The folks at Comedy Central might be a little too enamored with production auspices these days. First came the woeful “Big Lake” (produced by Will Ferrell’s company!), and now the hit-miss sketch comedy “Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time” (produced by Adam Sandler’s company!). Swardson’s standup special was titled “Seriously, Who Farted?” which essentially establishes the level of humor — an intermittently amusing (but seldom clever) mix of scatological gags and just plain goofiness, aspiring to nothing more than irreverence. Saying it’s any better than that would require, er, pretending.
There’s little new under the sun in the sketch world, but the quick-hit, Web-style format certainly caters to the attention spans of teenage boys and young guys.
Blessed with an amiably bland face that has earned him supporting roles in Sandler’s “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” Swardson rifles through bits including an elderly woman who leaves everything to her cat, a gay robot and a hybrid car — the Peeus — that runs on urine. If the first glimpse of someone peeing into a gas tank elicits a grudging giggle, by the seventh or eighth, not so much.
The best sketch in the two episodes previewed involves a guy leveraging his “bucket list” to engage in all sorts of bad behavior, which brought to mind the late Robert Schimmel’s joke about using the Make-a-Wish Foundation for his personal benefit. In such an environment, tastelessness is both expected and tolerable — if it manages to be funny, that is — a saving grace that too often eludes “Pretend Time.”
Comedy Central keeps returning to the sketch template, but been unable to replicate the buzz Dave’s Chappelle program generated. In the interim, file Swardson’s contribution among the channel’s mini-niche of projects kissing up to movie stars.
There are various ways to describe that, but irreverent isn’t one of them.