Publications aimed primarily at young men in their teens and 20s, featuring lewd, scatological humor, are known by their British-import label: ”lad mags.” In recent years, sales of magazines in that genre have declined, and no wonder — why do something as strenuous as reading when you can get roughly the same stuff just by sprawling in front of your wide-screen at home, watching the video equivalent of a lad mag such as Workaholics?

Following the misadventures of a trio of dudes who like to waste time at their day job (at a telemarketing firm) and treat getting wasted as their night job, Workaholics is a little triumph of vulgar scripted spontaneity. Stars Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, and Anders Holm started out making YouTube videos that caught the eye of Comedy Central, which obviously liked the concept of a youthful version of the Three Stooges — plus many penis jokes.

The thing is, this is well-performed, totally committed crudeness. The characters are crisply distinct: Adam is a butterball of braggadocio, Blake is a dim-bulb longhair, and Anders is the responsible one who’s all too easily misled into mayhem by the others. Each episode follows the same arc — the guys encounter a novel situation (a co-worker dies in her chair; the boys plan to drop acid together), only to have it devolve into pranks that almost always peak with Adam urinating on something. The half hours are tightly edited and crammed with jokes, but never seem forced.

The state of the art for guy humor extends back to FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (clearly a model for Workaholics‘ low-budget carousing) and HBO’s Eastbound & Down (Danny McBride’s priapic Kenny Powers could be the Work boys’ godfather). And this is not to say that a show like Workaholics appeals only to guys. Female fans can appreciate the way the men on these shows try to turn low-income goofing around into a way of life — into a form of mild societal rebellion in an American economy that’s made barely getting by in crap jobs the new norm. That’s what distinguishes the show: Unlike Eastbound‘s minor-league baseball player or Sunny‘s bar owners, the Workaholics trio have very little invested in career goals. They already suspect the future is only going to get worse, so why not get zonked and zone out for short-term escapism?

Adam DeVine has referred to the Workaholics dynamic as ”a friendship family.” And indeed, his series could be defined as taking the workplace-family sitcom genre, gene-splicing it with Friends (sans girls), and adding alcohol. The result is a controlled mess, anarchy that’s almost artful. B

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