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Karina’s Capsule: Nirvana The Band The Show

Since mid-December, Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol have produced and starred in three full ten-minute episodes of Nirvana The Band The Show. Something like Clark and Michael for cabaret nerds, the verite-style sitcom follows Johnson and McCarrol as they try to book a show for their hyperactive two-man act, Nirvana The Band.

Nirvana The Band has nothing to do with Nirvana — we don’t actually ever hear a full song, but their act seems to consist of McCarrol playing the piano (quite well, actually) while Johnson improvises elaborate dances and self-referential spoken word — the joke is that the characters of Matt and Jay are apparently unaware that the name “Nirvana” has already been taken.

Yes, the premise does require a pretty serious suspension of disbelief. But by the second episode, Matt and Jay’s cluelessness seems almost plausible. With each episode giving stylistic nods to a different late-’80s sitcom (episode 2 takes its Growing Pains theme to such an extent that scenes are divided by montages of its stars’ baby pictures), it soon becomes clear that despite its so-now-it’s-almost-passe pseudo-documentary style, Nirvana is in its way a throw-back to a long-gone sitcom milieu in which there was virtually no sense of a world outside the main characters’ living room. Though each episode requires an outing to their Reagle Beagle, a local club where the boys scheme to book a show, Matt and Jay spend most of their time on or around their living room couch, eating junk food, playing video games, and plotting music world domination.

It’s ultimately a farce about the “creative process” of the non-talented. It may hit a little too close to home for anyone who has spent days on end locked in a stuffy apartment, bullshitting with their roommate, dreaming big but never really doing much of anything beyond setting new high scores in Mario Kart. But the production values belie its fly-on-the-dorm-wall spontaneity, and it wouldn’t work at all if not for Johnson and McCarrol’s dream chemistry and exceptionally sharp comic timing.

My favorite episode so far is the most recent, in which Jay and Matt’s plot to break into the club and impersonate the booker is foiled when Jay gets a little too wrapped up in a game of Castlevania: DoS, but the above clip, a preview for Episode 4, demonstrates the giddy magic that happens when McCarrol sits at the piano and Johnson runs wild.

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