A really good comedy drug trip sequence can be startling in its visuals, or its revelations of character, or, ideally, both. I’m thinking about Homer’s vision quest after eating the merciless pepper of Quetzalacatenango (also known as the Guatemalan insanity pepper), or Roger Sterling’s LSD trip with Don as his mirror spirit guide on Mad Men, where the drug-induced distortions were used to delve into the characters’ psyches through the strikingly inventive deployment of the Russian national anthem in a vodka bottle, or a million-mustached Flanders. And then sometimes it’s just an excuse for 20 minutes of self-indulgent screwing around and screaming, which is ultimately all that the shrill and ugly “Peyote It Forward” amounts to.
It’s especially disappointing, as this season of Workaholics has done some unexpectedly thoughtful—and funny—exploration of what’s really going on at the heart Ders, Adam, and Blake’s perpetual, co-dependent adolescence. A good, old trip sequence seems an opportunity to take that insight even further, especially since—just going by context clues—the people behind the series are so well versed in the various methods of mind alteration. Unfortunately, the script to this one, credited to Kevin Etten, doesn’t provide much insight into the comedy drug trip cliché, nor does it serve to say much about the characters. What it does do is encourage the three leads to indulge in their broadest, least-endearing shticks while at the same time going dark in such a callous and half-assed way that it poisons the whole enterprise.
Things start out normal enough for the guys, hanging out on their roof, getting high, and discussing the stars, Joe Rogan, and other mysteries of the universe. That the guys are big Joe Rogan fans (joining Michael Scott) both makes sense and continues Workaholics’ uneasy balancing act with regard to “bro” comedy. Rogan’s macho onstage persona (I don’t know if Adam’s Rogan quote “If you get cancer from your cell phone, you’re a pussy” is real, but it sure sounds like it) is the sort of un-nuanced “guy comedy” Workaholics is accused of being (and sometimes is). But the show, while reveling in its loud, boorish humor, also continually deconstructs such humor by both having its juvenile protagonists think its hilarious, and by always hinting that Adam, Ders, and Blake aren’t, at heart, as sexist, homophobic, or mean-spirited as their comedy heroes would have them be. (When Adam casually dropped an Adam Carolla-style “women aren’t funny” a few episodes ago, the joke was clearly on Adam for being ignorant, while at the same time softened by the implication that Adam is just parroting some hacky comedian’s take without meaning what he’s saying.) That the guys quote Rogan as if he were the Dalai Lama throughout the episode is one of the funniest gags here, with Ders’ fury when Adam fakes a Rogan-ism being especially good (“Do not make up Joe Rogan quotes—that is not okay!”), their blind devotion to their standup guru’s every word of wisdom guiding them as they are ill-advisedly assigned to babysit a TelAmeriCorp client’s bratty kid so Alice can corral a big sale.
Oh, and Adam, acting as he imagines Rogan would want him to, doses (or “Bill Cosbys”) them all right before their big babysitting job. (“Why did you Joe Rogan us? If you’d Seth Rogen-ed us, that would’ve been fine!,” exclaims a horrified Blake.) Now, watching the guys tripping their brains out could have been a funny idea, but, while some of the visual effects are inventive (the shifting doorknob, perspective gag that turns the kid into a giant), most of their hallucinations are just long, uninventive excuses for Adam DeVine, Blake Anderson, and Anders Holm to do solo bits.
Again, this season has been largely dedicated to allowing us glimpses into the guys’ psyches, but there are only the merest hints that their individual hallucinations here have anything to do with insight. Ders speaks of wanting to be free, but spends the bulk of his time being bullied by the kid in the decrepit TelAmeriCorp gym wearing a silly bird costume and making squawking noises. Adam, having introduced the concept of parallel destinies he could have chosen (while super-stoned), gets to meet alternate versions of himself (cop, porn star, jazz trombonist), but apart from seeing the limitations of Adam’s vision of his potential, the sequence (set, appropriately, in the copy room) is just an excuse for DeVine to argue with himself in a variety of funny voices while his porn self constantly fondles his cartoonishly long, pixilated penis.
As for Blake, his encounter with an old man version of himself—calling back to a similarly stoned rumination on his ideal future—sounds promising, but, apart from an abrupt desire that Alice not think him irresponsible and stupid, the encounter doesn’t offer much beyond the fact that hallucination old guy Blake eventually married Jillian (and that she cheated on him with Bill).
When the guys reunite to find the kid and save Alice’s big sale, things get louder and more frantic without getting any funnier, the guys overcoming their fear of imaginary lava to track the boy to the warehouse, where the mass of mirrors Alice is trying to sell to the kid’s dad providing a return of their previous alternate selves. Here, too, the hallucinatory guys have nothing new to say before the guys smash their reflections (“You have no power over me!,” screams Ders, cathartically quoting Labyrinth). That the guys reject their doppelgangers is intended to reassert both the status quo and return to each other might be more affecting if it weren’t capped off by the client, assuming all the destruction was his son’s fault, didn’t start beating the terrified kid as the credits roll. It’s a cruel, ugly way to end the episode—the abrupt title card “Please, do not hit children—Hit bongs!” only reinforcing the shoddiness of the episode’s construction.
Workaholics can do drug humor well. It can do broad physical humor well. This season, it’s shown an unexpected gift for character comedy. But the show has a propensity for laziness that turns “Peyote It Forward” especially sour.
- “We can handle one little dude! When I was a lifeguard—okay that’s probably not the best example.”
- “We found this kid and he didn’t have a leash and we don’t know the last time he was let out to poop.”
- Adam, upon seeing his porn star self in pizza delivery guy porn mode: “If I would’ve delivered pizzas my dick would have been huge!”
- Adam: “It’s NBD because I do generous stuff fror my bros all the time.” Blake: “No you don’t. Actually, you’ve stolen from us a bunch of times.”
- Jillian’s attempt to entertain the kid with her worm farm is unsuccessful, despite the fact that she has concocted elaborate backstories for the worms.
- Since Blake practically demands that those unfamiliar with the term “chorg” (which future Blake insists ex-wife Jillian did to Bill in the parking lot) “Google it,” I dutifully did so. Thanks, Workaholics.