Adam, Blake, and Ders’ collectively arrested development is Workaholics’ bread-and-butter, the show’s popularity stemming from viewers’ tolerance for—or, more accurately, love of—watching three stoner knuckleheads screw around for half an hour. Sure, there other layers here that make Workaholics more than the sum of the guys’ bong hits, malapropisms, and disastrous decisions, but we’re mainly here for the screwing around.
Still, creators and stars Adam DeVine, Blake Anderson, and Anders Holm aren’t Adam DeMamp, Blake Henderson, and Anders Holmvik—the show has lasted for six seasons because the actual guys (as much as they clearly enjoy weed and screwing around) have some things to say about their alter egos. In even the most outrageous and irresponsible antics of the fictional Adam, Blake, and Ders, the joke is ultimately on them—even if the joke is softened with affection and a certain guilty understanding. Crude, juvenile, sexist, destructive, and irresponsible (and sort of dumb), there’s yet nothing malicious about the guys. Their darker moments are invariably seen as product of them internalizing a pop culture-driven ideal of toxic masculinity that, in the end, these three dum-dums just don’t have the heart to carry through to real meanness.
“Death Of A Salesdude” puts the guys on trial for an episode for how even their ding-dong, “no gurlz allowed” clubhouse mentality can be hurtful to the women unfortunate enough to be trapped with them in the meaningless fluorescent hell that is TelAmeriCorp. When their inability to curb their nattering obsession with women’s boobs (“We finally get to talk titties at work!”) gets them kicked off the phones after the telemarketing company switches to selling the “Boobillow” (a pillow with breast holes for women to sleep comfortably on their tummies), they find themselves fetching coffee and being objectified by the women in the office. Especially Jillian Bell’s Jillian, who takes to it with alarming zeal, thus teaching the guys a valuable lesson about—well, nothing, really.
This being Workaholics, anyone anticipating an in-depth and nuanced exploration of workplace sexual power dynamics is on a fool’s errand, but “Death Of A Salesdude” is even more cartoonish than usual, as the guys are immediately forced to endure pre-Mad Men-level sexual harassment, with Blake getting the worst of it. Made to bend over and graphically hump the carpet of the guys’ former cubicle by Jillian and guest stars Sarah Baker (Louie) and episode co-writer Zoe Jarman on the very first day of the changeover, Blake, as ever positioned as the most innocent of the guys, is even pinned up against the urinal by Jillian. (Her “Shake the wee-wee off the pee-pee and get me a coffee” is something even the season one Ken Cosgrove might have blanched at in the Sterling-Cooper offices.)
For their part, Blake and Ders shift immediately into trembling victimhood, while Adam—angling to replace Jillian and Alice’s assistant—takes to the new world order immediately, donning the tightest work shirt imaginable and reveling in all the sweet, sweet objectification. Again, Workaholics isn’t the place to go for subtlety, but the script here (from Jarman and Sarah Peters, who wrote season five’s “Blood Drive”) goes even broader than usual, flipping the switch on TelAmeriCorp’s gender role switcheroo with cartoonish suddenness. That’s not exactly a criticism—if they were going to do a Futurama-esque planet of the women yuk-fest, Jarman and Peters might as well get things rolling with alacrity. Indeed, the quick switch of the cheery if clearly nuts Jillian to icy sexual harasser, and Ders’ solution to turn off his inability to call women’s breasts things like “blobs,” “knockwobbles,” and “chest-bombs” by unmanning himself with one of those “decrease your penis’ sensitivity” sex sprays are about as sophisticated as giving Fred Flintstone amnesia with a head-clonk from a frying pan. Again—if you’re gonna go for it, then go for it.
The only issue, really, is that the laughs aren’t as plentiful as they need to be, if laughs are all the episode’s going for. Workaholics’ improv-heavy vibe is a hit-or-miss proposition, and here, a lot of the resulting shenanigans fall onto the self-indulgent side. Jillian Bell can turn on a dime, and, as seen to fuller effect on her new show Idiotsitter, she can run with a weird, filthy riff like no one else. But, as in her extended creepiness at the urinal, the scene where she makes Blake squirm for her in the cubicle goes on too long, and to too little reward. Plus, happening so quickly after the office’s regime change, it signals that things are going to play out with disposable abruptness. I’m glad Bell’s found time to pop back in to Workaholics this season—there was some question as to whether we’d see the last of TelAmeriCorp’s entertainingly strangest denizen—and if the show was going to turn the office into a matriarchal tyranny, there was little doubt who’d be holding the conch. (Maribeth Monroe’s boss Alice, flush with the Boobillow’s success and the guys’ subjugation, is content to swill margaritas and get foot massages for much of the episode.)
If Jarman and Peters score any real satirical points in the episode it’s in how Adam, Blake, and Ders’ predicament points out how their leering numbskullery contrasts with real misogyny. The episode goes out of its way to differentiate the guys’ cartoonish conception of the battle of the sexes and office sad sack Bill’s creepier (and thus more accurate) version of a “men’s rights” type. Aside from Billy Stevenson’s facility with playing Bill as a man with deeply squirmy issues with women (his idea to “poop disc” Jillian’s car is disturbingly detailed), the script has him echo one of the more recent pop cultural events such people got absurdly bent out of shape about. (“First they take Ghostbusters and now our phones!”) Meanwhile, the guys slip into the only roles (victim and happy object) that their more obliviously immature understanding of sexual politics allows them. When Adam, finally throwing off his gapping shirt in defiance at seeing Blake and Ders being forced to pick up popcorn off the floor by Jillian (Jillian: “You missed a spot” Ders: “We just started”), his “are we not human beings” inspirational speech is similarly cobbled-together nonsense. Setting alight the alarmingly flammable Boobillows in protest, he demands, “For days we have been held down by the matriarchy. Which is a word I recently looked up” before setting the foam alight proclaiming, “Just as women burnt their bras in the ’70s to be hot, I will burn this Boobillow for men’s rights.”
As the office nearly burns down, the natural order is restored (“My beautiful boys are in there! Save them!” screams Jillian to the arriving firefighters) with no one learning anything, except that Boobillows are comfy deathtraps. When the guys attempt to assert male supremacy by pointing out that they were only saved from Adam’s near-deadly stupidity (“Thanks fucktard,” sneers Alice) by firemen, they’re shocked when one of them seems to be a woman. When it turns out it’s a fireman with luxurious long hair, they cheer in triumph. Because… well, that’s about as deep as the guys’ understanding of the issue goes.
- Ders: “That lady’s back issue is giving me a front issue that’s going to require a lot of tissues.” Adam: “Oh, I get it. Like ejaculation.”
- “I can’t fight a woman, Bill. She’d kick my ass.”
- Ders’ experimentation with the numbing spray involves taking just an ungodly number of shots to the nuts, one of which times perfectly with a dinging sound. Adam: “Whoa, did you time out that ding?” Blake: “No, I think somebody got a text.”
- “Women—can’t live with ’em, can’t… have sex with ’em. Because they don’t like me.”
- “Did you come at me? I will fudging end you. I will rip off your head and fudge it down your neck.” No one can snap on the crazy eyes like Jillian Bell.
- Adam, welcoming his new female overlords: “Finally we get oogled, and ogled, and sexualized. Guys, women rule the world and it’s high time we accepted that and be on the right side of histor-she.”
- There are, indeed, products similar to the Boobillow out there. I don’t know about their effectiveness, but I do know that Googling “boob pillow” is unadvised.