The Whitest Kids U Know is a five member strong sketch comedy troupe which has existed in its current lineup since 2003. After presenting the first season of their show in a censored form on Fuse (reviewed here by our own Francis Rizzo), they moved to IFC where they could let their hair down in a more uncensored environment. This release captures the 10 episodes comprising their first season on IFC and their second season overall. While they carry on the absurdist traditions of their comedic forefathers, the Kids tend to dabble in a brand of humor which is much more crude and scatological in nature. Although this leads to moments of filthy brilliance, it just as often yields gross-out gags that leave a bad taste in your mouth without making it worth your while.
One of the most positive aspects of the Kids is that all 5 members have varied skill sets which enable them to create vastly different characters without stepping on each other's toes. Trevor Moore is the fearless leader of the group and as the head writer and one of the co-directors he more than pulls his weight. With his lanky build and wildly expressive face, he has the energy and intelligence of a young Jim Carrey in his demeanor. Sharing directorial duties with Trevor is Zach Cregger. Of all the members, Zach may look most like the boy next door but as one of the originating members of the group, his ease with the material is obvious. For my money, he provides the best reaction shots of anyone in the group. That may not sound like much, but in improv an appropriate reaction can act as the perfect punch line. Sam Brown is the third founding member of the group and in many ways the gawkiest. His facial expressions and body language often resemble those of an alien stuffed into a human skin. For this simple reason, one can't help staring at him any time he is on screen. As two later additions to the group, it often feels like Darren Trumeter and Timmy Williams get the short end of the stick but this isn't due to any deficit of talent on their part. Darren has the most delicate features of the bunch which aid him in transforming into disturbingly convincing women. Considering how often the Kids' sketches feature female characters, he gets to do so quite often. Timmy gets to play another type within the group. Since he often comes off as a petulant child it's no surprise that he essays most of the child-like characters on the show.
Over the course of the 10 episodes of their second season, the Kids cast about in all directions with their comedy. We get intelligent satire, movie jokes, poop jokes, dick jokes, quick throwaway gags, long-form narratives, dick jokes, inappropriate sing-alongs and historic re-enactments. Also dick jokes. Seriously, the effect of the 'Uncensored' label on the focus and force of the Kids humor is not to be underestimated. Freed of the shackles of good taste, we are treated to sketches featuring Sam's roaming testicle, racist TV show pitches and confusing strip club rates. Sometimes the boys choose to just be plain silly and the results are just as positive as their racier material. One of the shining examples of this is an early sketch where Trevor and Darren play actors who are filming a scene as detectives investigating a murder. As the director, played by Zach, proceeds to repeatedly give them bad advice on how to play their characters, the sketch devolves into something loud and juvenile. It is also blisteringly funny and one of my favorites for the season. Occasionally the Kids even demonstrate that they have truly intelligent thoughts locked in with the rest of the perversion occupying their minds. This intelligence is easily viewed in the sketch where an assault in a park keeps evolving in intent as the motives for the attack shift between extremes. Similarly, a later sketch demonstrates how literal corporate war can be as a high ranking executive starts taking out snipers who are trying to kill him.
Strange as it may sound, the hugely inappropriate nature of the Kids comedy which is their calling card also turns out to be their biggest weakness. With complete freedom to do whatever they want in their sketches, they often resort to shock tactics which always elicit a reaction but very rarely laughter. Although there are many examples of this strewn across the season, the most obvious one is a quick gag that features a dog licking a naked woman's breast. The punch line is 'Dogs love boobs'. The end. That's the whole bit. If I were to look at it objectively, the gag is edgy and pushes the envelope but when viewed subjectively I can only remember my utter silence during that moment. It's not just the gross-out humor that trips up the Kids. Sometimes they are undone by their own ambition. They attempt sketches (like the Cowboy Story session) that try to break the fourth wall and scream out to be noticed but come off as labored and pointless. This led me to the realization that the Kids don't often fare well in the long-form sketches. What should be a quick hit often gets dragged out until it is annoying and unbearable like the mountain climber turned jewel thief sketch. The most unfortunate side effect of a long sketch failing is that it often drags down the entire episode with it. When a lengthy sketch falls flat on its face, it is tremendously difficult for the rest of the shorter sketches to redeem the overall episode. My final criticism is related to the last episode of the season.
Presented live before an audience, the Kids don't have the production design from the other episodes to fall back on. This leads to sketches that were probably fun for the folks in the room but just don't translate very well for the home audience.
The show is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio WITHOUT anamorphic enhancement. While the image is clear enough, the choice to leave it non-anamorphic is frankly inexplicable and quite disappointing. Beyond this major issue, the image is a little flat but is adequate for the material at hand.
The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. While this audio track didn't knock my socks off, it served the low-fi sketches well enough. My only real issue with the audio cropped up during the audio commentary by the cast members. For some reason, the commentary was recorded at a volume that matched the volume of the sketches. Due to this, it was practically impossible to hear the commentary clearly. The release also has subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.
This 2 disc set featured a few extras spanning the show's entire run but unfortunately the only extra actually related to Season 2 was bungled due to an audio issue. The Audio Commentary with the Cast would have been an enlightening feature in theory. We could have learned more from the Kids on how the various odd and oddly hilarious sketches came to be. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, this is rendered impossible by the fact that the audio commentary is mixed at the same level as the sketches themselves. Trying to decipher the words of the cast while the very same cast members enact the sketches is initially disorienting and increasingly frustrating. After subjecting myself to the first episode's commentary, I decided that I had had enough. For what it's worth, I don't believe the commentary (what I could hear of it) was all that it should have been. It sounded like the guys were really flying by the seat of their pants and didn't have any idea on what sort of information to present regarding the genesis of the sketches.
As it turns out, we have to look to the show's past and future for the more entertaining extras. Sketches from the Best of Season 1 is 24 minutes long and presents the funniest stuff from the first go around by the Kids back when they were on Fuse. As an entertaining bonus, these sketches feature intros from the entire cast. The intros are often as funny as the sketches they are related to, which partially makes up for the disappointing commentary. Just be aware of the fact that these sketches are presented full frame with image quality that is a notch or two below that of Season 2. Having said that, this feature proves to me that while the Kids may have incredible peaks and valleys during a season, they can definitely produce a solid greatest hits set. The final extra is a collection of 3 sketches which provide a Sneak Peek at Season 3. All 3 are funny but the Grapist sketch is an instant classic.
The Whitest Kids U Know have a good thing going. They are on a channel that has given them free reign to indulge their most inappropriate impulses in the name of comedy. It is a testament to their improv skill and ability that they are able to mine laughs from otherwise ludicrous premises. Having said that, their desire to be edgy does often trip them up as humor takes a back seat to shock tactics. In addition, their inexperience shows in the rambling, unfocused long-form sketches. I believe this is something that will improve with time and look forward to viewing their future antics. The non-anamorphic video for this release coupled with merely adequate audio and paltry extras compels me to suggest that you Rent It.