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STUDIO: MTV Home Entertainment
RATED: UNRATED (UNCENSORED)
RUNNING TIME: 160 Minutes
– Best of Human Giant 24 Hour Marathon
– Over 90 Minutes of Deleted Scenes and Improv
– Unaired Shutterbugs and Illusionators Sketches
– Commentary featuring the cast and special guests
– Early Live Footage
– Sneak Previews of New Sketches from Human Giant Season 2
Comedy mostly free of the tired pop culture referencing and slavish devotion to current events that makes other sketch shows such failblazers in the medium.
Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer and a slew of comedy ringers in each episode.
Human Giant is a comedy sketch show that airs on MTV starring the talented trio of Rob Huebel, Aziz Ansari and Paul Scheer. It’s a bonafide chuckle factory where the only occupational hazard you have to worry about is lafflung.
The field of televised sketch comedy has been a little bare in recent years; the field has looked a little post-apocalyptic in the absence of such troupes as The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, The State, Upright Citizens Brigade, etc. Granted, comedy on television has flourished in its absence, with some of the greatest televised comedy coming from these veterans of sketch comedy getting the call-up from AAA to the big leagues (Stella*, Arrested Development, Newsradio) that are sitcoms, but it definitely left a void that that the MADTV’s and SNL’s of the world don’t really exist to fill, quite honestly. So it’s refreshing to have some new voices finally show up on the comedy landscape in the late oughts and rejuvenate the television sketch show: programs like VH1’s short-lived Acceptable.TV, Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job, The Whitest Kids U’ Know and this, maybe the crown jewel of the spate of new sketch comedy, MTV’s Human Giant.
Human Giant is perhaps the perfect sketch comedy show for our Youtube culture: the sketches are almost uniformly short, they all have that shoestring budget DIY vibe (the hilarious special effect fireballs and lasers constantly seen throughout only endear the show to you more) of friends making comedy as a lark, and there’s a refreshing lack of censorship in terms of ideas that gives the feeling that these guys are being given the keys to the castle and are allowed to get as ridiculous as they please. Perhaps the most welcome wrinkle to the sketch comedy landscape is one that’s carried over from the much-lamented, short-lived VH1 comedy show Acceptable.TV, and that’s the idea of serialized storytelling in a sketch comedy format. This isn’t surprising, as Aziz and Rob’s “Shutterbugs” serial had its beginning on the Channel 101 East Coast offshoot, Channel 102. Instead of having fan favorite characters peddled out on a weekly basis to rehash the same tired shtick to increasingly diminishing returns, by placing these characters in a storyline that develops and changes with time allows for the audience to continue to enjoy the comedic qualities that made these characters great from the beginning without it feeling completely worn down by their third appearance (The Illusionators sketches teeter on the precipice of rehash, but the situations are so consistently different that I feel they overcome that). It also adds the benefit of continuing storylines in the sense that it’s more involving for the viewer, allowing for a little more of an emotional connection than one usually gets with a one and done sketch.
Scheer, Huebel and Ansari are a formidable comedy trio, and one can imagine the show growing bigger and better with time as they become even more comfortable working together. There’s a refreshing interchangeable quality to their performances, not in that they’re all of indiscernible quality, but that all three are versatile and talented enough to slip into each other’s roles. There are no predefined comedy stereotypes for these guys to fill out (The zany fat one! The wacky ethnic one! The Jewish leper!), which makes it all the more entertaining to see their comedic talent expand with every episode as you see them play a different kind of character, their range slowly being fully realized over the duration of the season. It’s also encouraging for future seasons that the series doesn’t peter out as it moves along, as many sketch shows start out strong with the material they’ve developed before having a television show to peddle their yuks on and start to falter as they come up with enough stuff to fill out an entire season. No such lag here, as the series is reasonably consistent throughout, giving high hopes that their second season will continue on the meteoric rise of their first. And perhaps more in the way of Bobb’e J, the most spectacular comedy find of the new century. Definitely recommended for fans of sketch comedy, and just about anyone else who enjoys laughter.
The future of comedy, Bobb’e J.
The cover art is fine and actually has implications towards the sketch group’s name, which is otherwise terrain left introverted. This thing is loaded to the hilt with extras, so fans of the show can be prepared to spend many hours wading through the considerable bonus material included. The season is entirely contained on the first disc, and each episode has multiple audio commentaries, one usually consisting of just the Human Giant trio (with guests) and the other also MC’d by SNL mainstay Bill Hader and Flight of the Conchords ingénue Kristen Schaal. These commentaries are standard issue for sketch comedy, some characters show up to do work with varying results, and the cacophony of comedy talent sometimes results in a chaotic commentary and sometimes can end up sublimely funny, almost as good as the episodes themselves. The second disc is host to all of the special features, and it’s a really nice lineup: the most substantial on the disc is a Best-Of recap of the 24-Hour Marathon that started Human Giant’s run on MTV where they had free reign over the network for an entire day’s worth of programming. The results aren’t exactly good, but it’s genuinely entertaining to see the lunatics running the asylum and using their time to have their friends and peers do hastily assembled bits for the audience (personal favorites in this best of being the bizarre Michael Cera/John Krasinski interlude and the increasingly funny speed eating demonstration) regardless of if it’s necessarily tight and successful on a comedic level.
There’s a host of deleted and improved material for each episode, some of which is simply little shaves here and there, but a lot of it is pretty funny and could’ve been left in if the show was allowed to have a constantly fluctuating running time. Also included are some unaired Shutterbugs and Illusionator sketches that are more early dry runs than anything else, which are intermittently funny, though not as strong as the finished product that appears in the episodes. Also on board is some early live footage of their work on stage, showing the seeds from which this beautiful comedy geranium has grown as well as a couple of preview sketches from their (now airing) second season. Lots of funny extra stuff here and it’s a treasure chest for fans of the show, and might even convert those on the fence about the program. A really solid DVD package for a show that hopefully has even better days ahead of it.
8.7 out of 10
*I suppose it could be argued that this isn’t technically different from their sketch comedy personae, but let’s include it for the sake of argument.