Giving Tosh.0 a Fair Chance

Open Mind is a weekly series in which Josh Kurp takes a look at shows that we wouldn’t normally cover, to see whether they’re as bad (or occasionally, as good) as people say. This week: Tosh.0.

I never noticed it until last night, but Tosh.0 is the frat boy equivalent of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This observation might have come from the fact that I’ve been watching a staggering amount of MST3K lately, but I found the similarities pretty striking, not only because they’re both Comedy Central shows.

At their core, both series: make fun of amateurs (in the case of Tosh, it’s amateurs putting their home recordings on the Internet, while with MST3K, it’s amateurish filmmakers); reward loyal fans (Tosh has segments specifically for — and written by — fans and films in front of a live studio audience, while MST3K has hundreds of in-jokes that only dedicated viewers would understand, plus the ubiquitous Fan Club address that appears on-screen every episode); mask their hate with cute antics (Tosh has an “oh, gosh” demeanor, but will lash into people for their stupid antics and make fun of the way they look, specifically the overweight, an MST3K specialty, even though the barbs came from two robots); tell jokes at a rapid-fire rate; and combine quick riffs with longer skits based on the content that’s being watched.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is, obviously, the better of the two shows, but Tosh.0 has made some significant improvements since I lasted watch the show in early 2010. Host Daniel Tosh doesn’t quite have the same lovable, goofy charm as The Soup’s Joel McHale, his predecessor in many ways, but he better appeals to the coveted 18-24 male demographic, who appreciate a good (i.e. crass) joke about boobs and a dog’s mouth looking like a vagina, which is why Tosh is watched by over four million (mostly male) viewers every week, more than The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (it’s also the first successful TV show about the Internet — sorry Quarterlife, Web Junk, and $#*! My Dad Says, which some advertisers still won’t have anything to do with). Tosh’s humor isn’t for everyone, but someone has to tell a funny dick joke, and for now, he’s that someone.

The show’s biggest improvement is that Tosh, a very young 35 years old, is a more comfortable host more than he used to be (last night’s episode was the show’s 51st), and his delivery is much faster; when he’s on-screen, he doesn’t stop talking and he doesn’t let the jokes just sit there, waiting for laughs. If you didn’t get it, it’s your loss because he’s already onto the next one. Tosh is (intentionally) like a quick play of YouTube clips, where as soon as the 13 second video of a guy getting hit in the nuts ends, another related video begins.

But he does still have some annoying traits. The way Tosh speaks is similar to the way Jim Parsons does as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, which I’ve railed against in the past (meaning last week). The show also an odd habit of showing a video, then showing it again, then showing it but beginning at a different point, then showing it again but freezeframing at a specific moment. It’d be funnier if, like McHale does on The Soup, a clip was shown once, a joke or two was told, then they’d moved onto something else, but I’m guessing this is their way of separating themselves from the reality show-mocking series.

The skits in the episode were also painfully unfunny. One was a Daniel Tosh Toast, where the comedians from the Donald Trump Roast (including Jeffrey Ross, who I’m pretty sure only comes out of hibernation to appear on Comedy Central specials) couldn’t think of a bad thing to say about Tosh, so they spent the entire time praising his looks and penis, and the other was a recreation of The Karate Kid with a kid from a YouTube who couldn’t crack a piece of plywood on his head. These were segments that wouldn’t even make into the final 20 minutes of SNL and completely disrupted the flow of the show (The Soup has the same problem — writers from both shows should watch some old episodes of MST3K to learn how to properly pace cruel jokes with five-minute segments), although I like the idea behind Tosh taking a person from a viral video and featuring them in a skit, which he does every episode, calling it Web Redemption.

Another fan-based segment was much funnier, though. Tosh asked his Twitter followers (all 1.5 million of them) to finish this love letter: “Dear Erin Andrews…” Predictably, the end result was a lot of tweets written by horny men who wanted to bone the former-Dancing Star, but it was nice seeing some recognition for the stuff so many of us do all day: tell jokes on Twitter, which is really all Tosh.0 is. It’s looking at funny videos of fat kids dancing and animals doing silly things on the Internet, and then making jokes about them. What Mystery Science Theater 3000 did for geeks who loved to make fun of shitty movies, Tosh.0 is doing for everyone who thinks the Internet is ridiculous.

Josh Kurp really misses Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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