While sharp writing and clever story structure are often the hallmarks of good comedy, one can’t overlook the impact of a fantastic comic performance. Is Caddyshack remembered for its plot? No, it’s become beloved because of the standout comic acting of Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. Same goes for The Honeymooners or Married With Children, both standard family scenarios elevated by standout performances from Jackie Gleason and Ed O’Neill, respectively. Not to elevate it to the same status as these classics, but this is what I thought of when watching Atom’s new White Gorilla series.
White Gorilla is an original web series executive produced by comedy vet Jim Biederman (The Whitest Kids U Know, Michael & Michael Have Issues) and Chris Gillen. It all begins when normal average everyman Steve (Trevor Dellecave) receives a mysterious wooden crate from Africa that contains a talking White Gorilla (Bert Kreischer) who invites himself to move in. In a somewhat by-the-numbers “fish out of water” scenario, White Gorilla doesn’t understand much about life in 21st century America. He talks about porn at the dinner table. He pees in the sink. He doesn’t understand what a hooker is even after he’s hired two of them.
We’ve all seen a hundred variations on this bit, whether it’s Billy Crystal struggling to ride a horse in City Slickers or Paul Hogan terrifying New York muggers by brandishing an enormous outback knife in Crocodile Dundee, but what made this one work for me was Kreischer’s performance as White Gorilla. Simply put, he’s just plain funny. He manages to make White Gorilla childishly naïve enough that you really think he has no idea how absurd or offensive he’s being. He just doesn’t know any better, so how can you blame him? It’s that kind of charm that allows White Gorilla to do things like sniff and poke the first black person he’s ever met and have it be uncomfortably hilarious rather than just plain uncomfortable.
Other funny moments include White Gorilla all too casually telling Steve that his uncle is dead, becoming convinced he has OCD after watching a Discovery Channel show, and defensively declaring “baths are for homosexuals and Europeans, neither of which I am.” Dellecave does a fine job in the often underappreciated straight-man role, reacting to White Gorilla’s craziness with just the right touch of realistic outrage.
In addition to his EP duties, Gillen also directed all of season one’s four episodes, and does a fine job, especially in his timing of the jokes. His pacing keeps the funny coming fast and the episodes are over before you realize, never overstaying their welcome. The production value is solid, looking and sounding good enough that you never really think about it, even if it isn’t cinema-caliber.
But like I said, the real reason to check out White Gorilla is Kreischer. He’s created a really fun character that made me laugh whether he was spouting off sharply-written one-liners or adding just the right cadence to dialogue that wasn’t even meant to get a laugh. I’d love to see him put on the gorilla suit for a few more episodes.