The numbing sameness of Comedy Central’s snide sketch comedy and politically incorrect tomfoolery isn’t usually helped by rolling them out two at a time, but the channel has done just that with new vehicles for comics Ben Hoffman and Nathan Fielder. Both have their moments, with “The Ben Show” hinging on a more rapid-fire assortment of gags, while “Nathan for You” too often feels like a spoof of the kind of reality shows most of the target audience wouldn’t be caught dead watching in the first place.
Mixing sketches with man-on-the-street bits, Hoffman builds most of his shtick around deadpanning his way through uncomfortable moments, like trying to get people to read offensive introductions oncamera.
That said, there are a few nuggets for those with the patience to keep panning for them, such as animating an interview with former child star Todd Bridges discussing past drug use, or a protracted bit where Hoffman debates whether to buy a gun, interviewing various people (including his father and his therapist) about the prospect.
Hoffman also indulges in plenty of racial and scatological stuff, like a tiresome bit where he repeatedly vomits in front of different strangers. If it’s occasionally clever, like a lot of these shows, it’s just as often annoying.
The same largely holds on “Nathan for You,” which more closely hews to a single concept: Fielder plays one of those made-for-TV business consultants, a la Gordon Ramsay or any number of Bravo gurus there to help out small shops, only to give the confused proprietors really terrible advice.
In the premiere, this involves talking a yogurt shop into selling a poo-flavored treat, and separately convincing a pizzeria to offer eight-minute-delivery-or-free service, the trick being the free pizza is only an inch square.
Like Hoffman, Fielder deadpans his way through the half-hour, yet even with two different marks, the material is too thin to fill an episode, forcing him to flesh things out with vignettes, like going on a job interview and having a 7-year-old boy feed him answers.
Despite the poo gag (and gagging seems to be what most patrons do), “Nathan” is less consistently vulgar than “Ben,” and while both are uneven, it’s also less funny.
That’s not to say Comedy Central should be discouraged from playing with the format, but after “The Kroll Show” and these new entries, the channel seems to be in a bit of a rut, rotating different comics (mostly young white guys) through the same low-brow mill.
If that suits your taste, have at it, and some surely will. Because as Fielder demonstrates, there are some people who don’t seem to mind poo-flavored confections.