Well, they cancelled it. Million Dollar Extreme Presents: WORLD PEACE, Adult Swim’s politically intolerable comedy show has been ethnically cleansed from late night cable. America’s young weed-pipe-hitters are safe from Sam Hyde, Nick Rochefort, and Charls Carroll’s racist mind control, protected from sick “alt-right” jokes about public school and tap water. Be careful — there might be a swastika hidden in this paragraph. Can you find it?
WORLD PEACE was guilty of every sin. Wrath, “normalization,” pride, envy, lust, doing a sketch where Mark Zuckerberg is violently abducted and beaten to death by red monsters. According to a certain Blockhead who is currently at Buzzfeed: “World Peace [was] one massive in-joke designed to signify to a group of people online for whom the limits of irony have been misplaced and forgotten,” the so-called “trolls” that helped elect Donald Trump. Sounds a little paranoid to me.
Other comedians, presumably ones who keep a close eye on “the limits of irony,” hated the show, or at least saw an opportunity to sanctimoniously grandstand. Brett Gelman, a character actor who recently produced his own Adult Swim special, Brett Gelman’s Dinner With America, publicly cut ties with the network, in part because of WORLD PEACE, and not because his shit sucked and got no ratings and execs thought everything he pitched was weird and dumb. Tim Heidecker, an elder statesman of Adult Swim’s comedic style and a producer for Gelman’s special responded to this brave display of virtue with a letter of support. Eric Andre, though he has made no public statement, is rumored to have disliked the show. Even Judd Apatow, a Hollywood giant who has no direct connection to Adult Swim, personally petitioned World Peace’s senior executive producer Mike Lazzo to have the show removed. He was probably worried that MDE’s boundary-pushing style would bite into streaming sales for This is 40.
Comedians these days, just like journalists and academics, are expected to tow an ideological line. Brett Gelman happily shared an episode of the Comedy Bang Bang podcast with Sarah Silverman in 2009 without chastising her for spending nearly an entire year of her life episode of her Comedy Central series in blackface. Eric Andre has done a bit called “Everybody Hates Kikes.” But Eric Andre also got his press pass revoked for doing jumping jacks in the middle of the aisle at the Republican National Convention this year and Sarah Silverman killed at the DNC with a strong ten minute set predicated on haranguing Bernie Sanders supporters for “being ridiculous.” They’re allowed to be crude. It’s for the greater good. They are, at least implicitly, #WithHer. Gelman’s Dinner made an interesting case that white people are a “virus,” and included multiple scenes of black celebrities being threatened at gunpoint by police, which all seems pretty above-board and properly ironic to me. Hilarious stuff. All MDE did with WORLD PEACE was paint my (Sam’s) face brown-ish so he looked extra stupid while calling himself “Peanut Arbuckle.” The guys in MDE voted for Trump. We’re not allowed to be stupid, just “uneducated.”
Mr. Joe Berstein, a blogger at Buzzfeed, was involved as well. In August, I told him on camera that he’d never work for The New York Times. “You’re going to be blogging and tweeting until you are dead and nobody will care,” I said, laughing heartily. Bernstein asked that the video be taken down. I had recorded it during an interview Bernstein conducted for his first piece on Million Dollar Extreme, “The Alt-Right Has Its Own Comedy TV Show on a Time Warner Network,” originally posted to Buzzfeed on August 25th. Its title has been altered since then, presumably because addressing “Time Warner” directly makes it sound a little too much like the modern New York City journalist’s equivalent of an ancient prayer for rain. When Bernstein announced this publication on Twitter, the message was shared sixteen times and awarded ten “likes.” Not quite “viral,” but it looked enough like a legitimate news story to make television executives nervous.
Immediately after the publication of “The Alt-Right Has Its Own Comedy TV Show on a Time Warner Network,” a Reddit poster identifying himself as Bernstein, and capable of an almost-uncanny reflection of his stilted, collegiate style, wrote: “I’ll make sure this show doesn’t get a season 2. I’ll make sure all the contracts you’ve made are revoked. I’ll make sure this community of abhorrent, racist and just downright offensive people is spread no further …According to your followers I am nothing more than a ‘human toilet’ …for Buzzfeed. I am higher up than you think.” So good for him, really. He’s an “influencer” – the Cadillac of human toilet brands.
Adult Swim has been under pressure, for the last year or so, to add more shows by female creators to its line-up. In June, Splitsider wondered “Why Doesn’t Adult Swim Order Shows from Female Creators?” In October, Polygon informed us that “Adult Swim’s excuse for not hiring women is a perfect example of TV’s problem.” And on and on. Of course MDE — the most purely masculine show in Adult Swim’s history — ended up on the ol’ bris block. It was the easiest way to keep the “journalists” at bay, for now.
The best sketch from WORLD PEACE was “The Man Who Would Never Be… What They Made Him To Be.” It’s all in black and white, shot on a series of small sets with high contrast lighting and sweeping camera moves. In it, Charls, playing a prison inmate, refuses to recognize the reality of his situation. He’s accused of a crime, but denies it. “I didn’t do nothin’,” he says. He’s sentenced to ten years, but denies them. “Ten years, forty years, two hundred years,” he says. “How about I’m doing none of them?” In the prison yard, while lying on a weight bench, he’s stabbed repeatedly. “Quit horsin’ around guys, I’ll be done in a second,” he laughs.
When Charls is released, he finds his home smashed to pieces. Then a John Maus track plays: “Cop Killer.” Charls thrashes around in agony. When this sketch aired on Adult Swim, the song was replaced with another song from the same album: a sedate tune called Hey Moon. The substitution was made so close the show’s airdate that close captioning still reflected the lyrics of the original song. “Cop killer,” they read. “Let’s kill the cops tonight. Cop killer. Kill every cop in sight.”
Maus has described the song as non-literal; a celebration of disrupting authority as a good in and of itself. Behind the scenes, there was a great deal of struggle involved in selling this sketch to the network. That they refused to play it is, now, a minor detail. Less than twenty-four hours later, MDE fans had cobbled together a few versions with corrected music.
Million Dollar Extreme’s show is gone, but our drive isn’t. We just released a 744-page art/comedy book: How to BOMB the U.S. Gov’t, which is available here, and we’re planning to work our fingers raw until the end of time making people laugh and smile. Maybe we really are what Brett Gelman accuses whites of being: a virus. Viruses are durable organisms. They survive when their hosts die out, teeming and propagating in the darkness of the body, chuckling at the apocalypse.
It’s hard to figure out what to make of all this. Maybe MDE was ahead of its time. Maybe it pushed the envelope too far. Maybe it got flushed by the wrong establishment-climber Buzzfeed functionary, or somehow rubbed one of the guys responsible for Tom Goes to the Mayor the wrong way. People have been telling MDE for years what it is – and how disgusted we should feel about it.
Like Charls, lifting in the prison yard, MDE will just keep on dishing out klassik laffs. “Quit horsin’ around guys, we’ll be done in a second.”
Sam Hyde is a comedian from Fall River, MA, and is one of the three members of Million Dollar Extreme. He is a good boy and didn’t do anything. Follow him on Twitter.
Don Jolly is a drug addict squatting in Brooklyn, New York. His writing has appeared in The Revealer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Planetary Stories and Penthouse Magazine. His essay “Sexuality in Three Ex-Scientology Narratives” will appear in Brill’s Handbook of Scientology, releasing January 2017. It costs more than two-hundred dollars.