So vulgar, so good

BY MATT EMERY
Associate Arts Editor
Published March 24, 2008

After Aziz Ansari became the comic of the indie-music world when he starred in the Internet video "Clell Tickle," "Human Giant" looked like a great call - a show capitalizing on indie culture and eliciting the help of two other fine sketch comedians, Rob Huebel ("Late Night with Conan O'Brien") and Paul Scheer ("Best Week Ever"). More than anything else, though, the show appeared to be a college music-flavored jolt of energy to MTV's lineup of Hollywood drama shows and programs about everything from the joys of choosing a date to dating a mom.

But distinguishing whether the first season of "Human Giant" was actually a valid sketch comedy show was no easy task. Sure, there were some really great skits that included rollerblading and having to out yourself to your parents, axe attacks in the wilderness and a couple of guys who run a cutthroat children's talent agency. But was the show actually funny, or was just a sign of MTV's desire to keep such talent on the fledgling "music" network?

Well, we now have season two to really clear things up, and thus far, it's clear the show is often hilarious. However, much like last season, most or all of the comedy relies on blood, violence, blood, sexism, over-the-top sex and, um, lots of blood. The show doesn't walk the line of decency - it tromps across the line with its pants around its ankles, shouting obscenities and urinating on little children along the way.

The opening sketch - the first "viral" video that surfaced on the web for season two - features a man cutting off his penis on his webcam to gain Internet views. The show doesn't take more than 10 seconds to get gruesome. The scene becomes truly hilarious when Ansari - playing a similar viral mega-star who makes insipid faces that garner more hits - makes his appearance alongside the genital-less man on a CNN-esque interview of the two web celebrities. Another sketch features a reenactment of a reenactment on a reality-type crime show. Again, blood flows at a grotesque regularity, but it's still great to see spirited, ridiculous ideas come through with more than just a chuckle.

They're towing a tough line most of the time, but if you can enjoy the mockery of political correctness for a while, things become a lot more bearable. The Illusionators - one of the funnier, repeating skits from the first season - return with more unfeasible tricks. Messing up their first trick, they accidentally and magically write the n-word on the belly of a man on the street. The Illusionators then have to apologize to the entire black community one by one, and enlist the help of a black Illusionator to smooth things over. Again, they're pretty damn offensive, but the comedic timing and mockery of our politically-correct culture is more refreshing than usual.

At other times, the group has good ideas, but can't quite push them far enough. In one skit, the three men star in a public service announcement for little kids, telling them not to get into a big white van with strangers, even though it's clear that they're the biggest threat to the children. Only a drawn-out text-over on screen makes the scene unpredictable. In another skit, the group subtly mocks makeover shows when Huebel assumes the role of a disgusting, monstrous creature from the fictitious sci-fi show "Battle Sector 17." The makeup would take hours to put on, so to become the character, Huebel undergoes a full makeover instead. But, of course, the show gets canceled and he's stuck. Not exactly original.

The ghost of a gay porn star named Bruce Penis, a skit about a show featuring children running a penitentiary and a horribly vulgar sex tape starring Will Arnett? "Human Giant" isn't "Saturday Night Live," and if you're younger than 30, that's probably a good thing. They're vulgar, crude and frank, but also downright hilarious. The star power of the troupe certainly helps (guest stars have included Ghostface Killah, Andy Samberg, Jonah Hill and Brian Posehn), and if the comics work to keep their ideas fresh and relevant, the show will certainly maintain its cult following and maybe gain a grouping of others. The blood might grow old after a while, but hopefully other, better skits will find a spot to replace the raging violence. Or at least another guest star.

Human Giant

Rating:3.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday 11 p.m.

MTV