Jason Mantzoukas


images-1Comedy Central’s cult classic Workaholics has given us myriad memorable, moments, hilarious lines, and awkward predicaments, that it seems only the dream team trio of Blake (Blake Anderson, above, l.), Ders (Anders Holm), and our favorite, Adam (Adam Devine, above, r.) can get into and out of, or just into.  To recall a few:  The time, when, to avoid an overzealous security agent, our trio took to the sewers.  The result?  Well, um, shit.  The very, very classic episode called “Muscle I’d Like to Flex” when Laura Kightlinger guests as Sharon Lavarno, the cougar who owns the building where our boys ‘te-lemarket’, and whose gaze lands upon the inimitable Adam DeMamp, while he pumps iron on the roof of the building.  That episode begins with a clip from the beginning of the group’s Wizard Rap (“Wizards Don’t Die”), which we’ve cued for you below from a live set in which the full song appears, and where the sound quality is markedly better than the Youtube show clips.  Take a look:

That episode also gave us the following gem:

“Did you ever meet someone who like gets you on all levels?  Makes you feel like your souls are boning each other in the spirit world?”

Of course, the gem belongs to Adam, who, frankly, has had so many of them that we may reconsider our recent stance that Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas) of “The League” is the funniest character on television.

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So so many.  On the death of “Homegirl”:

“Brain tumor.  Doctor said it was the size of a p’zone.”

On Anders’ remarks on the taste of spermicide:

“I can’t believe you know what spermicide tastes like.  Have you been deep throating condoms just because you can?”

On his disbelief that Ipecac will make him yack upon drinking some, because Ipecac is a scientific formula:

“Those scientists better check their hypotenuses, dude.”

Then he of course pukes, post haste.  On historical figures:

“Shakespeare was a super important dude.  He was like the president of Rome.”

Not only do we look forward to Adam Devine reprising the Adam DeMamp role, we also look forward to his role in the much anticipated return (to Netflix) of Arrested Development, S4.

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Another favorite of ours is “To Friend a Predator”, when the boys set in motion a ruse to lure and catch “Topher” (Chris D’Elia), who has revealed himself as a pedophile, and connoisseur of boys aged “10 to 12.”  Only apprehending Topher becomes more difficult than planned because Topher is the coolest, rather, the “ballingest” guy they’ve ever met, arriving to the trap they’ve set for him at their Rancha Cucamunga, well, um, ranch, armed with a bag of herb and a spud gun to launch projectile potatoes.

Topher ends up taking the boys to Club Damnation, a club that they normally aren’t cool enough to gain entry to.  The boys are out of place but ecstatic nonetheless, despite their less than chic fashion sense being described as “90’s Canadian.”  And all the more ecstatic when Topher introduces them to three female model friends who live in “The Penthouse Penthouse”, a clever takeoff on The Playboy Mansion.  When one of the ladies takes Adam’s phone and enters what is presumably her number, Adam endeavors to dial it.  When Adam sees it is actually ringing, prompting the realization that she had in fact given him her real number, a bewildered Adam declares, “there really is a second time for everything.”

The boys also displayed a bit of a social conscience when they go all “21 Jump Street”, undercover style, at the local high school, to foil neighborhood vandals.  A truly priceless scene comes when Adam, who has gotten in with the cool kids, forces a “swirlie” on Blake when they catch him acting weird in the bathroom, because Blake has not gotten in with the cool kids.  The swirlie.  Long may it live.

Our boys also have time for fun, even in “Business Trip”, when Adam, Blake, and Karl, their friend and homeless drug dealer (Kyle Newacheck, who happens to write much of this brilliant comedy, along with the 3 stars, and who happened to direct the episode), crash Anders’ hotel room when he leaves to close an important client and skips out on their plans to do LSD together.

Adam on when his friend took LSD:

“My buddy did acid once, and he could immediately speak Cantonese.  He was like, “sooong ting taoooo!”

While the boys never actually realized their dream of getting to The Penthouse Penthouse, we’re hoping that that storyline gets revisited sometime during S4, which is set to debut in about 4 weeks time.  Perhaps they will work in more rapping as well, as the boys are the most talented comedic rapping team this side of The Rhymnoceros and The Hip Hop Opotamus, the alter egos of Brett and Jemaine, from an even greater classic, “The Flight of the Choncords”.

And on that note, a word to our recent “fans’ and their “comments”–both loosely termed.  Be more constructive with your feedback please.

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It’s obvious to us why Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas, above), or in The League’s show lore terms, El Cunado, was excluded from brother-in-law Ruxin’s anniversary party.  While it was still a classic episode, thanks especially to Taco (John Lajoie), and his hilarious Ruxin wedding video montage (“Love is…), we were miffed nontheless. We get that the show is resolved to bring Rafi to viewers in small doses, but largely we find The League’s funniest episodes to include the infamous El-Cunado.  Aside from last season’s Thanksgiving episode, a comedic bounty which guest starred Sarah Silverman as Andre’s slutty sister and Jeff Goldblum as the senior Ruxin, the funniest episodes were ones in which Jason Mantzoukas reprised the Rafi role.  Most notably were the episodes that guested Mantzoukas and Brie Larson (United States of Tara), as Ruxin’s slutty au pair.

Ruxin, who seems to need Rafi whenever he is locked in a dilemma that the expert liar can not navigate alone, calls on Raffi to move into his home temporarily to make his free loading babysitter (Brie Larson, United States of Tara) uncomfortable.  When Ruxin opens the door on Rafi, who is sitting on the bowl, he becomes immediately revulsed.  But Rafi, always over the top, and in over the top style, declares that Ruxin is “watching it happen” right now (“The Au Pair”, S3, E3), before Ruxin has a chance to run out of there.  At moments like these we are left to wonder why show regulars Kevin and Pete have never made us laugh the way Rafi does in one scene.  Ruxin, Andre, Jenny (Katie Aselton) and Taco are consistently funny, but we can’t say we have any problems with their roles being minimized in order to find lines for Rafi, who is approaching “funniest character on TV” status.  This was the case a few weeks back during S4, E5 (“Breastalyzer”), when Andre had at best a nominal role, we assume, in order to make room for Rafi, whom Ruxin calls in because he has a conundrum.  His gorgeous wife Sophia (played by positively sizzling Nadine Velasquez) has signed their young son up for swim classes that meet regularly every Sunday through the end of football season, so Ruxin asks Rafi to take the boy to swimming class and to pretend to be Ruxin while there, so he can keep things cool with his wife.

Rafi steals the show in his very 1st line, as they cut to him on the couch next to Ruxin as Sophia informs Ruxin of his swim class obligation.  The audience doesn’t even know he’s there until Sophia starts walking out of the living room, when he declares that he “could watch her walk out of a room for hours.”

Rafi: “My sister’s body is bonkers.  I hope you you’re hitting that.”

Ruxin: “I have an idea.”

Rafi: “Jerkoff party (undoing his pants). I like where you’re going with this.”

Ruxin explains how he needs him to take the boy to swim class and impersonate him.  He also explains that there’s no smoking and no knives at swim class.

Rafi: “What if there’s an attack?”

Ruxin explains that there will be only mothers and children in the pool.

Raffi: “That’s exactly what I would attack.”

At swim class, Rafi affects the ruse that he is Ruxin, as instructed, strips down to a speedo with alacrity, cannon ball’s the pool (“Rafi Bomb”, below), and then criticizes the instructor for allowing a pool of 5 yr olds flotation devices.

Rafi: “You think they’re gonna get one of these when the Russians attack?”

After that, Rafi begins to hit on the instructor, Gail (Andrea Savage).  Cut to him arriving at Taco’s housewarming party with said instructor.  Rafi seeks out Ruxin and excitedly tells him his date is crazy.

Rafi: “We just had sex in the cab!”

Ruxin: “You just had sex in the back of the cab?”

Rafi: “In the back…of her body.”

Ruxin quickly discovers though, that Rafi’s date is his son’s swim teacher, those circumstances needing to remain secret to Sophia or the great dad myth will be blown.  So Ruxin orders Rafi to get rid of her.  Because Gail is not compliant, Rafi decides to tell her that he is in love with another woman in the room, who happens to be his sister.  His go to move is to French kiss her in front of Gail–an obvious, aggressive and overzealous kiss at that–and then to compliment Sophia on what a good kisser she is, Rafi style.  So he tells her she kisses so well it ‘made his dick hard.’. Sophia seemed intrigued at that, leaving open the awesome possibility of more hilarious incest jokes in The League’s future.

Sophia: “It’s hard, really?”

Rafi: “You wanna check?”

We won’t spoil the grand finale for you, one that left Rafi with the impression that he was going to have sex with Kevin and Taco’s mom.  But it was a grand finale, left to be executed by a rising star.

We enjoyed Jason Mantzoukas very much as a frequent voice on The life and Times of Tim and look forward to seeing him reprise his role as one of Laura’s Dern’s co-workers on Enlightened, which returns to HBO for S2 in the new year.  We also liked Mantzoukas in his recurring guest spot as off the cuff Indiana perfume giant Dennis Feinstein on Parks and Recreation.  And we get the premise of Rafi on The League: good for making a porno in Andre’s apartment with Dirty Randy (Seth Rogan), not so good at family gatherings.  Whether he is needed to creep out the help, stand in for Ruxin, or be Andre’s designated driver, who does not get the principle that designated drivers do not drink, mind you (Rafi, upon being questioned for guzzling a beer, says ‘don’t worry, I’ll crap the booze out.’. They ask him if that works. ‘Sorta.’), we are really hoping they find more uses for this fantastic character on The League.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Rupert and Rodney Ruxin (above).

The resemblance in looks and manner between Jeff Goldblum and Nick Kroll is scary, making his casting as Ruxin’s dad on The League brilliant for more than just Goldblum’s brilliance.  Perhaps you recall Goldblum as himself way back on The Larry Sanders Show, in a love triangle with Larry and Gina Gershon replete with a foot fetish, seeming to make Gershon come right in front of Larry on his living room couch from a foot massage.  As for Kroll, you know we love the comedic talent (by the way, Kroll will reprise the voice of Stu on The Life and Times of Tim when Tim returns to HBO for the start of season 3 on Friday, December 16th @ 9 PM EST), but we now appreciate his other talents much more and the obvious chemistry between him and Goldblum, as we are left wondering if they might really be related.

Never was their chemistry better than with regard to the cardio bet plot line.  Because Ruxin is so prone to lying and completely morally bankrupt, the group forces him to wear a strap on pedometer so they have proof that he has actually done his pre Thanksgiving cardio in compliance with their bet.  Ruxin has discovered that the pedometer calculates any movement, and therefore has been circumventing his cardio by wearing the device on his wrist when he masturbates.  When he is sitting down to watch porn with the pedometer attached to his wrist and his father interrupts, he explain to the elder Ruxin, visually, how the pedometer racks up numbers by simulating the motion of jerking off.  A disgusted Goldblum tells him to stop and declares, “…a bunch of morons you hang around with.”

Goldblum is a consistent show stealer.  When Pete (Mark Duplass) tells him over drinks that they used to raid his liquor cabinet when they were kids, Goldblum says ‘that’s why I got there first and peed in all the bottles.’

Andre: “That’s why the Mescal never tasted the same.”

A good deal of the credit goes to Paul Scheer, who plays Andre, and to Scheer and Kroll, who wrote this brilliant episode.  Another pearl delivered by the sexually naive Andre comes when Ruxin tells the group he is looking forward to his wife’s trip so that he can jerk off freely. Andre tells him not to put any Noxzema on it.

Ruxin: ‘Why would I put Noxzema on it?’

Andre: ‘Because it’s cold and tingly like a woman’s vagina.’

Speaking of vagina, could they have possibly riddled out a more perfect role for Sarah Silverman, as Andre’s slutty nympho sister, Heather?  Who, coincidentally happened to deflower Kevin (Steve Rannazzisi), Pete, and Taco.  How about the conversation between Heather and Jenny (Katie Aselton) in the kitchen about cunnilingus? ‘I know how happy you make him’, she says, ‘and how happy he makes you.  Orally.  Because he learned from the best.’ She then points both her thumbs back at herself.  “This guy.”

They proceed to have an awkward conversation about female oral and Heather offers to re-teach Kevin how to ‘go to church’ and show him what to do with the labias majora and minora.  One might have figured the episode’s climax would’ve been the conversation at the Thanksgiving table about eating ‘sorbet’ in which Jenny tells Kevin how to eat the sorbet and then Heather provides her tutorial about eating the sorbet.  Then Taco adds ‘don’t be afraid to stick your finger in the sorbet’ and then Ruxin’s father provides his sorbet eating tips, discussing and demonstrating how he likes to keep “an active tongue” while eating the sorbet.

But it’s not the climax because when the turkey tastes a little funny and Andre  spits out a little purple name tag that says “Shakespeare”, it becomes clear that the missing pet hamster has been cooked and eaten along with the turkey.  Get them a palate cleaner for their palate cleaner for their palate cleaner.

Heather: ‘So you’ve got 8 minutes to stuff your face, then make an excuse that you’re going to the bathroom, and we’ll meet back here where you’ll lick my vagina.  GAMEPLAN!’

If you love funny, you’ll love The League.  Despite the sports talk, this show could command a large opposite sex audience, because it’s funny and well done, similar to the way Sex and the City had a strong male following.  And the Thanksgiving episode could have hardly been funnier, even though Ruxin’s brother-in-law Raffi (Jason Mantzoukas), our favorite League guest character by far, was not on hand to eat hamster.

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Taco’s offline Facebook page, called “My Face” (above).

In season one of fX’s The League, a distraught Pete (Mark Duplass), who was reigning league champion (The League is a fantasy football league) and holder of the Shiva, the much coveted winner’s trophy, brought the trophy to Kevin’s house and told Kevin, by the curb in front of his house, that he was quitting the league. Pete’s wife Meegan (Leslie Bibb) was hounding him about getting pregnant, badgering him about couples activities, and doing just about everything she could to take his oxygen away. Some guys might know the feeling. Kevin (Steve Rannazzisi), married to Jenny (Kate Aselton), and father of one daughter, knew the feeling. He was beside himself to learn of Pete’s decision and he refused to accept it. Kevin, a litigator by profession, at that point gave a powerful oration.

‘You find something else to give in on. Make some other compromise. Believe me, I know. I’ve done it myself. But you can never, never quit the league.’

So Pete goes home and he’s in bed with Meegan, who wants some sex. They get into it pretty quickly, and in a flash, he’s on top of her, right? And a second later she jams a digit or two up his ass and starts finger raping his rectum during intercourse and she’s got a hold so tight in that ass that he can’t shake loose, despite ample squirms and protests.

The next day, when the league members meet up for a casual drink at their usual spot, Pete announces he was not dropping out of the league any longer. And that he was getting a divorce. How could he do that, his friends asked, startled, shocked, amazed.

He had his reasons. Ruxin, played by Nick Kroll, who also happens to play one of our favorite characters anywhere as Stu on The Life and Times of Tim (which returns to HBO for season 3 next month), explained that for him and his ultra hot wife, Sofia (Nadia Velasquez, My Name is Earl), divorce would never be an option. As he explained it, his wife was super hot and she’d get half of his money and guys would “be pounding her” left and right, while he’d never score such a fine chick again because he looks like a “stereotypical cartoon Jew in a Nazi propaganda video.” To keep this so fine wife happy, and to guarantee somewhat regular sex, he gives Sofia a “perfect lady day” in which he does not text, talks no football, and pays attention to every little thing she says–once every “2.6 months.”

Andre, played by another Best Week Ever alum, Paul Scheer, who also does some of the writing, is a fad crazy plastic surgeon with universal bad taste, and often finds himself the butt of their jokes, in a league where cruelty is the done thing. After having impaled himself on the Shiva in a Vegas nightclub, he became the ironic subject of Taco’s hit duet, “I’m Inside Me”, performed with none other than Ocho Cinco himself, who frankly can act and sing pretty good for a football player. Take a look:

Taco (John Lajoie) is the group oddball/artist/nonconformist and is always ready with an inappropriate song, some herb or shrooms, or a video display. Like when he made both Ruxin’s and Kevin’s lives miserable by playing his own movie that he had filmed of Ruxin’s wedding, at Ruxin’s 5th anniversary party. The video starts with footage of Sofia cavorting around in her lingerie as Taco told her how good her ass looked, then cut to Ruxin complaining about the fact that he was marrying a woman from a different culture and religion, and finally caught Kevin, his own brother, talking Ruxin down from the ledge, and steadying him before his big wedding speech, which Ruxin was in a panic over and convinced he couldn’t do.

The film catches Kevin firmly instructing Ruxin to pull himself together. He tells him all he has to do is say ‘love is a (add noun), love is a (add different noun)’, and then to conclude with ‘love is…(pretend he is too choked up to talk). Rather interesting moment for Jenny, who, like Agent Couyan in The Usual Suspects, has that moment of recognition, putting the pieces together to Kevin’s latest speech, an ode to his wife earlier in the evening, because Ruxin’s anniversary and Jenny’s birthday are on the same day.

“Love is a commitment. Love is a journey. Love is…”

They’ve all had their very funny moments, including Jenny, who is also convinced she will never divorce because as she explains, “I have confidence in my pussy.” And when those players aren’t enough for you, The League has gone to great lengths to bring in big time pinch hitters. In addition to numerous football player cameos, this season alone has seen Seth Rogan (Dirty Randy), Brie Larson (slutty au pair), and tonight will feature Jeff Goldblum and our girl Sarah Silverman, fresh off her appearance last week in Bored To Death, as Ruxin’s father and Andre’s super slut sister, in what we are sure will be a great Thanksgiving episode.

One we would expect to also feature Ruxin’s heinous brother-in-law Raffi (Jason Mantzoukas, Enlightened, The Life and Times of Tim), who is always good for big laughs, making the out there Taco look tame. If you like good clean old plain dirty sexist humor, then Raffi’s your guy.

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And The League’s your show, until next month at least, when Chris Lilley and Tim return. Bang!

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Amy (Laura Dern) and Levi (Luke Wilson) survey Levi’s stash house (above).

We were very happy to see Bored to Death return for a 3rd season, and happier still to see it paired with a new show on Monday night, making for the only non Sunday HBO original programming since our beloved In Treatment went black.  HBO, having had to recognize the strides made by Showtime on Mondays, especially with heroine themed dramedies Tara and The Big C, seemed to go that route, tapping Laura Dern to co-create and star in Enlightened.

The Monday schedule however, even with a staple like BTD, hasn’t really gotten rolling.  We were not surprised when we heard that Enlightened was on the renewal bubble for a 2nd season, even though HBO usually announces renewals very early on when they are behind a show.  BTD has not been the lights out comedy hijinx we have come to know from it which could be part of the reason, along with a non traditional night, for Enlightened’s lukewarm and so far unimpressive numbers.  BTD, 1 of our favorites because of both the Brooklyn n the bud, has been a weaker strain this year, and the beauty of the show, the magical ensemble of the Jason Schwartzman-Zach Galafianakis-Ted Danson triumvirate seems more trite and forced this season.  The show has picked up in recent weeks with Jonathan’s visit to The Dick Cavett show, and was at its best all season Monday when Ray’s already complex love life took a bisexual turn.  The show has drawn on perhaps its all-time best moment, when Jonathan was made to snuggle in bed with his girlfriend’s boyfriend, the signature moment of last season.

We were of course glad to see Sarah Silverman on BTD in the role of friends counseling therapist and thought her funny, though her face has seen better days (sorry Sarah).  Hopefully she gets some more run in the role.  And hopefully the show gets back to basics.  In this case, that would be the bud.  We also understand Enlightened’s problems.  Truth be told, episodes 1 and 2 were very underwhelming.  We sat there waiting for things to happen that never did.  HBO’s audience, frankly, must not be used to the pace of this show, which is very slow.  HBO’s half hour format is usually sensory overload–so many sights (Entourage), so many jokes (Curb, Flight), so much drama (In Treatment).

Enlightened is practically no jokes, hardly any likable characters, and very slow plot machinations. Dern plays a woman fresh off a nervous breakdown and a stint at a mental health facility, who is grating, forcefully repetitive, and who seems to have none of the LA sensibilities or standard sensibilities of the others in her life, which upon further review, don’t seem so sensible, except for Levi (Luke Wilson), who takes drugs so he “doesn’t have to think all the time”.

Dern’s Amy Jellicoe has a mother (Diane Ladd) who is at best disinterested with her and at worst scared of her.  And she lives with her.  How depressing  and yet common is that?  She has an old set of coworkers she thought were friends who are obviously not and a new set of coworkers, a motley crew of company rejects stuck in the basement like her.  One of those coworkers is Jason Mantzoukas, our beloved Tim’s bad boy Dr. (“did you take a hurty poopy?”), who also plays Ruxin’s (Nick Kroll, also of Tim fame) hilariously inappropriate brother-in-law Raffi on The League (when sandwich dancing on the outside of a stripper in Vegas: “He has a lot of money and I have huge dick.  Let’s do this!”)  It would be difficult to make Mantzoukas not funny. Yet Enlightened practically has.

This is probably the most realistic show on HBO’s airwaves right now, the antithesis of shows like Entourage and How to Make It in America that always seem to end on a high note, in fantastical pastry puff worlds.  Enlightened would probably be the karmatic balance of Entourage for HBO.  If there’s any escape at all for the viewer, it could be that our lives are actually better than theirs.  Dern has a meaningless job and only the shell of her former career as some sort of corporate buyer.  She has only pretend friends who are pained at the sight of her.  She is abrasive and over zealous and a lot of the time you say ‘I can’t even like her.’  She forces her unrealistic therapy inspired ideas on the wrong people at the wrong times and places, and she clutches her new found belief system for dear life, as some in recovery tend to do.  You just wanna tell her to save it, not only because the ideas might be bad, but because the people around her are so filled with apathy.

Amy gets every flat tire, is caught in every rainstorm–figurative and literal–and has already chucked her self help bible in the trash.  So far though, she has treated every day like a new day, and she is back each morning at her toil anew.  So far.  We think that’s the point of it all.  Life in general.  Bad jobs and few real friends and inadequate partners and family members.  Bad cars and bad bosses and living arrangements in places where you can walk 10 miles without once encountering a soul that gets you.

But you have to keep going.  Should she stumble, foreshadowed by flashbacks of binge drinking and Levi’s ‘Mexican pharmacy’ it would only indicate that Amy is even more like us than we care to admit, annoying personality ticks and all.

This is a very smart show.  It’s one you may never enjoy, at least not in the usual sense.  Get into the misery.  If you give it a long enough look, a satori might be your eventual reward.

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