If you were to go through the massive ‘Stories’ folder on my hard drive wherein I have a digital copy of every piece of fiction I’ve written or attempted to write since I was 13, you would see a lot of fascinating things. You would see a large amount of Mary Sue-style fan fiction from my middle school years, innumerable halfassed screenplays that are bad in ways not previously thought possible by science, and more than a few attempts from my early college years to condense my high school life and experiences into a poignant and funny novel. (The last thing you would see would be me running up behind you with an axe to kill you in order to preserve the secrets of just how embarrassingly horrible 90% of my creative output really is.)
But before the whole axe thing, if you looked closely at the stories and screenplays I tried to write about high school and adolescence, you’d see that they all started with some approximation of, “So there are these three dudes, and they’ve been best friends forever.” (Another prevalent theme was, “So there are these zombies and we have to kill or hide from them,” and “So there was this video game and here are some stories I made up about the characters in it.”)
I kept revisiting the ‘three dudes’ trope for a couple of reasons – for one, it makes it pretty easy to tell a funny story with snappy, character driven comedy. It’s not hard to create three distinct, well fleshed out characters, and three dudes as opposed to two allows for two of them to be able to team up and isolate the other when the occasion calls for it, which is a good conflict.
However, more than all that stuff – most of which I thought up three minutes ago – I found myself unconsciously gravitating to stories about three dudes because most of what I write about is inspired by things that happen to me, and most of the things that happened to me in high school happened in the context of me and two other dudes; namely, My Main Bro Alexander and our Other Friend Brent. We called ourselves the Flying All Star Trio, and no, since you’re asking, most of our adventures together didn’t involve women.
As much as I eschew most traditional masculinity by not playing sports, referring to myself as a feminist, or using words like ‘eschew’, I’m a big fan of male bonding and bromance, largely due to my bromantic experiences in high school. It’s why I’m a fan of movies like Superbad - they’re about guys who, despite all their failings and lameness and assholery, really love one another beyond reason. There’s an understated sweetness in blind, unconditional friendship.
That is why I believe that Workaholics, the character driven slacker sitcom on Comedy Central, is probably one of the greatest shows on television at the moment. At the very least, it’s a lot better than The Office, and their first season was arguably more consistently hilarious than this season of Community, at least so far.
The show’s premise is this: There are these three dudes and they’ve been best friends forever, and having recently graduated from college they now live together in Rancho Cucamonga, California, working 9-5 in a dead end job as telemarketers and spending most of their time outside of work doing their best to forget that they’re supposed to act like adults now. Most episodes revolve around the trio’s farcical adventures at the office or at home as they try to either avoid work without getting fired or reclaim some semblance of the coolness and social status they’d had in college.
It would be really easy for this show about three young white males partying and being irresponsible to turn into some shitty, American Pie Presents: The Workaholics! travesty, but thanks to the considerable talent of the show’s writers, who are also its stars, most of the comedy is character and dialogue driven, and I’d wager they’re sober for at least three quarters of the writing process. The scripts are pretty tightly structured and almost always build to an unexpected and funny conclusion, which is really saying something when you remember that in the second episode of the series, one of the protagonists inadvertently exposes himself to a child while wearing a coat that looks like a grizzly bear.
The characters, despite their general laziness and misanthropy, are way sweeter and more redeemable than those on other slacker comedies like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia because through thick and thin, these guys love each other and frequently go to great, illegal, and sometimes disgusting lengths to show it. What’s more, like the guys in Superbad, it’s easy to find one of them whose personality you identify with, which makes it far easier to get invested in the three dudes and what happens to them. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is a phenomenal show in its own right, but it’s more of a freak safari through the darkest parts of human nature than a show with protagonists who you want to succeed.
At the risk of getting too up my own ass with analytical bullshit, I think Workaholics is, perhaps unintentionally, probably more in touch with my generation and the kind of shit we’re dealing with than any other show I’m aware of.
Much like me and many of my friends, the three dudes on Workaholics all grew up in suburban, upper-middle class environments and were raised to understand that they would definitely attend college after high school because, with college degrees, they would definitely get good jobs and be successful.
Like many of my friends (and me for the six months before I got lucky and stumbled into an advertising job), they graduated to find a dismal job market where the best their degrees could get them was shitty work for shitty pay and no benefits.
Everything they’d been taught about how to be a grown up turned out to be wrong, and in response they smoke weed on their roof, form a wizard themed rap group, go on an all-night bender with their boss’s autistic younger brother, and generally reject adulthood and all its trappings. I mean, can you blame them?
It's just a refreshing counterpoint to a show like How I Met Your Mother, in which all the of the 20something protagonists are successful enough right out of college to afford spacious Manhattan apartments and multiple cab rides per night. While that, too, is a great show, it can be kind of stressful to watch people in roughly your age group going to bars and fancy parties all the time when you're facing the prospect of eating white rice and ketchup for your next ten meals.
In those moments, aimless and unemployed Millennials can look to the reassuring glow of Workaholics and know adulthood isn't going anywhere, so we and our bros can take our time getting there if need be.
Truman Capps has probably alienated most of his readers by suggesting that anything is funnier than Community.