And God presented to Noah his new creation, ‘The Reverse Zebra’ and Noah told God, “It looks exactly like a regular zebra…don’t worry about it we all get into ruts sometimes.” And so God decided to flood the earth and start over with a clean slate. This is the Gospel according to Stephen and Joel Moss Levinson, the writers of the award winning animated web series, God & Co.
According to a recent JTA.org article, the show is based on the Levinson’s seder skits from their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Stephen tells me it took a UCB theater show in NYC to push him into animation, which he’d been planning on doing for a while, spurring he and his brother to make their pilot, ‘Let My People Grow’. This so far four episode series that comes out with eps a ‘couple times a year’ retells Biblical stories that, I won’t lie (it’s a commandment), is sometimes over my head because I didn’t always pay attention in Sunday school and I’m not Jewish. That said, I’ll assume the things I didn’t get were just as funny as the things I did get were I a better student of the Bible.
The ‘Reverse Zebra’ exchange happens in ep 4 of the series (above) when God, played by Jonathan Katz in a sublimely matter-of-fact voice, visits Noah and gets the bright idea for the flood to start anew. I laughed within the first thirty seconds of this four minute cartoon and continued throughout while watching paired animals in various stages of seduction, copulation or utter rejection. Only to finish off this little masterpiece with Noah, played by Bob Balaban (another stellar perf) telling God that his latest creation, the rainbow, was, ‘a little gay.’ That’s funny.
I’m guessing this isn’t exactly how that moment went down, but it’s a lot more entertaining than the Bible describes it, I’m sure. In fact, perhaps this is a good way for me or anyone to swallow the sometimes bland pill of religious storytelling. Take episode 3, where Moses’s brother Aaron roasts him Friar-style for dragging them through the desert for forty years. “I can’t think of anyone who I’d rather have guiding our people, except maybe, someone who knows how to find the fucking promised land!” The F-bomb is bleeped, but don’t worry, we still get to hear Aaron call Moses a prick. Funny? Yes. For kids? No.
So add this entry of adult cartoon to the ranks of The Simpsons and Family Guy. Seriously. The writing is solid, smart and funny…at least with eps 3 and 4. I found 1 and 2 to go off the rails a bit. Ep 1, is the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son and though this version ends well, it was just too dark for me, plus Shek Baker’s, Abraham is a little over the top. Make that, a lot. Episode 2, ‘Let My people Grow’, described as ‘The Exodus story as a breakup,’ is funnier in concept than execution I think, but this might be because I’m not up on my Bible study – there were some jokes in there that were lost on me.
So that’s fifty percent good, fifty percent bad. Those aren’t great odds, I know, but the good is so good, that it really makes up for the rest. Plus, my fave, the Noah story, was the last one made, so they’re getting better, I guess. The bummer, and probably my biggest beef, is that there just aren’t enough eps. I want more! Having won best animated pilot in the New York Television Festival (NYTVF) for 2009 and being a finalist for Fox’s “FTVS 15 Gigs of Fame” award, I’m guessing there are a lot of other salivating fans out there.
Stephen blames the lack of new eps on himself, telling me that his brother will tell you it’s because he’s a perfectionist. Whatever the reason, I hope they get over it, because he’s got a couple ideas in the pipeline that should be good, namely retellings of Adam and Eve and Job. The possibly more interesting thing here however is that the boys are now working on a pilot of a longer version of the show. This could be one edgy TV show, folks.
As for the internet, the God & Co site is a pleasant enough, no frills interface, which puts the eps in a different order than I mentioned above. However, the links send you to www.tabletmag.com where the ep chronology is clearly listed. The cartoon itself is illustrated by Mike Herrod and animated by Ed Mundy, both of which lend to the funny in their relative simplicity and sometimes modern flares (Noah wears glasses, Moses’s brother Aaron dons a bowtie…).
And, as always with ADD me, at three to five minutes apiece, this show wins for not taking up too much time during your busy workday to pop one on between visits from the boss. Plus, if you’re like me and you’re not in love with all of them, you won’t be demanding all that much time back. My suggestion is to watch all four eps and decide for yourself because chances are you’re smarter than me and they’ll all be hilarious to you. And if you’re not smarter than me, you’ll at least laugh your ass off at two of them and probably learn something from the other two like I did.