There’s another “Too Many Cooks.” Actually, there’s about a dozen of them.
Fresh off the “have you seen this insane video?” success of Adult Swim’s late-night viral clip, the network released its latest exercise in experimental satire, “In Search of Miracle Man,” a spoof of early ‘90s paid programming that begins by asking viewers to send money to an imaginary cult in search of their prophet and ends with mass murder.
(The video isn’t available on YouTube, but Gawker has a rip of it.)
“In Search of Miracle Man” is kind of disappointing. And it was always going to be.
The rabid obsession with “Too Many Cooks” has alternately fascinated and terrorized the Internet, depending on one’s patience for perusing copious think pieces on Adult Swim’s absurdist ‘80s TV theme-song parody gone viral. There are those who have encyclopedic knowledge of it by this point. And there are those who are happily ignorant, and prefer to remain that way.
The deranged sitcom parody was perhaps never meant for mass consumption, having originally aired as part of an Adult Swim gag—fake parodies of infomercial and antiquated pop culture (like sitcom theme songs) that would run at 4 a.m. sandwiched between actual infomercials. Its enjoyment was intended to be accidental—a bleary-eyed “what the fuuuuuuck” that makes you wonder if you’ve stumbled upon comedy genius or are having some sort of drug-fueled fever dream.
(And if you’re watching Adult Swim at 4 a.m., the latter is probably a distinct possibility.)
But birthed out of the annals of Reddit and onto heavily trafficked pop-culture sites, “Too Many Cooks” has become mainstream. Accordingly, it’s been given the mainstream treatment: insufferable and exhaustive dissection in countless thinkpieces parsing what it all means.
The New Yorker’s Ian Crouch surveyed “the full internet treatment” the video received yesterday, before “In Search of Miracle Man” surfaced:
“The creators had been located and debriefed. Redditors had complained that the thing they found and promoted had been co-opted and mined for clicks by other sites. It prompted thousands of questions on Twitter: Didn’t the killer in the video look like Slavoj Žižek? Why was Lars von Trier credited with playing a pie? Does Victoria Sun have a boyfriend? Has David Lynch seen it? BuzzFeed provided the “definitive ranking” of its favorite characters in the montage. Fake Twitter handles started appearing for members of its fake cast. What did it all mean?”
And what did it all mean? No one really knows. And no one was meant to know. That’s the beauty of it.
“Maybe everything: it was a postmodern satire of television and Web culture, a commentary on the power of nostalgia, a glimpse at the violence that lurks within us all,” Crouch wrote. “Perhaps it was a deconstruction on the very idea of virality itself: it’s the Internet that has too many cooks, and all of us, together, with our sharing and repeated clever comments and urge to be the first to share what thousands of others have already shared, have spoiled the broth. Or else it meant nothing, and quit it, you dummies.”
Whatever the meaning, it’s probable that we were never supposed to figure it out. Maybe because we were never supposed to figure out that this was an entire operation. And now that we know, the enjoyment of other videos—accidental at 4 a.m., or as flagged by a new website like The Daily Beast—is tarnished.
To begin with, you’re expecting “In Search of Miracle Man” to spiral down the same demented rabbit hole that “Too Many Cooks” does, so when it hits its maniacal climax you’re not startled out of the baffled daze the same way you are the first time you watched “Cooks.”
The payoff, in that sense, is ruined. And it’s ruined similarly when you go back and watch the other “Infomercials” that Adult Swim has produced and made available on its website. There are nine in all.
Another issue you’ll notice when you watch “In Search of Miracle Man,” which again is true of the other previous infomercials, is that there are recognizable actors in it. As Gawker’s Andy Cush says, “One of the hosts is improv comedy veteran Matt Besser—you may not know his name but you've probably seen his face—and having a recognizable actor onscreen diffuses the initial believability that made ‘Cooks’ so potent.”
“Broomshakala,” a spoof of the iconic Billy Mays style of gadget peddling, features Randall Park, who Veep fans will recognize as irritating war hero Danny Chung, for example. The effect is the same that Cush is describing. Watching it isn’t as fun. Because it isn’t as confusing—you know immediately this is a bit.
That’s not to say there aren’t some genius moments in “In Search of Miracle Man” and the other videos. The writing team behind these videos are some seriously mad comedy crackheads, and they manage some brilliantly irrational bits.
Of the archive posted on Adult Swim’s website, we highly recommend checking out “For-Profit Online University,” which sends up marketing bots and the totally corrupt online education industry, and “Live Forever as You Are Now With Alan Resnick,” a seminar by a tech wizard who “shares his personal experiences of popularity, immortality, and having it all.”
If nothing else, watching them will get the “Too Many Cooks” song out of your head. So, worth it.