Donald Glover owns Atlanta. Comedy Central is spending time with Detroiters. Philadelphia, Portland, and the Bay Area’s Silicon Valley have been mined for their comedy gold for years now. The comedy television boom has opened up regional storytelling outside of the friendly confines of Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Chicago, and Miami, and we’re better off for it.
Of all places, I never expected TV’s influx of diverse, regional comedies to take us to Huntington, West Virginia. The city is home to local sons and brothers Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy, who made their television debut with the February 23rd release of the TV adaptation of their hit podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me. The series, which streams on NBC’s comedy OTT service Seeso, is an advice show format where listeners submit questions to the brothers, prompting long discussions and over-the-top antics in their hometown. And by over-the-top, I mean they throw a full-on Spider Parade in downtown Huntington in episode one.
The worry when a show descends on a town like this is that the townspeople become the joke. Huntington has been skeptical of this kind of spotlight before. The sleepy little city in the heart of Appalachia generated headlines in recent years for a much disputed AP headline calling it “America’s fattest and unhealthiest city.” British chef Jamie Oliver came to the rescue nonetheless, offering a “Food Revolution” and a reality show. Huntington went kicking and screaming into Oliver’s extreme kitchen makeover, and obesity statistics didn’t change much since then, but some of those health food initiatives are still in place today.
It’s hard to fault Huntingtonians (that’s what they’re called, right?) for being skeptical of an outsider wanting to change their ways. The McElroy brothers, as sons of Huntington, do a brilliant job of burdening the humor squarely on their shoulders, and using their knowledge of the city to bring us something to laugh with, not at. At the premiere event for the series, the brothers said there were careful to “avoid stereotypes” and wanted to show that there was a “different side of Huntington.” They accomplish that rather naturally and we get some breakout stars out of it like their dad, who they praised: “It was nice to have a real professional on set.”
After watching the first episode (which you can watch for free below), a comparison that came to mind was how Andy Daly uses the life experience review format on Comedy Central’s Review to bring out the absurdities of his self-destructive character. Everyone else around him are bystanders to his one-man play. Though far more upbeat, My Brother, My Brother And Me, strikes a similar tone, but with real life characters and situations.
Though their podcast has been running since 2010, the McElroy brothers aren’t TV actors, and what the brothers lack in comedic timing is fully made up for with some of the most creative editing you’ll see on a television comedy in 2017. The series carries some of the emotional weight of its fictional counterpart in Review, but has the breakneck editing pace of rapid fire YouTube comedy videos, with some really fun transition swipes and animations that are reminiscent of the videos that got Kyle Mooney to SNL. So to that end, My Brother, My Brother And Me may not be for everyone, but it hit me right in the sweet spot.
Seeso already has the criminally under appreciated Bajillion Dollar Properties. My Brother, My Brother And Me is another laugh-out-loud addition to Seeso, a service that is quickly becoming comedy’s sneaky little streaming bargain. With a build-in podcast audience, more well-deserved attention will come to a series that is a worthy and heartfelt new point of view for TV’s regional comedy boom.