Comedy’s the Big Winner in Man Vs. Thing

[show=manvsthing size=large]There are many approaches to comedy, and the “kitchen sink” one definitely has its pitfalls. The instinct to throw tons of wackiness at one particular concept can mean the truly funny gags get buried beneath less inspired jokes. But if you can hit the right balance, you’ve got a gem like Man Vs. Thing on your hands.

A sports parody series pitting man against various inanimate objects — including a wall, a couch, God, and the Doppler 3000 weather prognosticator — Man Vs. Thing‘s challenges are ridiculous, its commentators more ludicrous, and their facial hair the utmost in bizarre. Some of these challenges don’t exactly seem fair, but at least the Man gets his shot at victory every once in awhile, such as when he competes against a chair in the 100-yard dash.

It’s a concept that would be absurd enough without master athlete Chester Thesewick being an old-timey athlete with a complex back story (just one detail: he won 12 gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, despite the fact that America was boycotting them, because he was in the country for Oktoberfest). And the series’ satire of TV sports comes to life, thanks to clean, professional motion graphics which only add to the comedy — even the chyrons on Man Vs. Thing work overtime, occasionally introducing field reporter Bryce Kensie as “one of those sports chicks” or Thesewick’s coach as “Functioning Alcoholic.” While structured in a stand-alone fashion, the series does build upon itself with time — commentator Chuck Hansen’s catchphrase of “Seal it in an envelope!”, for example, taking on epic proportions.

Directed by filmmaker Rob Schulbaum of the digital media group SquareNone, the first block of seven episodes has gone relatively unseen on YouTube, but (aside from the occasional moment that brings to mind the Vince Vaughn-Ben Stiller comedy Dodgeball) it’s an original premise with a lot of comedic potential. It’s hard to say whether there’s room for the show to take on new sponsorship, given that the series even mines its fake sponsors for humor. But I’d love to find out what other things Man could take on with a slightly higher budget.