Black Comedy

Salt Lake City Weekly | October 28, 2005
Black Comedy

The Boondocks makes you think; 12 Oz. Mouse makes you think you’re on drugs.

Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder has said, vehemently and often, that “nobody reads.” You may have missed it; he’s only said it thus far in print.

The barely 30-something cartoonist, who really only writes his daily newspaper strip (being not read today in over 350 publications; it launched in a record-setting 150) and hands it off to an illustrator these days, also actively hates The Family Circus and virtually every other comic sharing newsprint with The Boondocks. Not to mention that he’s been outspoken—both in his strip and interviews—about the “goddamned sham” of modern journalism and how the general American populace is “too dumb” to notice.

This is my kinda guy.

The Boondocks (Cartoon Network; debuts Sunday, Nov. 6), McGruder’s half-hour animated series that was developed for and ultimately rejected by Fox, is getting an even bigger launching pad than the strip did in 1999: Adult Swim, the Cartoon Network’s ever-snowballing late-night cable block that routinely kills even broadcast network programming in the all-important 18-34 male demographic (you’ve underestimated insomniac young dudes with bongs and laptops for too long, television suits).

Put anything on during Adult Swim—and I do mean anything; more on that in a moment—and it’s going to reach more eyeballs than a newspaper, a.k.a. One-Ply Dinosaur Wipe.

But how will The Boondocks fit in the world of talking milkshakes and superhero lawyers? In print, it’s an edgy cultural-political jolt of Now surrounded by scribbled septegenerian shit that wasn’t even relevant Then. On Adult Swim, where “edge” is hyper-accelerated well beyond the Speed of Coherency, The Boondocks could come off as “too straight,” what with its actual storylines, characters, decent animation and all.

Then again, episodes of The Boondocks (which, since you haven’t been reading all these years, revolves around militant 10-year-old Huey, his 8-year-old “gangsta” brother Riley and their adoptive retired Grandad living in the suburbs—they’re black, everyone else is white, social agitation ensues) do drop the N-word nearly two dozen times—which, as one of the neighborhood Whiteys points out, is perfectly OK when “they” do it. And then there’s Huey’s rant about how “Jesus Christ was black, Ronald Reagan was the Devil and the government lied about 9/11!” Ever consider the number of letters in Ronald Wilson Reagan—6, 6 and 6? Huey and McGruder have.

Despite its slightly-too-slick animation (think Americanized Manga), The Boondocks would probably be a better political fit with South Park on Comedy Central than inside Adult Swim’s hypnotically bizarre reality vacuum (though Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law has tackled topics like gun control and the war on drugs via Quick-Draw McGraw and Scooby-Doo, but still …). But no matter the setting, McGruder’s going to piss off more people with 30 minutes of airtime than three panels of newsprint, which is exactly what he wants—fortunately, he still has something to say, and The Boondocks is at least as funny as it is preachy.

Twelve Oz. Mouse, The Boondocks’ polar opposite on Adult Swim (minus a eerily similar “Black Jesus” thread), looks like it’s “illustrated” by autistic 2-year-olds, it has no discernible point of view, and it actually makes less sense the more times you re-watch an episode. … Greatest. Cartoon. Ever.

Far as I can tell, 12 Oz. Mouse is a green rodent who drives a cab, drinks a lot, speaks in a deadpan baritone, drinks more, has a psychotically jittery pal chinchilla, occasionally robs banks and takes assassin jobs, drinks way more, works for a shark, drinks yet more and has a killer theme song by punk-metal rawkers Nine Pound Hammer set to opening/closing montages of a cardboard city in flames for no apparent reason. That isn’t a capsule description chopped down for comic brevity—that is the show.

Between the two, America may become a better/weirder place … between midnight and 3 a.m., at least.

By Bill Frost

Salt Lake City Weekly

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