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‘TripTank’ Disappoints

| Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WEB_Banner_TripTankEmily Hoffmann

After a streak of smart and successful programs on Comedy Central, including new acclaimed shows “Broad City” and “Review,” the network appears to have made a misstep with the premiere of its new cartoon show “TripTank.”

The show’s pilot, which aired April 2, jumps immediately into a bizarre, self-aware cartoon world with a short attention span and some seriously disturbing imagery. Jumping from one twisted, trippy animated skit to another, it becomes clear within the show’s first few minutes that “TripTank” is a response to the success of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim shows, like “Robot Chicken” and the new “Rick and Morty.” Like these shows, “TripTank” is violent, wildly inappropriate and entirely nonsensical, appealing to the adult crowd that is awake late (and likely not sober).

Responsible for this half-hour slot of chaos is a team of incredibly talented comedians, including Zach Galifianakis, Kyle Kinane, Wayne Brady, Bob Odenkirk, Kumail Nanjiani, Wayne Brady and Larry David. Each is responsible for writing or voicing one of the dozens of gruesome skits, which include a rocket ship that cheerily, irresponsibly brings children to space without spacesuits and a homeless, schizophrenic talk show host, tastelessly propagating any and all stereotypes about mental illness and homelessness.

It is clear that these comedians are taking a stab at a level of anti-humor and absurdity they can’t exercise in regular roles. Late-night animation means anything goes:  there are infinite possibilities in animation and no face to associate with such offensive and appalling jokes. This combination with such a brilliant group of comedians seems like it should be an unwavering success, but “TripTank” didn’t hit the mark.

The issue was not the gore, filth or offensiveness; the problem was that, for the most part, the show simply wasn’t funny. Most skits felt more self-indulgent than humorous, as if their creators were simply reveling in the possibilities brought on by the anything-goes style. Like preteen sneaking a car for a joyride, it may be plenty of fun for the kid, but no one is enjoying his driving.

Continuing with the self-indulgent feel of “TripTank” was show’s overemphasized self-awareness. Every few skits cut back to “TripTank” employees in the office, who take calls of complaints about the skits. The act of poking fun at itself and anticipating a negative response seemed funny at first, but becomes too frequent in the show. The recurring bit is also an opportunity to really take a jab at those who take offense at the show or the show’s creators itself, but complainers instead are just as awful as everyone else on the show. These skits end up self-congratulating and self-encouraging instead, and the joke is on us for expecting anything else.

Despite a largely unfunny pilot, there is some definite raw potential for “TripTank.” First of all, the animation was diverse, interesting and often the best part of a skit. While the skits are distractingly jumpy and scattered, the variety of animation was the plus side. From classic “Loony Tunes”-style to computer animation to a “Napoleon Dynamite”-esque aesthetic in the office skits, it was at least entertaining to see the range of animation, the distortion of childhood cartoons and the show’s take on the grossly-detailed, unappealing style seen on other adult cartoons like “Rick and Morty” or “Beavis and Butthead.”

A few skits stood out as gems as well, though almost drowned in a sea of nonsense. A skit in which two bees try to determine whether they’re killer bees and go out on a violent murdering spree was short and clever enough. A skit in which a doctor tells a mother her son has been in a terrible accident sings, “So make another boy!” and another skit, in which parents describe “the birds and the bees” to their young son and take the metaphor too far are two examples of how “TripTank” has the potential to be funny rather than simply shocking.

What makes “TripTank” so upsetting is that I want so badly for it to be funny. It has network and team of comedians too good to simply be played in background of a faded night. While the show’s format has clearly been an exercise so far in pushing limits, it also has the potential to be something better. But for now, “TripTank” is, disappointingly, just okay.


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About Allie Tollaksen

Scene Editor. Senior studying Psychology and dabbling in everything else.

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  • iBanonymous

    Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but I found it dementedly delightful.

  • MarsPlanet

    Skit shows are always filled with hit or miss stuff. I’m not so much into the really short weird stuff at the beginning of the episode, though the unicorn in the hot air balloon was pretty funny. Suck It Gary was pretty funny. Jeff and Some Aliens, Suicidal Chicken, D**k Genie, the Mortal Kombat thing – all good stuff too that doesn’t rely on just shock humor violence. The “versus” thing drags on waaaaaay too long and just gets obnoxious.

  • ANT

    Wow I could not have put it better myself. I feel exactly the same. I love Rick and Morty, Robot Chicken, and most of the shows on adult swim. I too wanted so bad for this show to be funny but was left disappointed very quickly. You hit on every point. I felt like trip tank was a little too full of itself. I think it lacks comedic creativity and seems like they made skits of literally anything that popped into thier heads. The less humorous the skit the more shocking they made it as to make up for the non laughs….. Well written review.

  • Richard Dunn

    I thought the show was really good.

  • bennybrady

    Hey! I directed the sketch which “tastelessly propagated any and all stereotypes about mental illness and homelessness.” Did you watch the sketch ’til the very end? Who’s eyes are we seeing it all through? Who was I actually making fun of, the guy in the alleyway, or the rest of us who let it happen?

    Anyways, thanks for caring enough to review the show!

  • mike

    What? This show is great!! Open your mind a little.

  • Shawn Amkr Dickinson

    I thought the show was the only good piece of funny animation to come out of comedy central or adult swim (Space Dandy notwithstanding cause thats comedy and anime – and not an CC OG series but still f’n hilarious) since RIck & Morty – which aparently this reviewer didn’t like either so :shrug: different strokes for different folks. I personally thought they trippy way they made everything ingenius and part of the orignality and charm; also Have a NEVER you never seen Mr. Show?! or Crosses standup? or Odenkirks myriad of projects? (Mr. Show – Bob Odenkirk & David Cross – Sketch Comedy on HBO) – I’d say that was every bit as over the top, as Trip Tank. Id expect anything from Bob Odenkirk or David Cross to be involved in to be. how could it not and still push the bar. This goes way beyond Robot Chicken and removes any boundaries (lets be honest, robot chicken – got boring IMHO). Everyshow even when I was in a bad mood had me in hysterics. I hope all these bad reviews (and hopefully overwhelming fan support) will bring the short lived 8 episode series back for a full season, hell with even more voice talent (Id love to hear Joel Hodgson on this! MSTie since 89′ I know he’s doin a show for CC/Adult Swim – should be easy peasy to make it happen esp. since Bod, David and Joel have been friends for ages – prolly since the stand up scene – but I know for sure since The X Box/TV Wheel Pilots from Joel (David Cross is a member of the kooky sketch comedy crew in these pilots for a innovative idea of joel’s that never got off the ground after MST3K)

  • BillyAndy3

    I don’t watch a lot of tv, so I never heard of the show until now. I didn’t even finish the first episode. It felt like it was trying too hard to be offensive, shocking, and disturbing to the point that the comedy was placed as secondary. I didn’t laugh once. I’ve looked at animated shows that were risque and laughed at them. Typically they are funny but this isn’t one of them.

  • Daniel

    I just saw one episode that was just a rip-off of webcomics, just a bit more “adult”, find the show hideous