Before last night I’d never heard of comedian Adam Conover. I’d never knowingly switched to truTV before either. But while channel surfing, the show title Adam Ruins Everything piqued my curiosity, and I was promptly rewarded by a snarky and smart bit of infotainment.
I know that word. But it’s hard to know what else to call Conover’s unique blend of scripted comedy bits and bits of exhaustively researched information, born from his CollegeHumor videos. In “Giving,” this abrasive know-it-all tears into the scam that is diamond engagement rings, Tom’s BOGO shoes, and most charity drives in general. And he does it all to the chagrin of a convenient character, in this instance a recently engaged schoolteacher (Emily Axford) who’s excitedly preparing for her students’ canned food drive.
As Conover cites statistics, literally wheels out experts (on a cart), and offers up a wide array of playful visual aids from claymation to jaunty re-enactments, his once blissfully ignorant co-star groans with dismay as her prized delusions are pulled away. But I like my engagement ring. Buying Tom’s makes me feel like I’m a good person. Canned food drives bring communities together. All understandable emotions. But they’re all founded on a bunch of bunk.
Adam Ruins Everything is the next generation of Penn & Teller: Bullshit, taking no prisoners as it eviscerates sacred cows, popular misconceptions and urban myths with a surgeon’s precision and a stand-up’s biting wit. It’s not all easy to hear. But when you know for a fact that giving money is by far the most effective form of charity, that’s news you can use. It turns out a bunch of your donated canned food gets trashed, and food banks can buy more with that $1 you could have donated than you managed, giving instead some sodium-saturated soup.
The show moves briskly, unspooling its arguments within a rapid-fire banter. Then, before cutting to commercial, there’s always a teaser: stay tuned to find out why Tom’s aren’t as good for the world as you think! And yeah, it works. By my count the only thing that doesn’t is the mounting frustration of Conover’s with-in-the-show audience. The other casted characters (a baby-bjorn sporting dad, a defensive french fry muncher, a flustered fiance) bellow, bark and call him “abrasive” throughout. But this rational-loving but socially-disastrous comedian isn’t nearly as insufferable as this tedious bit. The show is called Adam Ruins Everything. The at-home audience knows—or at least suspects—what we’re in for. Just give it to us without apolofy. Besides, it’s not like every episode can end with him being tossed out on his ear like a can of rejected cream corn, right?
Adam Ruins Everything airs on truTV Tuesdays at 10PM.
Kristy Puchko has fallen down a Youtube hole of Adam Ruins Everything videos. Don’t send help.)