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Comedy Review: Freak Show Falls Short

New Comedy Central Cartoon Disappoints

By Tyson McNulty

“Freak Show”

Written by H. Jon Benjamin and David Cross

Comedy Central

Premiered Oct. 4, 2006

Freak Show,” an adult cartoon on Comedy Central, can best be described as “just not that cool.” When I sat down to watch the first two episodes, I was excited. “Freak Show” has a great premise, an interesting line-up of characters, and a credible cast of voices and writers, but to be honest, most of the gags come off as if they’re trying way too hard. Of the first two episodes (the only ones I watched), the second was a lot funnier than the first one, but the first one wasn’t exactly a riotous frenzy of fun. It was more of a riotous frenzy of boring. “Freak Show” will need a lot of polishing if it’s going to stick around.

The pilot begins with an exposition on the formation and purpose of the Freak Squad, a cadre of sideshow performers turned superheroes. They’re a bit like the Justice League, but the other way around. The Squad’s members are Tuck and Benny (H. Jon Benjamin and David Cross, respectively), conjoined twins who frequently argue over leadership of the Freak Squad; the Bearded Clam (Janeane Garofalo), a cross between a bearded lady and a giant, vile, soupy clam; the World’s Tallest Nebraskan (Brian Stack), a tall, ugly, rambling redneck; Primi the premature baby, like Bubble Boy but smaller, purpler, and fetal-er; and the Log Cabin Republican (Jon Glaser), who qualified for a circus sideshow by being both Republican and gay. They all have “super powers:” Tuck and Benny can separate at will, the Bearded Clam can spit “Bitch Juice” at unsuspecting victims, the Nebraskan can shrink six inches (yes, that’s his ability), Primi can vomit in any direction with deadly accuracy, and the Log Cabin Republican can transform into Burly Bear, a sort of S&M alter ego.

The Freak Squad was formed, according to the writers, aboard Henry Kissinger’s yacht (the Wet Dream II) in 1972 when Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Augusto Pinochet, and Adolf Hitler were running out of ice for their cocktails. Frank Meinkowitz (Todd Barry), a parking attendant at the Pentagon who happened to be working aboard the yacht that day, suggested the idea of forming a task force capable of completing (ridiculous) missions such as these out of the performers in a freak show he had recently witnessed. The idea was accepted because there was “seriously little ice left.” Meinkowitz currently supervises the squad and relays mission specs from the toll booth where he works outside the Pentagon parking lot.

The missions given to the Freak Squad are intentionally second-rate. In the pilot, the Freak squad must obtain a bag of the President’s favorite nuts from the sole island nation which exports them but with which the United States has imposed a trade embargo due to its oppressive government (they also kill their citizens to export human blood). In the second episode, the Squad must drive the President’s Trans-Am backwards across the United States to the White House in order to decrease the odometer value and increase the car’s Blue Book value. In each episode, when faced with a desperate situation, the Freak Squad transforms into a 10-story colossus which takes on different features each time - in the first episode, they become a giant male model; in the second, a massive Lady Di. In addition to their missions, they must also face sabotage at the hand of Duncan Scheisst (Will Arnett), a lackey for the mega-corporation Freak Mart, which is trying to buy out the Freak Squad’s sideshow.

“Freak Show” is an assortment of ideas that sounds pretty hilarious on paper but doesn’t manage to form a cohesive product. If you thought all of that might make a pretty good show, then you would have had that in common with Comedy Central when they purchased the episodes. Still, the potential is there; I’d love for my criticisms to be proven wrong by future episodes.