A vicious vicarious thrill of variety is proving to be the name of the game with Saturday Night Live off-shoot YouTube Channel, Above Average.
Above Average is the latest venture from Broadway Video, a company set up in 1979 in order to deal with post production work on his little Saturday Night Live show. If any of the names involved in Above Average seem familiar it;s because Broadway Video uses a pool of talent that work for shows like the aforementioned SNL, as well as 30 Rock, Late Night with Fallon, and Portlandia
We have covered the Above Average show ‘I Expect You To Die’ before. The show was short-lived, but the channel deserves a bit more attention due to a selection of high quality material that is scooping up the hits. Indeed, most ‘shows’ on Above Average barely seem to get beyond a few episodes, despite accumulating a whole bucket load of views. The channel throws out more hastily packaged ideas than a department store during the seasonal holiday (first Christmas joke of the season? Check).
Therefore, in order to ascertain whether Above Average lives up to its name, I will now cut a little deeper into the various slices of amusement it has to offer.
As you would perhaps expect with so much material, there are hits and there are misses. The misses can be summed up best thus: a not great idea played out for a meandering 4 minutes. Examples include a take on the shirts -v- skins concept of team sports, with Shorts -v- Skins (in which the ‘shorts’ remove their leg based clothing and flap about freely). There follows a variety of ‘look! No pants!’ visual jokes that never really do anything particularly interesting beyond what you would imagine.
Similarly, a sketch involving a true ‘home cinema experience‘ – complete with annoying mobile phone talkers and people screaming at the screen (in a rather lazy and stereotypical way) – smacks of someone throwing out an idea and no-one really committing to it very much.
Where Above Average shines is, bizarrely, in the ideas it sticks with for a short time and then drops without ceremony. Even though the ideas with legs are always abandoned before their time, the reason they work so well is because a core underlying theme is identified, and then extra layers of jokes get to be worked in around it.
The Morning After is a good example of this. These sketches explore a variety of scenarios in which the repercussions of a night of….excitement….are played out to maximum effect; like the guy having lied about it being his first time, and then being insulted at receiving some constructive criticism; or the guy who thinks he has caught out a woman’s trick to return later, only to have the weird shape of his member pointed out as a reason as to why this would never happen.
Magic Eye Shark Movie pokes fun at the movie industry by charting the progress of a ‘interesting on paper (sort of) idea’ through to writing and production (with the ever-present marketing team and their not-so-helpful notes). The show is short, punchy, and bubbling with gags. The Trunk is a great idea for a show. It features a variety of themed stories told from the perspective of the trunk of a car. We only see the story play out when someone opens their car’s trunk (with the camera inside, angled up). This lends itself to a wide range of creative vignettes that overlap to form a really funny narrative, like the rise (and fall) of a rock bank, or the many experiences that prom night has to offer.