What We Do in the Shadows is back for a third season, which is terrific news on a number of fronts. It’s terrific because it’s always nice to have good shows back. It’s terrific because I can’t wait to see what kind of antics the Staten Island Vampires get up to this time around, especially after the season two reveal that their human lackey Guillermo may actually be a vampire slayer from the Van Helsing bloodline. And it’s terrific because it gives me a solid excuse to ask a question I’ve been pondering for a while now, one that resurfaced yet again while I was zipping through a season two rewatch last week: Is What We Do in the Shadows, at present, given everything we know about it and where it’s been and might be going, the funniest show on television?
I know this is a bad idea. Nothing dooms a show in the court of public opinion quite like too much hyperbolic praise from writers. Look at what happened with the Ted Lasso Discourse in season two. After a full year of everyone generally agreeing that it was a sweet and good show that did the thing it does very well, everyone suddenly went full-on thunderdome about it all. It was weird. It’s still weird. I do not want that to happen to this show. I am begging you. I know I’m poking the bear here but I swear my intentions are good. And to prove they are good, I’m going to try to present both sides of the argument, fairly, so everyone gets a voice. Do not write a thinkpiece on this. Please. Just let us have our fun and leave us alone.
Okay, here we go. The Case For and Case Against What We Do in the Shadows being the funniest show on television.
It is so funny. Like, all the time, in a million different ways, almost all of them powerfully silly. Look at that screencap up there. You’ve probably seen it a million times and chuckled at the sheer audacity of the phrase “Jackie Daytona: Regular Human Bartender,” but have you actually gone back and watched the episode again recently? I really recommend you do that. It is so damn goofy and delightful all the way through. The whole reason he’s on the run is because Mark Hamill shows up as a rival vampire in the opening and accuses Laszlo (Matt Berry, perhaps the world’s finest comedic actor) of skipping out on a month’s rent for a beach house in San Diego. That’s it. That’s why he flees and leaves his life behind. And his entire disguise is a toothpick in his mouth. It’s so stupid and so perfect. I can’t believe anyone is allowed to be this silly as a profession. It’s kind of inspiring, really.
Or what about this? What about the thing where the show did an entire episode about Laszlo and Nadia being musicians whose crude and innuendo-laden songs from centuries gone by have apparently been stolen and co-opted into popular hit songs like “Come On, Eileen” and “Kokomo,” or the thing where they apparently just discover this in the present-day, over 30 years since both songs were all over the airwaves. Don’t click on this video if you’re somewhere where repeated lascivious utterances of the word “cream” are acceptable. Or do. Go ahead and get weird. I’m not the boss of you.
This is what the show has been for two full seasons now, just one hilarious flight of fancy after another, all starting from the also-silly premise of “What if four vampires lived in Staten Island but made no effort to blend in with the modern world?” It is so good and so surprising throughout, with twists like the vampire-slaying business coming out of nowhere and being somehow flabbergasting and perfectly sensible at the same time.
And that’s before we even get to Colin Robinson (played by Mark Proksch, in a perfect bit of casting), the show’s energy vampire, who gets his power not from sucking blood but from quite literally draining the energy from those around him by being boring and frustrating in any number of ways. Watching him do this — say, troll people online, or tell awful stories, or whatever — and then seeing the glee in his face as he explains it to the fake documentary crew that’s following him around is maybe my favorite thing on the show. Maybe. It’s certainly up there with “everything Matt Berry says and does,” which is just about as high a compliment as I know how to give.
It’s a good show. And it’s so funny. I might be willing to give you “other shows are as funny,” but I don’t know if I can get to “another show is funnier.”
Unless, of course…
Comedy, more so than any other genre, is a subjective thing. Things that are funny to one person might be a complete zero to another. Things that were funny to you five years ago might be a zero to you today. It’s all so weird and fluid that it makes it almost impossible to make firm declarative statements about any of it. A fool’s errand, really, says the fool who pitched the very piece you’re reading right now.
Also complicating matters: there are so many funny shows on television. I Think You Should Leave is a riot, one that actually has about two or three different avenues of being funny, starting with the actual sketches and moving on into the next-life memes that develop around various screencaps from those already funny sketches. Shows like Mythic Quest and Hacks are really funny, even if the humor there is sometimes punctuated by surprise bursts of feelings, which is not a complaint in any way. They might be better “shows” than What We Do in the Shadows, like as complete and well-rounded pieces of art, just not, like, funnier. Again, there are booby traps like this everywhere in this discussion.
There’s also the thing where there are about five or six different kinds of humor. I love a good long-developing, well-crafted bit. I love it when a show makes me think about a goof a little, or makes me feel like I earned it by knowing enough about the world to get a laser-focused specific punchline. I also like to watch a never-ending supply of bozos get walloped by obstacles on Holey Moley. Like this.
What I’m saying here, really, if we want to summarize things in a way that both gets me out of this trap I have waltzed myself into and satisfies absolutely no one, is that comedy is a land of contrasts.
You’re welcome and I am sorry.
Let’s try to wrap this up with a final decision on the matter.
Well, I was fully prepared to weasel out of giving a firm answer on this. I was going to throw my hands up and give all of you a perfectly unsatisfying “Who’s to say what humor is as long as you enjoy it?” like the most insufferable weenie you’ve ever seen. But then I remembered the thing where Colin Robinson held a seance to bring his deceased Nana back from the dead for the sole purpose of extracting energy from her via the worst Updog joke you can imagine.
I’ll just go ahead and say it…
What We Do in the Shadows is the funniest show on television.