Apologies in advance for this stoner line of inquiry, but what kind of music would vampires be into, anyway? Most peoples’ tastes have crystallized by the time they hit their mid-40s — what about your mid-400s? Wouldn’t that make classical string quartets (or medieval drum circles, or ragtime piano) the hottest acts on the vampire nightclub circuit, depending on the respective ages of their immortal clientele?
This is, of course, discounting the universal appeal of braggadocio. If white suburban teenagers can be enamored with rap lyrics about life on streets that have sidewalks, why not centuries-old vampires? They are well versed in the time-honored hip-hop tradition of talking shit. That’s particularly true of Nadja, whose half-affectionate, half-threatening sobriquets were especially saucy this week as she prepared for the opening night of her eponymous nightclub. Among the highlights: “You pussy bitch,” “Jack’s ass,” “Grundlewold, you fornicator!” and “You big fat mopey load.”
That one’s reserved for Laszlo, who’s preoccupied with his fatherly duties in one of “The Grand Opening’s” multiple subplots — more on those in a minute. First, we’ve got Nadja and the newly deferential Guide (she even calls Nadja “Mistress”) scrambling to persuade legendary vampire rap artist Richie Suck to break his decade-long silence with a performance for the dilettantes and Nosferatus, who turned out for the opening night of Staten Island’s hottest new vampire club.
It plays like an episode of Vinyl, only funny on purpose. After receiving a message that Richie Suck will not, in fact, be performing that night, Nadja and the Guide fly off to Richie’s lair to find that he’s having the creativity sucked out of him by a particularly insidious type of parasite: His aggressively milquetoast, overly controlling familiar-manager, Dr. Tom (Fred Armisen). (Speaking of, did anybody here see Elvis?) Naturally, Nadja and the Guide are familiar with the inner workings of the music world, given that it’s one of the more vampiric industries out there. They even say as much, noting that a familiar controlling their master is something that happens “not so much with vampires, but all the time in the music business.”
Letting an artiste follow their muse can also be risky, however, as Nadja — a bit of a Richie Suck fangirl, as it turns out — discovers when she pushes him out on stage with instructions to simply be himself. This works out fine at first, as Dr. Tom is thrown to a pack of hungry vampires drunk on blood and Coors Light (???), prompting chants of “Eat the bitch! Eat the bitch! Eat the bitch!” But then Richie decides to take his art somewhere so dark that neither the Insane Clown Posse nor Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye could imagine it in their sickest and most twisted fantasies … vampire observational comedy. Quelle horreur!
And “Did you ever notice …” types aren’t the only ones who get a good-natured lashing on this week’s episode. Jazz trios also get kicked around a little, but “The Grand Opening” saves its harshest criticism for a group that frankly has had it far too easy for far too long: musical-theater nerds. Despite Laszlo’s best efforts to turn nü-Colin into a man of culty-eur (which mostly seem to involve fucking off and letting Guillermo raise him), the boy — who’s growing at such a rate that he should be back to his adult form by the end of the season — is beginning to display an interest in what the ever tactful Laszlo refers to as “boring shit.”
This includes Legos, superheroes, droning on and on while prefacing every statement with “Guess what?” and — gasp! — musical theater, particularly the hyperwordy lyricism of the late Stephen Sondheim. That last one deeply disturbs Laszlo, who considers musical theater an evil and sinister force. (You can tell by the way his voice drops when he’s talking about it.) Once again, co-star Harvey Guillén shows his famous good nature by going along with the bit: Before breaking into TV comedy, Guillén studied musical theater and briefly performed Wicked in phonetic Japanese while working at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
Tying the whole thing together (to Nandor’s leg) is a bit of good old-fashioned dick humor as Nandor and Guillermo negotiate with the djinn over Nandor’s wish to have the world’s largest penis. As predicted, his relationship with Marwa is already on the rocks, mostly due to Nandor’s insecurity about measuring up to his bride’s intelligence, class, and perfect ass. And so, in typical male fashion, he’s concluded that physically measuring up is the only solution to his dilemma.
The djinn is ready for them, telling the show’s ostensible camera crew that penis enlargements make up 90% of his wish-fulfillment business. And the opportunities to monkey-paw the situation are indeed abundant, leading to a sequence where the trio gathers around a table in Nandor’s treasure room to hash out the specifics of proportionate balls and which animals Nandor would like to be able to crush with his new hog. The tongue-in-cheek tone of this subplot reminded me of the only good part of the Fifty Shades of Grey movies: The negotiation scene in the first film, where director Sam Taylor-Johnson briefly allowed the very silly dialogue to play as such — a big reason she was replaced for the sequels if you happen to be interested in the behind-the-scenes drama of light-BDSM romantic schlock.
No such issues in “The Grand Opening,” whose humor leans very much on the silly side. At times, the comedy became a bit repetitive, particularly the multiple “Who’s on first?” style jokes where the vampires took a comment overly literally. Nandor had two, first confusing Nadja’s “but” for references to his lovely wife’s “butt” and then mistaking “iron” for “irony.” The Guide also did a similar bit with Nadja’s “good cop/bad cop,” but the cleverest of these had to be this exchange between Guillermo and Laszlo: “Have you ever seen Rent?” “From you? Not a penny.”
Now, the sharp comedic instincts and great chemistry of the cast made this wordplay-fueled repetition less tedious than it could have been. But this week’s episode lacked the dense, history-fueled humor of last week’s episode, where Laszlo deployed his skills as a Freudian psychotherapist. Laszlo’s references to his childhood this week were a little thin by comparison, and I hope the show digs further into that chapter of his colorful life later in the season.
In the meantime, we can feast on the plethora of hilarious reaction shots as characters react to careless comments from the roommates, masters, and/or tangential annoyances in their lives. Nadja’s little “Well …” face when Nandor called Marwa “the perfect woman” early on in the episode was a highlight, as was Guillermo’s indignation at Nandor’s comment that thinking of him during sex was a boner killer.
In my season-premiere recap, I noted that following their dreams without alienating their loved ones would be a challenge for the characters this season. And thus far, well, they’ve done a pretty shit job. But they’re all too busy at the moment to let resentments fester — although we’ll see what happens once the dust settles at Nadja’s. Perhaps she and Laszlo can bond over becoming overbearing stage parents to nü-Colin, renting him out to vampire parties in need of a creepy and exploitative child act?
• Affion Crockett, who guest stars this week as Richie Suck, is another of those “Where have I seen this guy before?” type of actors. The answer could be Wild N’ Out, where he was a regular cast member on the first four seasons; any number of Marlon Wayans, Martin Lawrence, or Kevin Hart vehicles; or perhaps his own short-lived 2011 sketch comedy show on Fox, In the Flow with Affion Crockett.
• Richie Suck’s complete discography: Biting My Style, Sundown Funtown, Throat Juice, and Born 2 Suck.
• The Guide really said, “ACAB.”
• As I mentioned up top, this episode was all about the banter and reaction shots. But Matt Berry did reclaim his line-reading crown by spitting “What hath … the Dark Lord wrought” into his clenched fist.
• This was almost a three-and-a-half-star episode until this verse made me laugh harder than anything I’ve heard in months: “This one’s for my corpse fuckers, my bloodsuckers / drain a four-top at the Fuddrucker’s.”
• “It’s so disgusting. I love it.”