Comedy tends to work best when it’s unexpected. In a comedy like The Jim, an indie web series about a pseudo-celebrity gym owner and his employees, you might expect to find a lot of dumb jock and airhead trainer jokes. And you’d be right.

What you might not expect, however, are an almost equal amount of jokes about anxiety disorders, taxidermy fetishists, asexuality and the current US recession. The Jim draws it’s humor in equal measure from sitcom cliches, dark humor, and sheer absurdity. The result is a show that’s as funny as it is surprising.

The premise of The Jim is concisely explained in an expertly crafted opening sequence. Jim is an upbeat yet painfully insecure jock who’s nervous habit of exposing himself got him kicked out of the NLF. Each six-to-eight minute episode follows his efforts to promote his own pro-fitness gym, manage his dysfunctional staff, and keep his junk in his shorts. In a typical episode, he accomplishes none of these goals.

The Jim takes the essential structure of old media sitcoms and runs them through the new media compressor. The problem-of-the-day plot structure and cast of wacky employees is classic prime-time television, but the show’s quick pace and glib, often NSFW humor is distinctively net-based.

Take for an example a conversation in Episode 5 where two characters talk about “rabbits,” neither realizing one is talking about floppy-eared animals and the other is talking about vibrators. It’s the absurd extent to which the double entendres are pushed (“My newest one is a Flemish giant – his name is Dwight”) that really exemplifies how cartoonish the show is willing to go in the name of comedy. It’s broad, but smart, and it works.

The cast is great all around. Jim himself, played by show co-creator Nelson Carter-Leis, is an excellent and unconventional protagonist. He bears his tribulations with a high-energy attitude and a forced smile, and it’s painfully funny to watch him try to keep a lid on his bubbling anxiety. After all, that’s another major pillar of comedy – other people’s pain. The Jim‘s characters may be on the skinny side of the intellectual weight room, but they’re pumped up with hilarious emotional turmoil to spare.

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