This week’s series isn’t new. It’s not cutting edge or avant-garde. It doesn’t star two young comedic upstarts just beginning to make their ways onto the scene.
Six years ago, it was all of these things.
Since 2005, “Shutterbugs” writers and stars, Aziz Ansari and Rob Huebel have taken their respective comedic brands forth, from the web’s tiny screen to MTV sketch show Human Giant (where “Shutterbugs” made the transition to TV), NBC and Cartoon Network hit sitcoms, and wide-release feature films. And, so what? So, they’re famous and good and funny. So, what’s the point of writing about them or a series that’s a grandparent to the just-now-super-popular web series movement? The point, is twofold.
Besides being hilarious, “Shutterbugs” is the best sort of time capsule — one filled not with misspelled love notes to sixth grade crushes, a crumpled up one-dollar bill, and an opened bag of Skittles, but with a brilliant reminder that comedy is an art form unlike any other.
First, “Shutterbugs” has tremendous staying power. A Channel 101 series about self-important talent agents for child actors, ‘bugs boasts very little flash and no major (at the time) celebrity appearances. Still, it stands up against the best contemporary content on the web. Aziz and Huebel show us that while deadpan, mockumentary-style hijinks have enjoyed a renaissance over the past half-decade, fast-talkers yelling profanities and knocking shit over will never not be funny. “Shutterbugs’” timelessness is common in well-conceived, well-executed comedies that often live on as far more than campy tributes to yesteryear (different from action flicks with outdated special effects, screened along with debilitating Sunday afternoon hangovers and sub-whole attention spans). But dramas have staying power too, don’t they? Well, yes. They do.
What dramas don’t usually have are stars that use web series to jumpstart rocket-fast trajectories like Ansari’s and Huebel’s. While both are talented, there’s more to their fame equation than innate ability. They were smart to pick comedy, an everyman’s game. If you make people laugh, and have the wherewithal to produce and publicize a web series showcasing your talents, you got a damn good shot at getting noticed. If you’re a serious, method actor, it’s just harder. No matter how good you are, not many people are going to sit and watch seven minutes of crying in the rain, or gritty, intravenous drug use that’s a commentary on a commentary about a commentary on a commentary.
Humor gets around. Really good humor gets around fast. Ansari and Huebel’s “Shutterbugs” should be noted for its relevance and celebrated for its creators’ then-innovative use of web video to make big names for themselves in a field that rewards bootstrapping.
Reasons to check out “Shutterbugs”? Here ya go:
Business premises are awesome for a lot of reasons. They set up plots quickly and create broadly relatable scenarios, even if audience members aren’t actually familiar with the profession at hand. Working is something everyone gets and the conflict born out of even the most ridiculous job-related scenarios is reliably funny.
Will Ferrell is the king of the foul-mouthed flip outs and we love him for it. “Shutterbugs” reminds us that the technique gives legs to performances other than Ron Burgundy’s. In fact, this whole episode is very reminiscent of Ferrell’s famed “The Landlord” sketch (and two years its senior).
Though Ansari and Huebel probably could’ve carried the series on their jokiness alone, “Shutterbugs’” pint-sized-talent provides strong counterparts for the two madman agents and makes the whole series feel as real as perfectly over the top absurdity can.
Luke Kelly-Clyne is a writer, etc. living in New York City.