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/ January 30, 2013
Kroll Show Joins Portlandia In Capturing Today’s Cultural Zeitgeist Via Sketch Comedy

Comedy Central’s newest addition,¬†Kroll Show, hosted by character comedian and The League faux-bro Nick Kroll, premiered earlier this month and airs its third episode tonight.

The half-hour sketch program exists at a sort of median point between the cultural commentary of Portlandia and the mania that is Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! (and it’s no wonder that all three shows share a key staff member — Jonathan Krisel). Kroll Show is a welcome addition to Comedy Central’s lineup, as it provides for the network in part what Portlandia did for IFC — a new look at the culture we are living in, through the eyes of some really goofy sketch characters.

There’s plenty to enjoy about Kroll Show, which shows promise as a commentary on mainstream culture in the same fashion through which Portlandia tackles anything you might deem ‘alternative.’ This includes a pitch-perfect spoof of Degrassi. The Degrassi sketch is especially notable because it invests an equal amount in bad Canadian accents, Drake-in-a-wheelchair jokes, and a storyline of moral ambiguity that actually seems like it could’ve been taken from a Degrassi episode. Kroll Show captured the zeitgeist so well that Comedy Central had to release its Chick Fil-A parody a full six months before the show ever aired.

Mixed in with the entirely too accurate satire, Kroll Show features familiar characters from Kroll’s stand-up act and podcast appearances, including Latino radio personality ‘El Chupacabra’ and entrepreneurial douchebro Bobby Bottleservice as well as new characters like the girls of PubLIZity, a pair of publicists (Kroll and Jenny Slate) on their own Bravo-esque reality show documenting their constant status of being on the verge of a meltdown.

Kroll Show‘s writers room and list of guest stars is full of celebrities and staples of the LA alt-comedy scene including Chelsea Peretti, Jon Daly, Colin Hanks, Happy Endings‘ Adam Pally, The League‘s Jason Mantzoukas and Paul Scheer, and SNL writer and stand up John Mulaney. Fred Armisen will appear as a guest later this season.

Meanwhile, Portlandia, which came back for its third season earlier this winter, continues to go strong (episode 7 premieres Friday on IFC). Although the show takes place in a fictionalized world most closely reminiscent of Portland, OR, this indie utopia acts as an amalgamation of strange cities across America — in particular Armisen draws from his punk-rock and improv roots in Chicago and Austin, and Brownstein first gained fame as Sleater-Kinney riot grrl while in Olympia, WA. Portlandia’s depiction of universal alt-hood can act as an introductory course for grandparents or relatives who might not otherwise understand.

From the show’s start, Portlandia has captured what it means to be a hipster in America — although we’re still trying to answer that question — but especially in this season has chosen to go deeper into characters that would probably never be defined as hipsters, like salt-and-pepper haired couples at a town meeting to name honorary streets, and a long-ponytailed lady and her husband who have just returned from Spain and want to ensure all Spanish-themed events are authentic.

Aside from some awesome one-off sketches, like a group of spoiler-wary adults at a dinner party and a PSA in which a real life nerds — “This is not my Halloween costume” — speak up against the influx of fake-nerd girls, this season of Portlandia takes on the tougher task of creating episode-long story arcs and characters with deeper goals and outcomes. And what works is that it’s still really fun.

Kroll Show and Portlandia might not cover every aspect of human life, but they both seem game enough to try it.

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