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Tribeca Review: Ilana Glazer's 'Time Traveling Bong' Is Bonkers And A Bit Brilliant

By Kristy Puchko | TV | April 19, 2016 |

By Kristy Puchko | TV | April 19, 2016 |

Forget about the moral quandary of killing baby Hitler. The Comedy Central mini-series Time Traveling Bong has a new twist on this time travel trope: Would you kidnap a young Michael Jackson?

Just imagine—as cousins Sharee and Jeff (Broad City’s Ilana Glazer and Paul Downs) do—what the world might be like if the future King of Pop were snatched away from his abusive Poppa Joe. Imagine the hundreds of children who’d go unmolested, “allegedly.” You’d have to do it, right? You’d have to raise little Michael Jackson as your own, encourage his talent and teach him to love his face just as it is, and that it’s wrong to take little boys out of their homes—oh shit.

Created by Glazer, Downs and Broad City director Lucia Aniello, Time Traveling Bong dives into a string of deliciously demented misadventures, mixing elements of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future and Quantum Leap together into a sticky stoner comedy delight. The Michael Jackson stuff is just one of the cousins’ clusterfucks in time and space. They also drop in on pre-witch trials Salem, the cotton fields of the pre-Civil War south, and a neanderthal orgy. Along the way, they learn the dangers of blithely messing with the butterfly effect, and discover their own inner strength, but in some of the seediest ways possible.

The concept is devotedly dumb with Glazer and Downs playing two Jersey stoners who bicker over Sharee’s gross married boyfriend (who sports a telling “All Lives Matter” t-shirt) and Jeff’s habit of jizzing all over her laptop, junking up its circuits to uselessness. But then, a strange twist of fate puts them in possession of the titular water pipe. But when it gets busted in their second trip, they are like Dr. Sam Beckett, lost in time, “striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that [their] next leap will be the leap home.” Yet this potentially tender topic never gets sentimental, as Time Traveling Bong is rich with gross-out gags, loony humor and startling social satire.

The audience at the Tribeca Film Festival’s premiere of the three episode mini-series roared with laughter with each new pot-fueled leap in time. It became increasingly clear stoners are not the folks you want with such power. They’ll pull people out of their times and homes, proclaim themselves “white saviors” and then promptly fail that cringe-worthy cliche, shrewdly mocking its entitled intentions. Similarly, the script skewers rape culture, leaping from one time where Sharee’s very existence makes her the target of a literal witch trial (“the balls of Beezlebub have danced on her chin!”), to a savage surrounding that throws Jeff into a flipped scenario, where he shouts, “Do you have any idea how it feels to fear you could be overpowered? You know I heard it as it was coming out of my mouth.”

In the post-screening Q&A, Glazer shied away from declaring the mini-series has a message, saying, “I think we can all agree that history is mostly shitty.” But there’s plenty of lampooning of modern knuckleheadedness to be found, from American exceptionalism (“I’m an American citizen, I’m not an idiot.”) to female beauty standards, slut shaming, and white privilege. But remarkably, all this is presented in a wonderfully ludicrous wrapper that allows its harsh truths to go down fairly smooth.

Now it’s not as composed or grounded as Broad City. Instead, it’s its own bawdy, bonkers beast. But this outlandish mini-series is much smarter than its stars would lead you to believe. Which is to say Time Traveling Bong is really fucking funny. Hell, it’s probably the funniest stoner mini-series television has ever seen.

Time Traveling Bong premieres on Comedy Central on 4/20. Get it?

Kristy Puchko knows better than to go with a stoner to a second location.