“We Be Clownin’” is the Platonic ideal of a Workaholics episode. The guys start out having fun. They get a bee in their collective bonnet about something that could make their lives even more fun. They launch a ridiculous and irresponsible scheme—involving varying levels of intoxicants and property damage—which causes chaos but inevitably lands them back drunk on the roof so they can do it all over again next week. That’s not a criticism—Workaholics works, when it does, by finding inventive new comedic ways to play around with the formula, and by allowing the three leads’ natural chemistry to fiddle around at its edges. Despite some flaws, this episode underscores the fact that the show is most appealing when it watches the guys just screwing around.
And screw around they do, with the episode opening on Ders, Blake, and Adam practicing their aquatic basketball dunking skills in the pool. There’s a lot to like in the musical montage of the guys simply having fun. The fact that Anders Holm, Blake Anderson, and Adam DeVine have been friends for years (and undoubtedly used to do exactly that sort of stuff when two of them lived in the house they shoot at) lends a loose, endearing vibe to the proceedings. (Adam is clearly in love with the idea of doing moves “mid-air!”) They really do seem to be having a great time.
Honestly, I’d be up for an episode where the guys eschew their traditional shenanigans for a solid day of victim-free homebound nonsense and improvisational riffing, but since this is not that time, the plot kicks in with typical quicksilver suddenness. Adam, spotting a heap of splintery discarded scrap wood in the neighbors’ yard, becomes immediately obsessed with the concept of a rickety, splintery slide from the roof to the pool for added mid-air awesomeness. In case you missed the repeat of the word “splintery” right then, things go about as you’d expect, with Adam emerging from the water with a back full of wooden shrapnel (and me going “gaaaaahhhh!” at the painful inevitability—I may have a splinter thing).
From there, the guys’ problem-solving skills are put to the test, as they quickly tire of sanding down their newfound deathtrap and hit the internet to find someone to do it for them. Finding the quotes too expensive, the guys then leap to the conclusion that they should seek odd jobs on the same site in order to earn money to pay the person who’ll come and do the task they don’t feel like doing themselves. For free. It’s the sort of drunk, stoned, hairtrigger logical leaps that the guys specialize in, with one dumb idea sparking another and snowballing into an avalanche of destructive comedic mayhem. The conceit has been universal from the beginning of the show, and it still holds up as emblematic of the guys’ enduringly aimless and whimsical approach to, well, everything. My only objection remains that the trio’s single-minded adoption of their lunatic plans undermines the show’s perpetually haphazard efforts to establish distinct personalities for Adam, Ders, and Blake.
I’ve been accused of overthinking Workaholics. Apart from that sort of being my job, I do take the point—on one level the show is meant to be enjoyed for its spectacle of three goofy man-children indulging their hedonistic, irresponsible inner bros in rebellion against the real world, or even the very concept of growing up itself. That being said, there are some problems with simply giving oneself over to the show as just a heedless exercise in unbridled, crude yuks, not the least of which is the creators’ ongoing subversion of that idea. In the college flashback episode, in the sock-puppet therapy episode, and occasionally throughout, it’s evident that creator Adam, Ders, Blake (and Kyle Newacheck) are playing around with the easy characterization of screen Adam, Ders, and Blake (not Karl so much) as an admirable, emulate-able three-headed bong monster. Each has his own ever-implied reasons for banding together with the others, all of which serve to make all three, to varying degrees, more sympathetic. The problem crops up when the individual characterizations of the guys are subsumed into the needs of the plot, as here.
Springing into action, the guys become birthday party clowns, which makes a certain amount of sense. And they’re unsurprisingly good at it at first—the guys are childish, but also childlike, and the kids love them. But, after their first gig goes well (Adam’s puppetry and Blake’s face painting are genuine crowd pleasers), the guys’ inevitable degeneration into slipshod inappropriateness happens too quickly. Sure, they’re getting high in the Vo, but the whole sequence of them becoming cruder, more hostile, and inappropriate at kids’ birthday parties crunches them all together without adequate motivation. Like in the pool, the guys really seemed to be enjoying the clown gig (and, apart from their fundamental lack of judgement, they do seem like ideal child entertainers). So when Ders, presented as the most responsible of the trio, slouches gobbling birthday cake and insulting a suburban dad, the undifferentiated characterizations smack of laziness. Especially considering that the episode is credited to Anders Holm, the fact that Ders’ reactions to things remain largely of a piece with the other guys is disappointing. Workaholics continues to give each of the guys only the characteristics necessary for that week’s plot. Again—lazy.
Not able to get out their own way, the guys parlay their marginal success (excited to be reviewed on the internet, they take no notice of the one-star rating), splurging on a rented Miata and all-Wesley Snipes wardrobe. Again, it’s always amusing to watch them lose all perspective upon receiving any smidgen of success whatsoever, along with their eccentric and very specific tastes—Workaholics’ greatest asset is the leads’ easy interplay. When Blake sets out to sabotage their replacement (the Aladdin-styled T.K., played by comedian Thomas Kellogg) with a menacing tagline, Adam compliments it with “That was a cool line dude” and Blake responds “Thanks, dude. I’ve been watching a lot of 80s movies lately.” Similarly, the guys’ debate over T.K.’s ethnicity mid-caper, and their mid-confrontation debate over T.K.’s age are part of the show’s reliably humorous tradition of the guys’ inability to focus on even the most tense situations. Again, the idea of the guys just hanging around the house and coming up with weird ideas seems like it’d be funny for that reason. As in this exchange, apropos of nothing: Adam: “I bet I’d be so good at 69-ing.” Blake: “I know you would—you wanna know how I know?” Adam: “No.” Blake: “I’m not telling.” Non sequiturs leading to riffing—that’d work for an episode.
In the end, all works out as well as could be expected, with the guys repenting to T.K. about their chicanery and hiring him to do the sanding for them after all. As I’ve pointed out, the guys aren’t really jerks at heart (Blake, upon finding out that T.K. lives in his car with his wife and an infant: “Things just got double icky for me”) and while they don’t exactly do the right thing (like, say, confessing what they did to the homeowner and getting T.K. his job back), they at least welcome their rival into their stoner pool-basketball afternoon playground for a day. You know, along with the rest of us.
- Adam being a fan of Brickleberry could be seen as Comedy Central corporate synergy, but the fact that the guys are fans seems intended to underline how god-awful that show is. Workaholics might be juvenile, scatological, and occasionally lazy—but it’s not Brickleberry.
- I’ve been bemoaning the lack of Jillian recently, but using her as a plot device/scold here is a shameful waste of Jillian Bell’s considerable, and considerably weird talents. Don’t waste your Jillian, guys.
- Forgetting how English works is always one of Adam’s funniest traits. “I vote we forget about the slide and we go smoke weed about it and forget about all of our troubles starting now.”
- Hiring Lorenzo Lamas to play a suntanned, smug douche seems like a no-brainer, but good God, is that man a terrible actor—he can’t even live up to his typecasting.
- Alice only gets a few lines, but she makes them count. Adam: “Don’t make me go full blown clown on yo ass.” Alice: “I don’t even want to know what that means. And please try to dress like losers who work here.”
- Adam, trying to be supportive: “And Blake with your artwork—I’m so glad someone finally appreciates it. Because I think it’s horrible. I’m always trying to throw it away.”
- Adam respects cinema mogul Lamas because he saw Blank Check in one of his theaters.
- Bodily function count: None? Did I miss one?