The Whitest Kids U' Know
IFC Films // Unrated // $26.95 // February 5, 2008
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted January 22, 2008
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In 10 Words or Less
Yet another sketch comedy troupe gets a TV show

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Sketch Comedy
Likes: Trevor Moore, IFC
Dislikes: Gross-out comedy, Fuse

The Show
When the ads started appearing promoting a new sketch comedy show on the music channel Fuse, I was interested, mainly because the one character shown was Adolph Hitler throwing a gang sign. Any show that thinks using the leader of the Third Reich looking like a drunk Sorority girl is a good marketing tool, is a show that might be worth watching. Unfortunately, the show was on Fuse, a channel I never watch, outside of a short-lived obsession with "Pants Off Dance Off," so I never caught it on the air.

Now that it's on DVD I could plow through all 10 episodes and see what it's all about. What I found was a sketch troupe not unlike those who have come before, but a good one nonetheless. If anything makes these Kids different than the legendary Kids (in the Hall, with whom they share a producer) it's the somewhat singular vision behind the show, provided by Trevor Moore, who serves as a writer, director and actor, after having his own public access show, and an aborted series for the family-friendly Pax network. The most memorable sketches and performances star Moore, a tall, angular guy with expressive eyes and a talent for musical comedy ("Get a New Daddy" is insidiously catchy) and overplaying emotion (watch "Gallon of PCP" for a sketch acting workshop.)

That's not to say his castmates don't bring anything to the table. In fact, they bring a mix of talents that recalls some of the best aspects of previous sketch stars. Darren Trumeter and Zach Cregger both practice a brand of drag that's a blend of the KITH's real women and Monty Python's men in dresses, while Timmy William's strangely childlike persona reminds one of Brian Posehn's appearances on Mr. Show. The final Kid, the low-key Sam Brown, could be tagged as anything from Kevin McDonald's weakling oddballs to Chris Parnell's straight-laced lunatics. It may be something of a backhanded compliment to describe them as such, because outside of Moore, they feel like a group inspired by others than innovators. But at least they take that inspiration and make something interesting from it, instead of being a tribute band.

The show is more like "SNL" than the other shows mentioned, as there's no linking elements between the majority of the sketches, with the show bouncing from moment to moment, mixing quick-hit bits and long set-ups. Sketch concepts are all over the place, thought a few themes emerge, including many gross-out gags, jokes about race, music, history and homosexuality, and uncomfortable moments that last forever. Though the show dips into easy scatological humor, like a businessman who removes a turd from his pants in the middle of a meeting, there's a good deal of smart humor as well, some of which is camouflaged as stupidity, like a scene in which a group of friends beat each other up depending upon their use of grammar. But as one might expect, the most memorable bits are the most in-your-face, including a guy using a casual gesture in an extremely creepy manner, an astronaut who refuses to let gravity affect his snacking and a rap video by A. Hitler (which was actually a student film by Moore.) Impressively, they avoid the presence of recurring characters for the most part, unless they are playing themselves.

The show was successful enough to spawn a second season, just not on Fuse. Instead, the show has moved to IFC, where the show can run uncensored, which is just as it runs on this DVD set, which means you get to hear all the cursing and see the nudity, which was used as a censored punchline on Fuse. Does it affect the show? Not really. The swearing works either way, and the nudity is so pointless that only the horniest 13-year-old will get anything out of it. The bigger question is "Why the move?" Did the Kids jump ship or were they pushed? Based on these DVDs, it's hard to not think this was the best show Fuse had going for it, and they are worse off for the loss.

The DVDs
A two-disc set, the DVDs are packed in a standard-width keepcase with a tray for the second disc, which is inside an embossed/debossed slipcover that has a reverse version of the cover art. It's basically the same art used in the print ad for the show, but, in what was probably a way to avoid issues with retailers, the image of Moore as Hitler has been replaced with him as a pirate. The 10 episodes in season one are split evenly between the two DVDs, which have animated anamorphic widescreen menus featuring options to watch all the episodes, select specific scenes (with sketch choices), check out special features and adjust languages. There are no audio options, while subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish. There is no closed captioning.

The Quality
The full-frame video on these episodes is a mixed bag, mainly because of the many different sources used for the show and even the different ages of the material. The newly-shot in-studio footage is good, with solid, vivid color and a clear image, while new on-location scenes are a bit dimmer, with some minor grain. There are some older segments that are excessivelynoisy, but for the most part, the video is pretty good, and there's no noticeable dirt, damage or digital artifacts, outside of some cheesy blue-screen effects and some of the old footage.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are just what you'd expect from basic cable sketch comedy, with center-channel dialogue and some strong music, but nothing that's going to impress you much. No complaints here, especially during the music sketches.

The Extras
The biggest extra is a set of 10 audio commentaries by the Kids and executive producer Jim Biederman, one per episode. My expectations for the commentaries may have been high, because these tracks felt a bit slow, as they spent the majority of the time ripping on each other (especially Brown, who shows up late) and discussing how hot Trumeter is as a woman. Along the way, they take some phone calls from their friends, talk about how the sketches came together, complain about the show's titles and try to convince the drugged-out people watching to do bad things. These could have been better, but they do grow on you a bit as the episodes roll on.

A short featurette (less than three-minutes long) introduces each of the members of the troupe, before you get to watch three sketches from Season Two, this time in anamorphic widescreen. It's more of the same of what you see in the 10 episodes, including a sketch that has the most original feminine hygiene concept I've ever heard.

The Bottom Line
I'm always looking for a new sketch comedy series to enjoy, since most of my favorites are long off the air, and after experiencing the first season of "The Whitest Kids U' Know," it's possible that it could find a place in my heart, thanks to the odd sketch concepts and amusingly dark temperament. There's a real air of do-it-yourself about the show that keeps everything grounded, but not to the point where it has the hipster basement production feel of a "Wonder Showzen." If they can keep Moore in the fold and continue to expand their horizons to include sketches beyond finding the humor in someone acting gay or taking a crap, this could be a good one. The DVDs look and sound as good as the source material will allow, and the extras are good, but not as good as they feel they could be. Being located on the little-seen Fuse network means a good deal of those reading haven't seen this show, so give it a shot on DVD. It certainly won't take long, and you might be surprised at how often you laugh out loud.

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