Every once in a while, something comes along that captures the imagination of the denizens of the internet for no good reason. Yeah, that's right: I'm posting about "Too Many Cooks", the short film produced by Atlanta's William Street Studios for the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim
bloc. It started playing on the network at 4 AM last week, and by Friday it had blown up into a full-fledged phenomenon, Its creator, comedy writer Chris "Casper" Kelly
, took a victory lap on Reddit
while even the august New Yorker asked, "What does it mean?"
Unlike some inexplicable memes (I'm looking at you, unboxing videos
), the secret of "Too Many Cooks" is just good filmmaking. It's a series of nestled rake gags
that slowly evolves over the course of 11 minutes into something resembling a narrative—or perhaps a meta-narrative, since it plays on, and ultimately subverts, expectations you have built up from a lifetime of watching inoffensive sitcom openings. Like the Dadaists and Abstract Expressionists, this is the kind of thing that is easy to dismiss as "a bunch of random crap", but is in fact really hard to do, especially at this level. When you watch it for the third or fourth time, notice how deliberate the pacing is. Kelly has done dozens of iterations on this piece to find exactly the right moments to release and reset the tension, and unreleased tension is where the laughter comes from. Dying by machete wielding maniac is easy, comedy is hard.