‘My Brother, My Brother, and Me’ brings delightfully freewheeling absurdity to Seeso
Podcasting brothers transition to TV with charm and goofs intact.
Justin, Griffin, and Travis McElroy are the West Virginian brothers behind podcast phenomena My Brother, My Brother, and Me (a comedy/advice show….or is it comedy-advice?), The Adventure Zone (an insanely popular D&D podcast they do with their father), Sawbones (a medical history show), and around a dozen more. They’ve also branched into things like the YouTube series Monster Factory where they make horrifying visages with video game character creators. The brothers’ ambitions are only matched by their eclectic tastes and there’s certainly nothing like them on TV.
The podcasting trio follow the televised success of their one-time guest host Cameron Esposito (with her and Rhea Butcher’s semi-autobiographical Take My Wife) on comedy streaming service Seeso.
The West Virginian brothers tackle reader questions with an added budget and visual flair in their new show, to which they’ve brought their surrealism and utter, undiscriminating empathy. Their audio show failed to judge even the strangest corners of the population (furries, juggalos, mango cultists) and the TV show has a warmth and kindness only generated by real brotherly love.
Their bumbling boyish kindness wins over charmingly coulrophobic paranormal investigators, a tarantula expert that seems to enjoy being on TV more than the brothers, and a classroom full of the most dangerous audience: teens.
I’ve written about them before for FSR, in fact as my most anticipated TV show of 2017, and the first season was no disappointment. The show has a free episode on YouTube beyond the paywall of Seeso, but I’ve seen the madness of the production’s entirety and I’m in love.
Having already been a fan of Justin, Griffin, and Travis’s humor from following their podcasts for almost six years, the show provides the fan services long-time MBMBAMinos will appreciate while winning over its new audience with a well-honed showcase of what makes the brothers’ brand of comedy special. Their earnest commitment to each other and their absurd topics is bolstered by an intense, dangerously loose weirdo energy we’ve seen from shows like Review, Nathan For You, or – especially when the brothers are isolated to their wobegon studio – The Eric Andre Show. It feels like a fake show – like your jerkoff friends from college finally made right, but you’re not sure how. You love them, but you’re certain you shouldn’t listen to them.
Justin, the oldest, takes on a leadership role, which is all the more entertaining when interacting with authority figures and more responsible adults in their hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. Youngest brother Griffin’s high energy jokes and incredulity bounce off his more deadpan brothers, while Travis’s middle-brother confusion oscillates between voice of reason and voice of utter strangeness. He’s the wild card, trying to find his place in the dynamic wherever necessary. They run home to their father once an episode, sometimes for a dinnertime wrap-up, sometimes for stories. He’s bemused but nonetheless proud of his boys. They’ve made it, whatever it is.
They also play with the conventions of TV, the brothers being as obsessed with pop culture as the rest of us. Revealing that they’re wearing wires or professing that they can do whatever they want because “no one is watching internet TV” liberates the show from anything resembling stodgy professionalism. Brand names and logos flit around the edges of our viewing consciousness – winking at us from behind a digital blur, sprinkling its capitalism around all in good fun – unlike the product placement of conventional TV. It’s underground public-access television hosted by three weird, rambling Linklater rejects. They have all of Slacker’s charm without any of its philosophizing. They profess their community and brotherly love through dick jokes and cuss words.
Like the podcast, the show’s connective tissue is delightfully low-rent, an intellectual struggle between the bounds of absurdity and the limits poor planning can reach. The graphics department takes this aesthetic and runs with it. Banners, titles, set design, and video-editing odds-n-ends offer seasoning to the main comedy entree. There’s a large community of YouTube fans that have taken it upon themselves to craft amatuer animations to the brothers’ podcast bits and it seems like the show’s production team followed in their Flash animation footsteps (sometimes literally, employing some of these same animators to bring the ballad of a haunted clown doll to life). Moments of horror – including, beside the clown doll, a deeply unsettling clown box with a disembodied, come-hither hand and multiple tarantulas – effectively douse the gags with unexpected mock-scares, but it’s always too goofy and absurd to ever truly shock. Except that clown box…Jesus.
The many segment transitions are quick and necessary to keep the garage band show from unravelling like a bad Saturday Night Live episode. We may be trying to help someone pad their resume but the show’ll still make time for a cinematic tangent to riff on Griffin’s outfit that “looks like a carpet fucked a nerd.”
And yes, the show’s vulgar. Extremely vulgar. Which isn’t to say it’s bad at all, just be ready. The profanity comes all the more delightfully from these passive, unthreatening brothers like what every movie studio dreams about when it shoehorns a rapping granny or an angry drunk little animated baby into a film. Furthering those same studio dreams of greatness, guests like the Property Brothers and Lin-Manuel Miranda lend their star power to help decorate a haunted dorm room and narrative a holiday fable, respectively.
There are variety shows and there are shows like My Brother, My Brother, And Me which have actual variety. True to the freewheeling spirit of the podcast, if each episode didn’t start with an explanation of the premise, we wouldn’t know what to expect. We often still don’t. If anything, that’s a testament to Seeso’s respect for the comedians and their trust in a process that’s clearly been working for the better part of a decade, because as long as the brothers keep trying to make each other laugh, they’ll get us going as well.