Saturday, May 11, 2024

Mr. Birchum, on Daily Wire+

As a junior high shop teacher, Mr. Birchum’s classroom concerns are binary in nature. His students are either wearing their safety glasses or they aren’t. Their power tools are either on or off. His students’ “lived experiences” and “their own truths” do no make any difference. Unfortunately, that is the kind of thinking his school’s new J.E.D.I. (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) officer wants to stamp out. However, the cranky wood-worker will not be quietly cancelled out of his job in the debut episode of Adam Carolla’s new animated series, Mr. Birchum, which premieres tomorrow on Daily Wire+.

It is the first day of school, but Birchum and his best buddy workmate, driver’s ed teacher Mr. Gage, are already dreading the stupidity of their students and the school’s bureaucracy—even before they meet Karponzi, the new J.E.D.I. officer. Since Birchum’s unwoke rep proceeds him, Karponzi is already gunning for him and the lazy, feather-nesting Principal Bortles is not about to object.

Mr. Birchum is a character Carolla developed early in his radio career, whom he resurrected to serve as a zeitgeisty critic of the decaying American educational system. There is a little bit of Archie “Silent Majority” Bunker in him and even more of Tim Allen’s
Home Improvement persona. However, Mr. Birchum is more right than wrong and he is smarter than 99% of the people around him.

He is also really funny. Yes, this is a Daily Wire+ series executive produced by Ben Shapiro, but it is important to remember Carolla paid his dues touring comedy clubs for years, before he became a leading free speech advocate and critic of “safe spaces.” Carolla and writers Mark Hoffmeier, Byron Kavanagh, and Mike Lynch score plenty of points against Karponzi’s rigid extremism. However, some of the funniest gags come from traditional workplace and family sitcom situations.

The show’s pointed perspective just gives them more bite, as when Birchum’s sympatico, woodworking-crazy stepdaughter Jeanie stages a protest against her realtor mother’s desecration of a mahogany fireplace. The writers even gently mock Birchum’s rightwing persona, when he grudgingly admits the teachers’ union he despises probably saves his bacon.

Nevertheless, some of the series satire is worthy of
South Park, which was obviously a source of inspiration. Arguably, J.E.D.I. is the funniest, most ruthlessly cutting acronym since Team America’s Film Actors Guild.

All that stand-up and radio work was fruitful training for Carolla’s voice-over performance as the title character. He certainly knows how to deliver a zingy put-down and a pithy one-liner. Megyn Kelly makes a smoothly professional “dramatic debut” giving voice to his Birchum’s wife, Wendi.
Last Comic Standing champ Alonzo Bodden (who has appeared on programs across the political spectrum) gets almost as many laughs as Carolla playing the deadpan Gage. Plus, (semi-rehabbed or fully disgraced, depending on your point-of-view) Roseanne Barr adds her dryly caustic tones as Principal Bortles.

Mr. Birchum
proves just how ripe social justice warriors are for satire. Yet, its jokes really are jokes, instead of polemic statements served up in in a punchline format. The first episode lands it bits and gags, but hopefully coming episodes further develop the Birchum family relationships, much like King of the Hill (most likely another influence). So far, it is as amusing as any of the prime-time animated sitcoms—in most cases, much more so. Recommended for open-minded animation fans, Mr. Birchum starts streaming tomorrow (5/12) on Daily Wire+.