A lot is “funny” to me. But there’s one particular kind of funny I can’t shake. One flat-line, single-cam, straight-faced, deadpan, mumblecore analog that makes my stomach feel like it’s falling down a roller coaster every time I see it. It’s this whole Galifianakas/Carell/Guest bouillabaisse, peppered with Garofalo and capped with a salty pinch of Rudd. It’s uncomfortable, it’s off-putting and messy and Ivy-League absurd — almost indie drama to the comically un-inclined. For me, it’s a perfect storm and what I masochistically hope every gathering I attend turns out to be: quietly frenetic, fraught with misunderstanding, and full of uneasy guests who came as friends of friends.
This week, my mind and fingers have been overtaken by this beast of self-indulgent disquiet. I’ve been wrestled into submission by its almost imperceptible hiccups of comedic splendor. My only hope is that my schoolboy comedy weakness might inspire your introduction to a masterfully underdone and completely hilarious series.
Adam Nee (Dawson’s Creek, Sex and the City) and Ryan Judd’s (Veronica Mars) five-episode Clark Kent Has a Dream follows a poorly disguised and mentally unstable Clark Kent/Superman (Nee) after he decides to stop fighting crime to concentrate on writing his novel. Flanked by an equally maladjusted Jimmy Olsen (Judd), a nihilistic Lois Lane, and a band of classic superheroes portrayed as worn out, unprepared, and in need of a good Apatow-style dudes riff sesh, the series is an even-keeled lampoon on comic book machismo as much as it is a commentary (intentional or not) on comedy’s progression over the past decade.
Nee and Judd are two well-built, good-looking young guys, “bros” by all accounts. Instead of embracing that, turning their characters’ down-and-outness into a booze-soaked Stifler-esque high-fiving chick fest, they’ve gone completely against type, playing roles we associate with skinny (or fat), lovably hopeless underdogs. The result’s worth watching.
Per usual, here are three reasons to click-in. (I’m saying that as a “tune-in” play on words, I guess. Sorry.)
Clark Kent Has a Dream is, without a doubt, a one-note comedy. Main characters all have a similar kind of new-agey acerbic tenor. If Nee didn’t always wear a Superman costume, it actually wouldn’t be too hard to confuse him with Judd. In a full-length TV series, the shortage of authentic character foils might be a problem. In a web series, it allows Nee and Judd to showcase how adept they are at bringing to life a very entertaining and specific comedic brand.
Nee’s pulling tape off Jere Burns’s dispenser at 0:04. His incoherent response floating between 1:10 and 1:21. None of this stuff is ultra-jokey funny, and it’s classic. People who send text messages while they wait for big punchlines don’t catch these tiny moments — the essence of what make this project (and many others) worthwhile. The moral? Put down your goddamn iPhone and have some respect for tape dispenser gags.
Superheroes’ flailing along the neurotic path walked by mere mortals is funny in its own right, but it’s also reflective of “pathetic” humor’s power in redefining the stereotypical “cool guy.”