depicted Anders, Adam, and Blake simultaneously masturbating while sitting in the same car, with the clothing divider falling down at the exact wrong moment. But despite all the man-love proximity, Workaholics goes to great comedic lengths to separate its characters’ fascination with male bodies and “dad dicks” from homosexuality—which they still appear deeply uncomfortable with. The homoerotic scenes are always weighed down with a winking sense that what the characters are doing is funny because they’re approaching what can be a serious issue without any distracting gravitas, and that laziness is where the trouble begins.
This week the guys are obsessed with the Lord’s Force, essentially God’s American Gladiators or a Christian World's Strongest Man exposition, which performs feats of strength in churches. For whatever reason, our trio of stooges finds muscle-bound men displaying feats of strength intoxicating—but absolutely not in a gay way, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Blake was pretty sure he “knew about every single buff dude,” but apparently not, so they attempt to see a performance despite having absolutely no religious affiliation. When they take two of the performers out for a drink afterwards, the episode takes a left turn from juxtaposing the infantile delinquency of the trio with religion into their shocking discovery that the two beefy guys are actually gay.
The out-of-office episodes of Workaholics have yielded some of the series’ best episodes—and here I’m thinking chiefly of the Juggalo-themed episode from season one, still the high water-mark of the show. But it’s a structure that calls for more of the characters reveling in their own isolated idiocy. The tailgate outside the church is a good example of this, where Anders is trying to trade a beer and a brat for tickets, and the guys devolve into playing hot potato while “passing the mic” since none of them can freestyle to save their lives. It’s a strange interpretation of fish-out-of-water juxtaposition, with the guys acting as though they’re gearing up for Wrestlemania or a football game, and that attitude is funny. Contrasting outlandishly inappropriate social behavior with a conventionally buttoned-down setting is one of the things Workaholics does best. Unfortunately, a nuanced approach to hot-button social issues is decidedly not one of the show’s strengths.
My favorite scene from Louie is the poker game from the first season. That short film is clearly trying to have a sensible, honest conversation about the ethics of Louis C.K.’s use of the word “faggot” onstage—which is poignant even in light of Nick DiPaolo’s miserable line delivery. Workaholics’ approach to the whole array of gay jokes is just trying to rack up a bunch of sight gags and one-liners to make jokes as the trio’s admiration for Ram and Samson turns to discomfort as they become entrenched in their extended getaway at the house. Look, I’m not trying to say that Louie and Workaholics operate on the same plane or are intended to serve the same audience or anything like that—but there’s a difference between being slack with tone or structure and being irresponsible with regard to content. It’s a reductive depiction of homosexuality despite the “be true to yourself” ending for Ram and Samson as they lift the 1,000-pound cross and kiss underneath it. Their supporting arc, leading to their departure to start a cupcake shop in Vermont, is fine, but the trio’s immature reactions are the problem.
Adam is racking up quite the streak at the bottom of the Workaholics power rankings right now. He’s the most oblivious to Ram and Samson’s homosexuality. When he catches them about to shower together, he says they’re conserving water, and when they lie to themselves about going through a gay phase in order to get their jobs back, Adam is quick to jump on board that explanation, because “dudes with giant muscles are never gay.” Anders keeps trying to commodify their emerging sexuality into a business venture of his own. Blake is just uncomfortable with the sounds of gay sex, but vehemently voices his approval of Ram and Samson’s consummated relationship.
As is the case with most episodes of Workaholics, the show is making fun of Adam’s pathetic denial and humiliating public displays of weakness, but it’s just not that funny to watch. It doesn’t go beyond mocking the trio for their discomfort and narrow-mindedness, to the point where it’s just one relentless tone of joke through to the end. They represent the people who say they’re “super-comfortable” with homosexuality but still treat gay people as repellent, not unlike Nick DiPaolo’s “character” in that Louie scene. And like DiPaolo, despite the guys’ pleas of unity, their baser reactions betray latent ignorance. Workaholics doesn’t have a responsibility to depict a complex examination of a social issue like this, but when it goes after easy jokes and settle for a lazy and annoying tone, it spoils the funnier material.
- There are individual moments throughout “The Lord’s Force” that are still very funny, but the overall theme and subject matter of the episode informed the grade this week.
- Yes, that is Tim Heidecker as the ringleader of The Lord's Force. He gets some funny and angry reactions, but not much in the way of great dialogue.
- When the trio is disturbed by a suicide video on the Internet, Anders’ solution is to find twerkin' videos to change gears.
- These guys throw big parties with a lot of people, get blasted drunk and smoke all the time—and Anders has never smoked a cigarette? They dropped acid, that oversight is just ridiculous.
- Anders saw Tony Shalhoub at the airport and didn’t mention Monk once… just Wings.
- Funniest line of the night somehow still goes to Adam, for his declaration that he’s “a straight man who’s had sex with over FIVE WOMEN.”