It is confirmed by science that there are more comedians roaming American television than there are feathers on the biggest chicken ever. Gone are comedic duos and trios, for troupes have taken over, and not your conventional Monty Python-like static groupings. Comedy's doors are constantly revolving, creating gluttonous, polycephalic blobs of uproarious dark matter. Starting as a series of web shorts in 2008, Childrens Hospital, with its class-act casting, is a perfect example of how broad focus can be while still getting all the details right. How is Ken Marino not universally accepted as the funniest person ever?
We have Adult Swim to thank for bringing Childrens Hospital to TVs and DVD shelves everywhere, due to its fascination with shrinking air-times. The first-season episodes last only five minutes, doubling that time for the second season. So you can zoom through this set in under three hours, extras and all, but this limited quantity does not represent the hilarious quality of the show. How does three hours' worth of orgasms sound?
This surreal satire mostly parodies TV hospital dramas, but is not exclusive in its skewering. Plotlines, when existent, regularly defy reality and eschew primetime drama for the bizarre emotional twists and turns that daytime soap operas have to offer. If one weren't careful, one might confuse this set with footage from an actual hospital in Brazil, the hospital’s supposed location. Making matters worse, some episodes shatter the fourth wall, treating Childrens Hospital as a well-received, long-running soap opera. However do we know where the reality begins and ends?
One clue lies in the face of the show, that of Dr. Blake Downs (actor/director Cutter Spindell, himself played by Rob Corddry). It is garishly painted with clown makeup, drawing comparisons with John Wayne Gacy's Pogo the Clown, which are relevant, as I'm sure Dr. Downs is also responsible for the deaths of many young males. After all, he believes in the healing power of laughter over proven medical techniques. He must be onto something, because after I laugh my ass off during each episode, I feel fucking healthy.
If Childrens Hospital lived and died by this character alone, it would be a subtle success. Fortunately, these halls are filled with the above-mentioned shit-ton of comedic talent. Dr. Glenn Richie (Ken Marino) is a Jewish womanizer whose medical knowledge is vastly inferior to his hair. Dr. Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel) is a gentile womanizer whose medical knowledge is vastly inferior to his hair. Dr. Maestro is tormented by memories of 9/11, back when he was with the NYPD, partnered with Officer Briggs (Nick Offerman). Sy Mittleman (Henry Winkler) is the pleasant corporate insurance company boss that the staff hates solely due to his suited position. Professional incompetence is shared by the entire staff. These are just the guys.
The Chief of Staff (Megan Mullaly) has as tiny a moral filter as anyone else, plus she’s on crutches, which provides improper disabled humor an opportunity to figuratively strut its stuff. Dr. Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes) is an ex-girlfriend of Dr. Maestro’s who pretends to have a tumor in order to avoid his advances. Dr. Spratt is also desired by Dr. Cat Black (Lake Bell). The two share an intriguing moment of intimacy replayed ad nauseam due to its faux sexuality. Dr. Black serves as narrator, reflecting on moronic tangents that sometimes include the bizarre goings-on in the hospital. Her narration duties are soon replaced by those of Dr. Valerie Flame (Malin Akerman), another simpleton with ponderings that know no depths.
Oh, the plots. If Dr. Spratt faking her death isn’t enough for you, Dr. Black starts dating Little Nicky (Nick Kroll), who suffers from a rapid-aging disease that gives him the body of an old man and the brain of a retarded child. Ed Begley Jr. plays a senator requesting that his annoying teenage son be aborted. Dr. Richie develops a cure for cancer that is in danger of being squashed by a health official, played by Kurtwood Smith, who is afraid the cure will halt all medical funding. Paul Scheer plays Dr. Tinkle Button, Blake's scheming clown brother. Need more funny cameos? Michael Cera spouts a multitude of hilarious non-sequiturs as quick interstitials between scenes. And how about Ed Helms, Nathan Corddry, David Wain, Jason Sudekis, Adam Scott, Clark Duke, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh, the Sklar brothers, Jeffrey Ross, Ernie Hudson, and Lizzy Caplan? I haven’t named everyone, because my editor would hang me.
A show like this is meant to live on DVD, because the episodes are too fucking short and don’t warrant any amount of emotional depth that would draw someone in week after week. These episodes are meant to be feasted on marathon-style with your closest pals and a large hookah. (Friends optional.) That said, the amusing extras here are numerous, but slight.
Corddry interviews himself in "Rob Corddry and Cutter Spindell: The Man Inside the Man Behind Childrens Hospital," a silly seven-minute look at the fake background and inspirations of the show and its characters. With "Dr. Owen Masestro Answers Medical Questions From Kids," Huebel provides harsh, rapid-fire retorts to inquiries such as, "Why did my cat die?" and "Are there women doctors?" (Yes, but they're called nurses.) The "I Killed Cancer" Music Video is a lavish production set to a rappish song about curing cancer. The "Outtakes and Deleted Scenes" and "Gag Reel" could almost be the same thing, which is great, because watching funny people improvise is awesome. Everybody, particularly Nick Kroll, gets a few moments to go off on a whim for the camera. Finally, the Adult Swim Wraparounds, the segments filmed to go between the short episodes, are all there. Most are Corddry talking more about the "real" Blake Downs and other pseudo-history.
Good extras, but not great extras, aren't the reasons you should own Childrens Hospital. You should own it because it is and will always be funnier than 115% of everything else on television right now, and it will definitely improve your health. No Surgeon General warnings on this one.
Length: 182 min.
Rated: Not rated
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Release Date: 5/24/11
Starring: Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, Rob Huebel, Taylor Lipman, Ken Marino
Directed by: Rob Corddry, Bryan Gordon, John Inwood, Rob Schrab, Matt Shakman, David Wain
Produced by: Rob Corddry, Rich Rosenthal, Jonathan Stern, David Wain
Written by: Rob Corddry, Diablo Cody, Dana Fox, Rob Huebel, Brian Huskey, Jason Mantzoukas, Ken Marino, Liz Meriwether, Erica Oyama, Lorene Scafaria, Paul Scheer, Jonathan Stern, David Wain