Last night was the series finale of Nick Kroll's Comedy Central series, Kroll Show. It was short but sweet—just three seasons of sketch comedy television parody. It took us into the alternate TV Universe of Nick Kroll's weird brand of comedy. It was a cable TV universe that is much like the one that exists in reality, but a whole hell of a lot more absurd. It was perfect and necessary, and it's a shame to see it go.
The A.V. Club has an excellent walk-through of the show, where Kroll describes the basic premise. The show was essentially a bunch of interconnecting TV series that parodied a lot of stuff you see on TV now. Each series within Kroll Show had a cast of characters, and each of those characters had potential to cross-over with other series, and get spin-offs of their own.
However, pay respect where respect is due. How many shows have you fallen in love with, only to fall out of love with because they droned on longer than they should have? I can think of a dozen. Weeds should have ended after three or four seasons. Dexter overstayed its welcome by several seasons. The world would have been fine without a resurgence of Arrested Development, and why is Family Guy still going?
It's the hard, but almost always better choice to end a show while its still good. Then it never has the chance to wither into a shadow of what it was, and spoil your memory of when it was actually good. So I'm sad that Kroll Show is over. But I'm also kind of glad, because it was great while it lasted.
Kroll Show had at least a dozen different recurring sketches, featuring some of Nick Kroll's long-standing characters. If you've seen any of his stand-up, specifically his 2011 Comedy Central special Thank You Very Cool, you might be familiar with quite a few of them. On the series, he played something like 15 characters. Maybe more. I made a list, and it's not finished because I keep thinking I have it all, until I remember Kroll was also Fabrice Fabrice and Nash Rickey and Ref Jeff and so on.
Some highlights, though. Bobby Bottleservice, a bro of a bro that was Jersey Shore before Jersey Shore became a low-brow cultural phenomenon and GTL'd all over our stupid lives.
He was Dr. Armond, the monotone dog plastic surgeon who maybe killed his wife.
He was Liz G., one half of PubLIZcity, the event-planning duo that seemed like it was plucked right off of Bravo.
He was also Bryan LaCroix, the swoop-haired rude (for Canada) Canadian pop star who was a clear riff on Justin Bieber. Here he is putting on a bad kid front in the song "Ottawanna Go To Bed":
He was Senor Feeture, basically a Pitbull/Flo Rida hybrid, who by the way appears on the remix of "Ottawanna Go To Bed."
Kroll's LaCroix is very Bieber, but he's also a little bit Drake in that he plays Mikey on the sketch Wheels Ontario, a backwards version of the long-standing Canadian teen show Degrassi. Remember how in Degrassi Drake played Jimmy, the kid in the wheelchair? Well in Wheels Ontario, all the kids are in wheelchairs. Except for Mikey, who all the kids disparagingly call Legs, because he can use them. That in and of itself is a pretty strong example of the level of absurdity Kroll Show could reach, and how often the sketches crossed over and spun off and defied expectations. Just throw 'em all in a blender because somehow, each sketch will meet up eventually.
At the center of a motley crew of characters was Nick Kroll, who could put on some makeup and a wig and a voice and fully become each and every one of them. His creations were lovable yet off-putting idiots, who were way too into themselves and far too confident in what they were capable of. Characters are Kroll's strong suit, and in three seasons of his own show, he shined.
There was a lot to like on the show. For one, Canada jokes are rarely that funny. It's an easy target: everyone makes the same jokes, and we've heard them all a million times over. Kroll's Canada jabs were outlandish but perfect. In one episode, Mikey becomes a goth and develops a drug addiction, or as the characters called it a "drugs addiction." The jokes took the unlikely route, and in terms of comedy writing, probably the harder route, but almost always the funnier route. One of my favorite sketches was "Oh Hello," wherein Kroll, as Gil Faison, and John Mulaney, as George St. Geegland, play two crusty old Jewish New Yorkers, who go around pranking people by serving them up too much tuna. It's stupid, but the good kind of stupid.
I don't even know what to make of Kroll's weird version of Larry Bird, who competes in a two-point shooting contest to save the family farm. "I don't stretch, stretchin's for show-offs," he says. Later on, Kroll-as-Bird appears in Chairs, which is a parody of the long-running sitcom Cheers, with that Larry is the bartender for some reason. I love that this is a show that existed.
Another great thing about Kroll Show is it was a venue for other comedians to come on and play six different insane characters themselves. Comedian Chelsea Peretti played Bobby Bottleservice's love interest, Farley. Jenny Slate really got a chance to showcase her range on the series: the Obvious Child star played Liz B., the other Liz on "PubLIZcity." Liz B. got a lot of airtime because she was also the mother to the child of C-Czar (another Kroll character). C-Czar is this garbage teenager (literally, his backstory is that he was a toilet baby, which is a baby that was birthed into a toilet), who goes through a whole host of VH1-style reality shows, like Dad Academy, and eventually gets his own spin-off within the Kroll Universe, called Toilet Dad. Kroll explains the mixed-up magic of how it all works in the AV Club piece:
Where the show really changed was I think in season two when we started to bring back characters and bring them together and have more crossover. That started with C-Czar and Pretty Liz in "Ice Dating." They're sort of in the same world—technically they're all under that PubLIZity umbrella. That happened because we were shooting the whirling scene from Wheels, Ontario, so we had an ice rink for half of a day that we needed to fill, and we were like, "What would be fun on that ice rink? What if it was like Shipmates, like that old dating reality show, or like Blind Date, and we call it Ice Dating?" And who would we want to see in that space? And we thought, "It would be funny to see Pretty Liz and C-Czar on a date because she's a woman and he's still in high school but maybe they would be fun together," and that then turned into the season two arc for PubLIZity and C-Czar, which becomes Pretty Liz is pregnant and then C-Czar gets Dad Academy, which is a show about him trying to learn how to be a good father and to prepare for that[.]
It's hard to keep track! The plots twist and turn and cross over unpredictably so. But in a way, if you watch TV at all, it's not that unpredictable. On MTV you have Teen Mom, which started as 16 and Pregnant then followed a group of teenage mothers into parenthood. Individual mothers have also ended up with their own series. Or on Bravo, take any of the Real Housewives franchises and see the oodles of spinoffs each city has yielded. That's the nature of reality TV, and it worked perfectly in Kroll Show parody. Bobby Bottleservice did a Flavor Flav kind of love-finding thing on Gigolo House. He also did a stint on Ghostbouncers.
Honestly, most TV is garbage. But Kroll Show was able to exist for exactly that reason: It turned around the premise of most TV shows running now, and said, Look, this is what you're watching, and this is how absurd it is. And look at these terrible people these shows are highlighting. It was a great show, and while I wish it wasn't ending, it had a good and perfect run. Who knows, maybe it will get a spinoff of its own.