Another win for Trey Parker and Matt Stone. “Funnybot” was not the sharpest satire South Park has done, but it was funny and topical and included a heavy dose of meta humor.
The night Obama announced Bin Laden’s capture and death, Twitter was abuzz with the news. My Twitter feed might be disproportionately full of arts and entertainment writers, but I saw many tweets wondering what the South Park boys would do with this shocking news.
So what did they end up doing with the Osama news? Not much, actually.
There’s nothing Parker and Stone seem to enjoy more than messing with people’s assumptions. I’m sure most of America assumed South Park would devote at least one episode to the startling revelation of Osama’s capture. There were some references to international current events, but they were limited to the media–Obama’s response at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the overly dramatic camera zoom during the president’s speech on May 1, and so on.
The bulk of the episode was a metacommentary on comedy. South Park has tread these grounds before, but the March 26 Comedy Central-run “Comedy Awards” provided new fodder for the show. Like The Simpsons before it, South Park loves nothing more than to bite the network hand that feeds it, albeit in a somewhat loving manner.
In this episode, Jimmy and the Special Education class host a Comedy Awards show. The Germans are voted the Least Funny People, which leads to a backlash. Some representatives spend a bit of not-terribly-funny time speaking in mock-German. The only funny scene was Cartman (who is obviously fluent) arguing with them to take Kyle and spare the class.
At the Comedy Awards, Tyler Perry is the only award winner who shows up, launching a vaguely funny but ultimately one-note series of jokes involving Token Black, South Park’s token black character. The popularity of Tyler Perry movies is an interesting sociological phenomenon, given the sharp racial divide seen in response to his work. However, South Park does little with the material. Token is not only the only student laughing at Perry, but eventually realizes he literally cannot help himself from laughing and giving money to Perry. Because, get it, black people like Tyler Perry, and white people don’t. That’s the entirety of the joke.
The commentary on comedy isn’t exactly laugh out loud funny, either. The Germans create a robot, the titular Funnybot, who quickly excels so much at comedy that it puts all other comedians out of business. Funnybot makes some comments on comedy’s devolution from Setup-Punchline to Setup-Punchline-Awkward, which is actually a very astute observation on the nature of today’s popular comics and comedic shows/movies. I’ve never thought about it before, but South Park does generally refrain from the greatly overdone …Awkward! kind of comedy. Thanks for that, South Park.
For some convoluted reason, Funnybot decides to kill everyone, and the boys have to stop him. They stop him by throwing the robot into a logic loop. What illogical idea do they introduce? Simple, the concept of an awards show for comedy, given that comedy–by virtue of its purpose–should not be taken too seriously.
There’s a great fake-out at the end, where the audience assumes Funnybot is being buried to prevent it from endangering society, when in reality, the real menace is apparently Tyler Perry. All in good fun, because comedy shouldn’t be serious, right guys?
I realize that this review sounds somewhat negative. I liked the episode. It was fun, it dealt with a lot of topical issues, and I laughed out loud at some moments. However, South Park episodes generally hover around a base line of Good/Great. Some are amazing, and some, like last week’s “HUMAN CENTiPAD” are decidedly not. “Funnybot” was a good episode.