The Adult Swim Golf Classic, which debuted Friday night on Adult Swim and you can (and should) watch here, takes its time before golf is actually played. Instead, you get the sort of preamble you’d expect from an actual golf telecast: a soft-spoken introduction to the announcers and players. Comedian Jon Daly, who also wrote the thing and is best known as a writer/producer/actor on Kroll Show, stars as golfer John Daly, with Adam Scott playing Australian golfer Adam Scott. Yup, the fundamental premise is not that far away from Googling your own name only to learn that there is another [insert your name here] who is an actor with thick eyebrows or a communication professor at a large state university.
Still, The Adult Swim Golf Classic doesn’t really make much of their names, because it doesn’t make much of anything, instead understating everything it can — you know, like watching actual golf. To that point, after announcing the golfers, they don’t start playing golf. First, they want to give you a very gentle tour of the course, which is, in this case, Trump National Golf Club. Do they use this as an opportunity to poke fun at Trump? Of course not. Instead, the narrator shares very reasonable observations of the greens. “An avid surfer, Adam Scott must be enjoying his time on this south-facing coastline” is my favorite little line. Again, it’s not funny as much as it is accurate, setting a proper tone.
Finally, after over four minutes, Scott hits his first drive. They don’t show where it goes, but the announcers say golf announcer things like, “That’s a wonderful start, is it not?” Then Daly hits his first drive and one announcer says, “I just wonder if that’s going to clear the ravine … and indeed it did. So we’re off.” Slowly, especially after they start putting, the joke of the special reveals itself: They are bad at golf!
Before they actually swung, I expected one of two types jokes:
1. Using camera tricks, they are both going to be incredible at golf.
2. The actors play comedically horribly, like hitting the ball the wrong way or “accidentally” hitting it 4 inches into the ground instead of up.
But what I loved about the special was that they weren’t that bad. Daly and Scott, who obviously have played golf before, were actually trying their best, but because golf is stupidly difficult, it doesn’t go well. Much of the comedy comes from the commenters earnestly reacting to each bad shot, as if done by real professional golfer. It’s all quite subtle and, in its way, very pleasant.
I’m always nervous when watching Adult Swim that at any moment a character is going to violently vomit or start bleeding from the eyes or fly to space on a unicorn, and it’s that context that makes Golf Classic so enjoyable. There are little moments of absurdity — Scott reads a green by lying down on it; Daly throws his club into the water and then goes after it — but for the most part, things don’t escalate. Even as tensions rise — as they continue to play worse — the guys remain cordial, eventually agreeing to get dinner afterward.
Almost four years ago, Jon Daly created a website called jondalyisjohndaly.com, filled with pictures of him dressed as John Daly, with the hope of merging their Google Image search results. It was a very weird, very irreverent project. Thinking it was fun in its dumbness, I emailed it to my brother, who works in the golf industry. He hated it, replying that it was “very stupid.” The Adult Swim Golf Classic is different; it was created out of reverence. Daly told Splitsider in a recent interview:
“My dad was obsessed with golf and I would watch golf with him on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. It was constantly on — I was constantly taking naps, fully asleep to the whispery, weird sounds of golf. So I would say I’ve been obsessed with the aesthetic of televised golf more so than the actual game of golf, which I am absolutely terrible at, as you’ll see in the special.”
The Adult Swim Golf Classic is not a golf parody; it’s a homage to the sport as rendered on TV. You don’t have to have watched much golf to enjoy the special, as the jokey moments are very funny regardless, but either way you will enjoy the televised golf pace. After I watched it, I emailed a link to that same brother. Again, he might call it very stupid, as it is very stupid — wonderfully so. But I don’t think he’ll hate it.