Poor Bret Michaels doesn’t really need to be taken down a peg. Nor does Kelsey Grammar. They both have very popular viral videos of onstage accidents to take care of that for them. But they are nice easy targets for a little good natured ribbing at the hands of Nick Kroll and Jon Daly, respectively.
The majority of “Karaoke Bullies” is given over to Kroll’s Michaels impersonation, which he does in the guise of Nash Ricky, the host of a particularly stupid reality show called Karaoke Bullies where he tries to embarrass people who steal the microphone and the spotlight from other karaoke enthusiasts. It’s just the kind of embarrassingly thin gruel that someone like Michaels would likely slurp up in an effort to maintain some kind of media presence.
The presentation of Karaoke Bullies wasn’t particularly funny, outside of capturing the dumb, fast-paced, ‘90s MTV style editing that a lot of these reality shows seem to hold on to. And the parody songs that the writers put together for the show, like Nash’s “L.A. Deli,” were fun. But, again, making fun of Michaels feels like punching down.
Daly’s Grammar riff, on the other hand, was a little good-natured, as he explained in one of their between-sketch talking head interviews (a conceit that works better in theory than it does in practice). It’s entirely plausible that he would return to the bottom of the sitcom ladder—in this case a Cheers ripoff starring Larry Bird and the cryogenically frozen head of Ted Williams—to get his beloved airtime.
Outside of that, the Chairs sketch was a fine but fairly one-note idea that was leavened considerably by a hilarious Carla Tortelli riff by the ever-versatile Jenny Slate, Kroll’s Muppet-y Larry Bird voice, and the appearance of Seth Rogen as a stoned and confused Bill Walton.
Same goes for the extended Philadelphia ribbing/pawn shop reality show riff that took up the rest of the show. You get the sense that the writers and actors knew folks like these during their days growing up in Pennsylvania and wanted to gently poke at some of the worst characteristics of the locals. But if feels like they didn’t take it far enough. Maybe some of that is due to the fact that Jon Wurster has already cornered the market with his long-running Best Show character Philly Boy Roy. Still, I would have liked to have seen the rest of the cast make an effort similar to what writer Christine Nangle brought to it. Her reading of the dialogue was so precise and indecipherable that they had to give her subtitles.
Kroll Show is riding into the sunset in much the same spirit that it began, with work that feels like you’re watching a highly stylized filming of an improv comedy troupe going through a set. You leave it feeling fairly satisfied but mostly talking about the little flare-ups of greatness peppered throughout.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.