I’d never even heard of Kroll Show (or its star, Nick Kroll) before the second season started airing in January, but when I saw that Lucy Punch was going to appear in the opening episode, I thought I should give it a look. At first blush, I found the sketches quite obnoxious and self-indulgent, populated by grotesque caricatures whose voices were exaggerated to the point of incomprehensibility. Then I had a epiphany and realised that this was probably the intended effect, since the sketches were largely pastiches of Reality TV programmes, which are in themselves quite obnoxious and populated by grotesque self-caricatures. Once I’d chosen to embrace the unpleasantness rather than pull away from it, I was able to see how ambitious and imaginative the show really was. Rather than repeating the same sketches every week with minor tweaks to predictable punchlines (as many modern sketch shows do), there was a frequent rotation of characters, and the “reality” of the show’s shared universe proved surprisingly malleable, as the faux-shows bled/fed into each other, and their premises evolved/devolved on a whim. They whipped through so many jokes and ideas, it got quite dizzying at times… a densely-packed, multi-layered assault on the senses… but once I’d adjusted my brain to the right wavelength, it proved to be a very rewarding experience, laughs-wise.
Obviously Kroll claimed the lion’s share of the screentime (with co-star Jon Daly coming a close second), but there were also a lot of very funny women featured amongst the extended ensemble. Jenny Slate had a recurring role as ‘Liz B.’ (aka “Pretty Liz”), the co-founder of a PR firm called “pubLIZity” (which the characters compulsively point out is based on their names), as well as Liz’s naïve niece ‘Denise’ (I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the phrase “Niece Denise” really does get funnier the more times you hear it). Slate also played a prosecuting attorney called “Ruth Diamond Phillips” in a sketch about a pet plastic surgeon (‘Dr. Armond’… possibly my fave character overall) being tried for the murder of his wife. And Samantha Futerman had a recurring role as ‘Tunes’, a fictional character from “Wheels, Ontario”, a parody of overly earnest Canadian teen soaps, starring Kroll as the only walking student at a school where all the other kids are in wheelchairs (he’s cruelly nicknamed “Legs” by his classmates, but is too polite to complain).
There were also less frequent cameos by the likes of: Chelsea Peretti (who also wrote for the show, ‘cuz that’s how she do), Amy Poehler, Laura Dern, Kathryn Hahn, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Levy, Lindsay Sloane, Sarah Dampf and even Katy Perry! (who seemed surprisingly natural playing “herself” in a sketch, but didn’t really get anything to do)