Django Unchained was, IMO, the most entertaining, most amazing, most American story to hit theatres last year and I cannot wait to see it again in theatres… like… tomorrow. As we know, it’s been getting lots of attention during awards season, and it’s huge cultural impact is undeniable. Recently a friend pointed me in the direction of a new web series titled Off The Chain and as soon as I started watching the first episode on Funny Or Die, I thought Oh! Django! And then I got nervous. Is the slave comedy about to be a… thing? Like… a genre? Am I cool with that? Well, the short answer is Yes, I am cool with that. But the more interesting question is whether or not it works. Peep the video above to check out the first episode of Off The Chain, and click inside for the second episode, which just debuted today!
Off The Chain, Episode 2:
Now even though I’m sort of aligning this series alongside Django, it’s important to note that the idea for Off The Chain has been in development for a couple of years, so I wouldn’t want y’all to assume (like I did) that this is just a biter series. And it also occurred to me that Quentin Tarantino wasn’t even the first person to take the experience of slavery and do something… different with it. When I was watching Off The Chain I was reminded of a couple of throwback skits from Dave Chappelle’s glorious and incomparable Chappelle Show (R.I.P.):
So all of this, for me at least, answers the question as to whether or not slave comedy (or comedy about slavery) can work. It can. But does Off The Chain work? Personally, I’m very interested in the concept it represents. The idea of presenting certain experiences of the enslaved American from his own point of view– and with a comedic twist– is fascinating and I definitely want to see more.
Still, it’s a tricky thing to pull off and there are aspects of these first two episodes that I just gotta critique. Although there are funny moments here (and I get that this is obviously a work of the imagination), I do wish some of it felt more authentic. The diction of the characters, and their mannerisms are, often, distractingly modern. But you can tell that at least one of the actors is also trying not to sound modern, so I wish that was a little more cohesive. But my biggest, biggest problem with the second episode was the use of the words “work” and “job” in place of “slavery.” I nearly LOST it over that one, lol! I mean, I loved that bit about the spirituals (although, I don’t think the term Negro Spiritual made sense here), and I also loved the Freddy Douglass schtick, but I actually got offended when I heard one of the slave characters speak about the possibility of having to look for a new ‘job,’ since the invention of the cotton gin. I’d hate for anybody, anywhere in the world to think for even two seconds that American slavery was or is comparable in any way to any sort of job. Because it wasn’t.
All that being said, I’m excited to see the next episode! And I’m excited to hear what y’all think.
Oh, and the creator of the show, David Johnson, has his own ideas about Off The Chain and I think it might help put the series into prospective:
The secret is that [the] show isn’t about slavery at all. The concept is about a man who has accepted that he is a slave but isn’t letting that hinder his unique view on life. I like to say its curb your enthusiasm meets roots…
Your thoughts? Oh, I also kind of love the title.0