As the world lies in wait for Judd Apatow’s third feature, Funny People, to hit multiplexes nationwide this Friday, the film’s clever viral marketing campaign is picking up steam. Last month a clip leaked online (via Funnyordie.com) featuring Jason Schwartzman as a beset high school English teacher trying to rap Shakespeare (“the O.G. Big Willy”) with a classroom full of unresponsive teens. The trope is well known to anyone from the Gen Y set brought up on Saved by the Bell, Hanging With Mr. Cooper and other similarly-schmaltzy after school fare. Moreover, the clip—from a phony sitcom called Yo Teach! that stars Schwartzman’s character from Funny People—proved that Apatow is ready to lob shots at American comedy’s broadest targets.
Well America’s biggest comedic auteur has his claws out yet again, with a faux-doc featuring Azis Ansari (of MTV's Human Giant) as Raaaaaaaandy (with eight As), an immensely popular stand-up comic in Funny People’s narrative world. That a mainstream Hollywood comedy can even be said to possess its own self-contained “narrative world” may speak somewhat to the scope of Apatow’s latest project. Then again, this is the guy who cut his teeth writing backstage celebrity self-parody for The Larry Sanders Show in the early ‘90s. What’s more interesting though, is the ruthlessness, and precision, of Apatow and Ansari’s critique of America’s more lucrative stand-up comedians.
Though never mentioned by name, the Raaaaaaaandy doc is clearly sneering at the likes of Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia, Canada’s own Russell Peters and other banner name jokesmiths known for packing in arena-sized crowds with cracks about blowjobs or growing up in an ethnic household. While this sort of ribbing is spot-on—from Randy’s reliance on catchphrases and goofy noises (Cook), an on-stage DJ (Peters) and his habit of plundering material from other comics (Mencia and again, Cook)—it hardly seems good natured, to the point of being more than a little bit mean. While these guys, and their Ed Hardy-attired audiences, may deserve a thorough mocking (personally, I’d rather be forced to watch every season of American Dad Ludvico-style than willingly pad Dane Cook’s pockets), is Apatow really the guy to be doing it?
Granted, he’s helped shape the landscape of contemporary American funny in a huge way, but he’s no less a mainstream comedic celebrity than Cook, Mencia or a post-Blart Kevin James. And though he may exercise a base level of discernment in developing the projects he authors as writer/director, he holds producer credits on everything from The Cable Guy through to Kicking & Screaming and Drillbit Taylor. Even The 40 Year Old Virgin's best jokes were set up with "you know how I know you're gay?" And remember the last scene, when everyone’s dancing around shirtless to that 5th Dimension song from Hair? You’d be hard pressed to find something stupider without delving into the Not Another [INSERT GENRE] Movie dredges.
Still, regardless of the intention, the Raaaaaaaandy thing is hilarious. If Funny People is half as humorous as this, it might just be Apatow's opus. Then again, considering that earlier this year, Zack Snyder's Watchmen was set up with one of the finest viral campaigns in history (often thanks to disinterested third parties) and nonetheless suffered equally from its own medicority and meagre box office receipts, Raaaaaaaandy might be another case of online marketing putting the cart before the horse.
Or, if you can’t get enough of those hilarious Randy noises, check out his website at www.laughyourdickoff.com