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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt /inails the mockumentary format with Party Monster
Photo: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
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In the age of Documentary Now!—which is often perfect in its send up of various doc styles and subjects—pulling off a documentary parody is an ambitious move. But Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt doesn’t just pull off its true crime documentary parody; it turns in one of its best episodes of all time in its departure from its usual narrative structure, creating something wildly funny, smart, and unpredictable. “Queen Of Jordan” remains one of the top episodes of 30 Rock, and this is Kimmy Schmidt’s “Queen Of Jordan,” a parody so thorough and detailed in its humor that it’s almost hard to keep up with the rapidfire jokes.


A big part of what makes “Party Monster: Scratching The Surface” work so well is also what made “Queen Of Jordan” work: It comes at a time when the show has so thoroughly established its comedic voice. “Party Monster” couldn’t work in the first couple of seasons, because the show’s main characters are transformed into side players. Even though the episode ends up weaving in their stories and touching on events that we already know about, the narrative perspective switches to that of DJ Fingablast and we get a whole new comedic lens through which to tell the story of the bunker and Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne.


“Party Monster” starts out as being the story of DJ Fingablast trying to find the perfect DJ for his own wedding to Hello Hadid, a third Hadid sister. But when his journey leads him to his first hero DJ Slizzard a.k.a. the reverend, it turns into a true crime doc about Fingablast trying to prove the reverend’s innocence. The documentary often takes a sharp turn or wanders down a tangent to great comedic effect, like when Fingablast wonders if he’s skipping rocks incorrectly and then ends up going to the estate (called Rockswater) of a professional stone skipper.

Absurd stock footage starring none other than Titus Andromedon makes for hilarious visual comedy and folds some familiarity into this new world. Previously unseen footage from the day Kimmy and the other mole women were rescued brings more familiar characters into the doc’s world. They also introduce the reverand’s then-girlfriend Tabby Bobatti, played by Aidy Bryant. Even the auto-tuned man from the theme song shows up.


There’s brilliance in the details of “Party Monster.” It’s the kind of episode that can and should be watched multiple times just to catch all the background jokes and sight gags. Hello Hadid, for example, is an ad partner with the U.S. Mint (or, as the doc’s description calls her, a “U.S. Mint spokesbabe”). “Women Freed, Have No Idea Who Ke$ha Is” reads one chyron under the news report from the mole women rescue. Another notes that Tabby Bobatti saw the women but was told they were Victorian ghosts. No opportunity for a joke is missed; even stock footage of an airplane becomes a two-part bit.

And as usual, the visual and directing details brilliantly define this episode with a clear look and feel. Derek Klena’s performance as DJ Fingablast is pitch-perfect, and the costuming for his character is great, too. He looks like a white boy DJ. These little details work with the show’s more over-the-top aspects to create something that’s absurd and grounded at the same time.


Bless this show for realizing the full comedic potential of Jon Hamm. The faces he makes at the camera alone are Emmy-worthy. Every time he has appeared on the show as the reverend has been outstanding, and this is no exception. He brings such a specific cringiness to the character and holds nothing back, his delivery spot-on. The seamless use of real footage from the time Hamm appeared on a dating show in the 1990s is the cherry on top.

Bobby Moynihan as men’s rights “activist” Fran Dodd is also so good, and the show is deliberate in its connection between violent misogyny and actual things that Trump has said. Yes, Fingablast is portrayed as an idiot, but “Party Monster” is actually smart in the way it shows just how easy it is for men to become radicalized just because a woman rejected them. Fingablast goes from trying to prove the reverend didn’t do it to trying to prove that what he did shouldn’t be illegal in the first place. It’s a scary switch, and “Party Monster” makes it happen in a way that’s both believable and still within the highly specific, over-the-top comedic voice of the documentary.


“Party Monster” feels a bit like Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping meets Documentary Now!—but Kimmy-fied. It stands on its own, using the show’s established sense of humor and mapping it onto something new. The direction, writing, editing, and acting are all incredibly strong, working together to make something that’s instantly rewatchable, fun, and still somewhat grounded in reality in its horrific portrayal of misogyny.

Stray observations

  • This episode really is a spectacular feat of great editing. Bravo to all the editors and everyone involved in the technical side of making this episode.
  • When Fran Dodd is looking for the reverend’s file, he skips over “VOLDEMORT, LORD.”
  • Hello Hadid’s Instagram handle is @youhadidmeathello.
  • Fran Dodd is the CF-Bro of The Innocence Broject.
  • The entire proposal scene is hilarious, and then that moment where Fingablast freezes while looking out the window contemplatively is too good.
  • Honestly, there are too many good jokes to simply list here so just hit me with your favorites and anything you think people may have missed in the comments.

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