Although it's been a long few years of back-to-back programming aimed at the preteen set, those of us who've watched MTV since the beginning can attest to the fact that "music television" can also be a breeding ground for envelope-pushing comedy.
Think about it: Beavis and Butthead, Tipper Gore's favorite target, originated on the network, as did The State, Jackass, the highly underrated Sifl & Olly, The Ben Stiller Show, The Tom Green Show -- OK, we didn't say they were all Peabody-worthy programming. However, one MTV alum managed to parlay his short-lived 1993 talk show into not just a Peabody Award, but a potential presidential candidacy (...one day?): Jon Stewart.
On Thurs. April 5, at 10:30 p.m., two South Carolina natives doin' good make their MTV debut as part of the network's new Thursday comedy line-up with the irreverent, hilarious short films of Human Giant.
Those two Human Giant members and S.C. natives -- Aziz Ansari and Rob Huebel, both veteran Upright Citizens Brigade comedians who have performed in Charleston as part of Piccolo Spoleto (and in Ansari's case, the Charleston Comedy Festival) -- have been carving out roomy little niches for themselves over the past few years both with and without the UCB.
After spending many a Monday night slaying audiences at the UCB Theatre in New York City at their weekly "Crash Test" showcase with short films like "Shutterbugs" and "The Illusionators," Huebel, Ansari, fellow UCBer (and regular Best Week Ever commentator) Paul Scheer, and director Jason Woliner eventually united under the Human Giant banner.
"Rob and I have known each other for the last 10 years," Scheer says, "and Aziz is kind of like the new guy on the scene and we just kinda met one night at a touring UCB show in this tech school in New Jersey. We were all sitting in the kitchen, waiting to go on into the cafeteria and perform for all these kids -- really high-class event -- and he mentioned he was doing 'Crash Test,' so Rob and I hosted it, and then we kinda started doing stuff together, and we met Jason and got locked in as a group and started making these movies."
Word-of-mouth -- or maybe we should say word-of-keyboard -- spread quickly after the first episode of "Shutterbugs" appeared on YouTube in early 2006. The short stars Ansari and Huebel as hard-nosed New York children's talent agents who, when a studio rep asks them for "evil incarnate; a psychopathic murderer who's gotta project evil from his eyes," offer up a doe-eyed kindergarten-aged boy, mentioning that he's "a hardcore Method actor" who gained 200 pounds and got a swastika tattoo for a previous role as a Nazi prison guard.
When they saw how popular "Shutterbugs" was, the tech-savvy Human Giants followed it up with "The Illusionators," a parody pointed directly at "street magic" practitioners Criss Angel and David Blaine. I'm not even going to try to explain this one -- visit the Human Giant website to see for yourself.
The execs at MTV (whom Scheer describes as "really cool, always around seeing shows") approached the four fellows after seeing "The Illusionators" and Ansari's "Shittiest Mix Tape" short, where Ansari lost a "Crash Test"-made bet with a fellow UCBer to make the shittiest mix tape ever and had to walk around New York City with a boombox blaring a 10-song mix tape with songs like Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me" and the Miami Sound Machine's "Conga" on it.
It's clear that all four of the guys have strong passions for music, making the collaboration with MTV far more natural than it at first sounds on paper.
Witness Ansari's starring role in "Clell Tickle: Indie Marketing Guru," in which he plays a rep for indie rockers Tapes N Tapes and goes to great lengths to get his band heard, threatening to give a music blogger a Columbian necktie if he won't post a Tapes N Tapes song on his website and allegedly ripping freak-folk singer Devandra Banhart's beard off.