I recently got the chance to watch the first two episodes of new recorded IFC sketch show The Birthday Boys starring, of course, The Birthday Boys. For those not familiar, The Birthday Boys are a sketch group based out of Los Angeles. You can read about them in this previous article.
Watching The Birthday Boys sketch show it immediately struck me that they have tapped into what I consider to be a primary issue in modern sketch shows; they recognize the attention span of the YouTube generation. This is an area where larger shows, such as Saturday Night Live, have not caught onto yet and tend to stretch out a premise beyond when it was funny. The Birthday Boys are able to take a sketch and present it in a very succinct manner and quickly move on to the next sketch. It’s a very welcome change of pace that serves the show well. If there does happen to be a sketch that you don’t care for it’s only a matter of moments before we’re on to the next one. The first episode alone had 12 different scenes while the second had 9 scenes; all within a 21 minute time span.
The general format of the show follows a reoccurring sketch throughout the episode with independent sketches throughout the rest of the episode (although some sketches may show up a couple of times). Again, The Birthday Boys manage to provide reoccurring sketches throughout without every wearing out the premise or making you tired of seeing it; a very hard task to accomplish in sketch comedy. The comedy itself clearly has an influence from groups like Kids in the Hall and Monty Python and to some extent Mr. Show (which is not too surprising considering Bob Odenkirk produces the show and appears throughout each episode); there is a general feeling of silliness and absurdity on the surface but you can sense the intelligence that is hiding underneath. You can see in the sketches that there is a level of critique of culture; especially those things that are so readily accepted by most people or what would be considered mainstream (e.g. – popular food, hit TV shows, etc), but the childlike manner in which topics are presented never make it feel like it’s “in your face” or preachy. It’s just an enjoyable time.
For those familiar with their sketches, you will not be disappointed. It seems clear that they are retaining their voice and it serves them well. The only noticeable differences are generally positive and fall in to the area of production value. They are better able to achieve cinematography levels they hadn’t been able to before but now with a larger film crew and the backing of IFC they are able to achieve a look they likely were aiming for in the first place. I really don’t want to giveaway too much of their shows but here is a very brief outline of the episodes:
Episode 1: “Paychecks” – The primary reoccurring sketch of this episode focuses on a parody of the movie “Jobs” and the great achievements reached in the Garages of Silicone Valley. This plays out well and eventually touches on what people will accept as the “next big thing” that they absolutely need. Some of my favorite sketches involve a man who became too enthralled with the movie “Hope Floats” and a sketch in which The Birthday Boys lampoon themselves, mock the quality of their own show and display their views on money vs. artistic integrity which is reminiscent of their over-celebratory online sketch “Ham Hat”
Episode 2: “Goofy Roofers” – primary reoccurring sketch of this episode is about a group of actually roofers who are funnier that anything on TV so, of course, they get a TV show of their own. Again, there is an undercurrent of mocking mainstream. This is especially great in a sketch “3 Things Wrong with America” which plays as a parody of mainstream anti-establishment platitudes. It works very well. This episode also features a well-placed supporting role by French Stewart (I believe I also saw cameos by Nasim Pedrad and Laraine Newman, both of SNL lineage).
Overall, it’s a fun show. The fast pace keeps your attention and the show just seems to fly by. The show never gets preachy or tries to push anything on you too aggressively which I think will make it more accessible to a general audience as well as fans of comedy. I would highly recommend that you give this show a chance and would also recommend that you give it at least the first two episodes. While the first episode is a great stand alone it should be noted that it was the pilot and submitted to IFC. Once the show got picked up it appears (to me anyways) that IFC was willing to spend more money and as a result the second episode appears slightly more polished.
The Birthday Boys premieres this Friday, October 18 at 10:30PM. Make sure to catch it or set your DVR today!