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May 23, 2008 | Comments ()


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He Blowed Up Good! He Blowed Up Real Good!

"Human Giant" : The Boozehound Cinephile / Ted Boynton

Boozehound Cinephile | May 23, 2008 | Comments ()


Pop culture item consumed: Season One of “Human Giant,” the fantastic sketch comedy program single-handedly dragging MTV back to some modicum of relevance. “Human Giant” just completed its brilliant second season in April, and having recorded the Tivo’ed first season on to DVDs — man, I hope that’s illegal — I went back to get another fix.

Beverage consumed: Margaritas, apropos of nothing. The margarita, a pantheon cocktail, is one of my favorite drinks, and there’s no need to wait for Mexican food or Cinco de Mayo. Not only is it easy to make, not only can it be drunk with spicy food, not only does it pack a stealthy velvet stroke of the ‘nads … the margarita contains your RDA of Vitamin C and can be adjusted to anyone’s tolerance for a tequila punch in the nose.

Ted’s Perfect Margarita consists of three parts top shelf tequila, two parts fresh lime juice, one part triple sec, and … critical moment here … agave nectar to taste, but just a bit less than the lime juice. Stir well, pour over ample ice, garnish with a slice of lime if desired, and drink up. Agave nectar is readily obtainable at good markets such as Whole Foods and Molly Stone, as well as many liquor stores. One could use bar syrup, I suppose … in the same way one could forego the “turkey” on Thanksgiving and just eat hacked-up orphans.

In that vein, I hope I don’t need to advise faithful readers that “margarita mix,” “sweet and sour mix,” or any other ostensible make-ahead margarita elements are verboten. (That’s Mexican for “white trash.”) This is an easy drink. Squeezing a few limes is the only labor involved other than unscrewing bottles and pouring liquid, and limes are typically weak and cooperative.

Drinking Advice of the Week: A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a glass-and-shaker cocktail mixer, which is just a pint glass and metal shaker like you see in any good bar. Typically the bartender mixes the ingredients in the glass, slaps the shaker on top, shakes up the contents, then strains out the cocktail by slightly parting them at the bottom.

Our local sassy-slinger uses this set-up, and I had already taken to calling her “One Girl, Two Cups,” which Mrs. socalled thinks is a tit joke, having not the foggiest idea what “Two Girls, One Cup” is. As much as I’d love to see a 2G1C reaction video of my blushing bride, I’m a firm believer in the physical continuity between my testicles and torso. Anyways, I bought a glass and shaker, tried it a couple of times, and concluded I liked my old Cary Grant shaker better.

The exercise taught me a critical lesson, however, which some of you probably already know — there’s no need to use a shot measure or jigger (“jigger”: dude, that’s so racist) for mixing a single or double cocktail. The glass part of my mixer combo has ounce markers all the way up the side, so for any drink for which I know the recipe, i.e., “all of them,” I don’t need no stinkin’ shot glass. Pour by parts straight from the bottle, add ice or don’t, shake or stir as needed, and serve. With the margarita, for example, I simply squeeze in two ounces of fresh lime juice, followed by three ounces of tequila, an ounce of triple sec, and a hair less than two ounces of agave nectar, then stir and serve on the rocks. God. Damn. That is some good margarita.

Summary of action:My on-again, off-again relationship with sketch comedy continues with “Human Giant,” a fresh, bracing sketch show with a decided lack of regard for human life and a strong tilt toward anarchy. Once in a great while, I stumble on a sketch comedy series that completely blows me away. In 1994, only six years late, I surfed into “The Kids in the Hall” on the still-struggling Comedy Central network. Fresh off my regular diet of Phil Hartman-Mike Myers-Dana Carvey era “Saturday Night Live,” KITH hit me hard with one of those defining “I’ve-never-seen-anything-like-this” realizations. That same year, a friend introduced me to “The State,” which likewise appealed to a late-blooming sense of the absurd that SNL simply had never touched. This explains my abandonment of “SNL” for “SCTV” in 1981, though it would be a long time before I understood why “SCTV” was better.

Want some … pancakes?

It was a couple of years before I found love again, arriving late to the party, again, for “Mr. Show with Bob and David” on HBO. Since then, it’s been a parade of also-rans that couldn’t take me to that special place. Shows like “Upright Citizens Brigade” and “Stella” showed some promise but couldn’t achieve lift-off, though many viewers loved those programs. It’s probably reductive to note a common inspiration of all of these shows being Monty Python — really, is there any sketch comedy show that can deny Python as an influence? It’s a bit like saying that both Toyota and Chevy were influenced by Grok Bigstick’s invention of The Wheel.

At any rate, the heavily subjective nature of comedy makes it notoriously difficult to describe why a particular program or performer is so wonderful. Sometimes the right mix of clever smartasses comes together and bounces off each other in a certain way — lightning in a bottle, which is why it’s so difficult to re-create or imitate. “Human Giant” features sketch comedy elements that are predictable to any fan of the genre: recurring characters, riffs on pop culture, piercing cameos by edgy comedians; but every worthwhile evolutionary step in the progression brings its own specific sensibility to the medium, and “Human Giant” shows a distinctive edge I haven’t seen anywhere else.

“Human Giant” features three primary performers, Rob Huebel, Aziz Ansari, and Paul Scheer, in a host of fast-and-furious skits generally revolving around absurdist humor. Some of the pieces are borderline disturbing while at the same time brilliantly funny, such as an early sketch where Rob and Paul repeatedly run over Aziz with a car so that Aziz can score the last ticket — a disabled access seat — to the Ghostface Killah show. Other bits are strangely sweet, like another early sketch in which a petite mother works as a furniture mover, first dropping each heavy piece of furniture on her child so that the resulting adrenaline-fueled superstrength of urban legend allows her to lift the furniture with ease. Other sketches simply display a brazen sense of jumping out into open space with a parachute made out of a bedsheet and some yarn. In one such piece, the three principals play “Spacelords,” General Zod knockoffs who land on Earth only to mistakenly end up working at a fast food restaurant, where one of them falls in love with Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe from “24”). The bit is grounded in nothing other than an adolescent’s smartass vision of what would happen if three all-powerful space conquerors wandered into a Whattaburger in the Valley.

“Human Giant” finds its stride, however, in its recurring pieces. Probably most representative of the show’s sensibilities is “Illusionators,” a repeating skit involving two David-Blaine level dipshits — laughably named John Satan and Scott Devil — whose painfully strained lounge act antics belie a series of remarkable feats of illusion. Equally original and clever, “Shutterbugs” follows two struggling talent agents in the high-profile, hard-scrabble business of managing child actors. “Shutterbugs” is epitomized by Season Two’s dramatic rise and fall of the talent agency’s leader during the casting and production of “Kiditentiary,” a reality program in which children are put in charge of a dangerous correctional facility, with disastrous results. The agency head, a jive-talking hustler played by an actual child actor, is one of the most gifted juvenile performers I’ve ever seen, and such supporting performances give an occasional jolt of energy just when “Human Giant” might let down. (One howlingly funny example: Will Arnett’s Season Two appearance playing himself in the making of a sex tape, involving paparazzi posing as the Olsen twins but relying only on paper masks on sticks to disguise themselves.)

If you enjoy KITH or “The State,” give “Human Giant” a try — 22 minutes is all they’ll need.

How well the pairing held up: Ted’s Perfect Margarita goes with anything fun, so these two hold up quite well together. Margaritas can be made by the pitcher, then sipped calmly over a period of hours, perfect for catching up on “South Park” or “The Colbert Report.”

Tastes like: Probably like a deep French kiss from Salma Hayek, if she had just drunk fresh-squeezed orange juice followed by a shot of tequila, then come at you with an ice cube in her mouth. I’m sorry, Julie, you seem to have stained yourself ….

Overall rating: Prepare yourself for a mind explosion. That’s a little Illusionators joke that no one gets, even though it’s ten time funnier — you’ll see! — than anything on SNL in the past fifteen years.

Next Week: The Zombie Apocalypse Kit! The Boyntons finally speak out about what’s hidden under the bed. (Hint: It has pump action and bears the code name Boomstick, yet is not a sex toy.)

Ted Boynton is a dedicated sot who would leave his barstool only to stalk Whit Stillman, if anyone could find Whit Stillman. Ted also manages to hold down a job and a wife, three hours each per day, whether they need it or not. Readers may scold, hector, admonish or taunt Ted by e-mailing him at thecarygrantrules@hotmail.com.




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