"Too Many Cooks" is an eleven minute long comedy short film produced by Casper Kelly, a writer, producer and director for the Adult Swim television network. Originally shot in 2013, the video was released in late October 2014, and quickly became a hit viral video on youtube.
The movie is complicated for its short length, and also changes in unexpected directions. Before reading further, I suggest that people who are interested in "Too Many Cooks" watch it first, before reading this review.
"Too Many Cooks" begins as a parody of 1980s sitcoms, specifically with their introductions. The parody has perfect timbre, showing a city skyline, the outside of the family's house, and then showing each member of the family. This family is apparently the Cook family, and as the title suggests, there is too many of them. While a singsong upbeat introductory jingle plays, the credits introduce us to each member of the Cook family. We have a goofy dad, a hard-working mom, a typical cute little girl and boy, a sexy older sister that the first sister looks on enviously, another little sister, a baby, and...various aunts, other babies, bratty little brothers. The viewer knows what to expect at this point: an attempt to see how long the joke can be continued, and how many 80s sitcom stock characters can be included. Just when the viewer thinks that is going on, the parody changes, quickly going through a series of increasingly more absurd segments: a cooking show (of course), a cop show, an animated segment that is a take-off on G.I. Joe, and then a parody of Dallas or Falcon Crest. While this is happening, what at first seems like merely a satire of 1980s television starts revealing that it does, indeed have a plot. And just as soon as it reveals that, we are back in our suburban household, things become more absurd, and we are only half-way through.
Although cataloging every minute of the film is unnecessary, and probably improbable, the film can most succinctly (if not most accurately) be described as a combination of spot-on parodies of 1980s television, and totally absurdist humor. I was taken by how succinctly "Too Many Cooks" was able to communicate tacit concepts. For example, there is one point, fairly early on, where a young man named "Gwydion Lashlee-Walton" is introduced for all of two seconds, I automatically recognized his character as the "cool neighbor kid" a la Fonzie. The other thing that the video excels at is ruining viewer expectations just as soon as they are set: every time the viewer thinks they know what is going on, the performance moves in an unexpected direction. This video is full of the "random" type of shifts in focus and content that are part of the style of humor that the internet revels in.
One of the things this video made me wonder about is what the endgame of internet humor is like. Although the internet invented neither absurdism or pop culture references, it certainly did emphasize that type of humor. But many early internet forays into the Monkey Cheese were done by amateurs working with crude tools, and where the crudity of content was often itself the joke. But the people who grew up as teenagers doing photoshops are now in their thirties and have access to complete sets and casts of actors. It could be that at some point, we will see our first feature length film of internet humor, and it will be interesting to see whether it manages to preserve the charm of dada internet humor.