Vito Calise Reviews: Adult Swim’s Double Shot of Special Sunday Shorts, Eric Andre and Jena Friedman
Our newest columnist, Vito Calise, is taking on the huge task of reviewing all the comedy specials he can see. You know him from SiriusXM’s Bennington Show, The Interrobang’s Big Brothers podcast, and as the star of the first ever Instagram young adult drama series, The Halls. Born and raised on New York City’s Upper West Side, Vito went to Chelsea’s School of Visual Arts, has danced on bars as a bartender around Manhattan, operated a mechanical bull and was even a doorman for a week. And he loves comedy. And today he’s taking on Adult Swim’s double special series airing Sunday February 18th at 12 midnight and 12:15: Jena Friedman’s Soft Focus, and Eric Andre’s Eric Andre Does Paris.
“The special just lacks originality, we’ve seen The Daily Show, we’ve seen Nathan For You. It’s funny but up against the projects it reminds you of, it doesn’t hold up.”
Jena Friedman’s Soft Focus special for Adult Swim definitely draws inspiration from The Daily Show, where she was a field producer. The special is perfectly described as “live-action comedic human-interest program where fact and fiction blend in a harmonious union of what the f***.” The special is a parody of magazine shows you’ve seen for years like 20/20 or 60 Minutes and is split into two topics, an investigative piece where Jena tries to solve campus rape and an interview with the “cannibal cop”.
Soft Focus doesn’t really give much introduction, we just go right into her report on campus rape. If you’re not familiar with Friedman, she has a very deadpan delivery that works really well on this special. She interacts with a few people in this segment but her moments with the awful, stereotypical college frat bros are the highlight of the show. Adult Swim has always had content that is edited amazingly, if you know the history of Adult Swim, the people who edited the shows together were the real heroes in the early days because they were just using old animation cells to create new content.
When we first meet the frat bros they’re saying the most cliché things a frat guy could say while generic hard rock music you would expect to hear on a 90’s MTV spring break special blasts in the background. Her cold presence and these college bros are a perfect juxtaposition. You can tell how much disdain she has for these guys while she actually tries to teach them about rape culture and what females deal with. The segment works really well and is so good it probably should have been the second segment, not the lead off one. It also would have been really easy for her to bash these guys and point out how ridiculous they are, but instead letting them make fools of themselves while she plays is straight creates for better comedy.
The second segment features Gilberto Valle, the guy known as the “Cannibal Cop” who got caught planning to eat his wife and her friends in 2012. At first it feels like a straight up interview and feels very out of place in this special. It takes a hard turn out of nowhere into a parody of the dating game and then it all makes sense. There’s nothing outstanding about this part, you may chuckle here and there but it lacks because it’s something you would expect to see on SNL in 2012 when the case was relevant. Yes, here she is using the actual guy but that doesn’t really make a difference. The bit doesn’t drag on because it’s over before it ever really started.
The special just lacks originality, we’ve seen The Daily Show, we’ve seen Nathan For You. It’s funny but up against the projects it reminds you of, it doesn’t hold up. The campus rape segment is very funny and had me locked in but the second half featuring the cannibal cop just didn’t do it for me. I could definitely see this becoming an Adult Swim show and I hope it does or she at least gets another chance because she’s very talented and you can tell from this 15 minutes that it has potential. Hopefully though if she does get that chance she does something a bit different while keeping her same energy.
“It’s just another episode of his show but in Paris interacting with Parisians. I really like The Eric Andre Show but am disappointed that this piece that was presented as a special had nothing special about it at all.”
There’s not much to say about this. Do you like Eric Andre? Do you like The Eric Andre Show? Then you’ll most likely enjoy this. It’s just another episode of his show but in Paris interacting with Parisians. I really like The Eric Andre Show but am disappointed that this piece that was presented as a special had nothing special about it at all. If you’re going to another country make it larger than life, make it a spectacle. Take a page from Conan, when he goes to other places he doesn’t just legitimately do his show in another country, he makes the environment part of the show and plays off of that. Parisians on the street react the same way that New Yorkers on the street react. The truth is though, Eric Andre is going to do whatever he wants to do and you’ll get a few laughs out him doing his ridiculous stunts.
There’s an outrageous intro and then we go into Eric Andre wearing no pants and harassing people in the streets of Paris. Eric is at his best when he’s actually interacting and talking to people though and has some funny moments in this short special, but clocking in at a total of 9 minutes there’s not enough time for anything to really stand out.
The Eric Andre show got known for his cringe-worthy interviews with celebrities. In Paris, less people know who Eric Andre thing and for the type of show he does that’s much better. This would have been the perfect opportunity to have an uptight Parisian celebrity who probably already has a poor outlook on Americans be his guest on a desk interview segment. That’s my main complain because there’s not really much you can ask for on a special like this. You’ll laugh at this, you’ll enjoy it but you won’t be sending any of these clips to friends or talking about it a week later like some episodes of the show have done in the past.