FOREVER YOUNG, BRO
The Endless Adolescence of ‘Workaholics’
On set with the overachieving thirtysomethings behind the show about innocently idiotic slackers stuck in dead-end telemarketing jobs.
“Whoa, this camera has testicles!”
Workaholics stars Blake Anderson, Anders Holm, and Adam DeVine are crowded into their fictional boss’s office, waiting for the cameras to roll. In this scene, Alice (Maribeth Monroe) will harangue the trio over more of their dumbfuck antics and fire them once and for all—or until Adam brings up that time she screwed Ders on the desk in front of them. Later, the actors will describe the character of Alice as a “kind of female Stone Cold Steve Austin. Our dream girl: A real boss.”
But right now, Anderson is marveling at one camera’s appendages, and Monroe, DeVine, and Holm are bopping along to music blasting out of Holm’s phone. It’s “Fly” by Sugar Ray; Holm knows all the words. “Do you think we can get ‘em to play our wrap party?” DeVine asks, sounding genuinely pumped.
It’s the last day of shooting for Season 5 of Comedy Central’s raunchy hit show about three twentysomething slackers living together in Rancho Cucamonga and the dead-end telemarketing job they’ll likely be stuck with forever. The fictional versions of Blake, Ders, and Adam are scheme-driven half-wits with hearts of pure gold (or at least really shiny brass) who live to smoke weed, impress girls, and make money.
But in real life, Anderson, Holm, and DeVine are overachievers now in their early thirties. They’ve got a growing list of prominent side-gigs, including roles on The Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, and in films like Pitch Perfect, The Interview, and Inherent Vice. Anderson runs his own clothing line; DeVine co-created and hosts yet another Comedy Central show, Adam DeVine’s House Party; and Holm writes and directs several Workaholics episodes per season. Oh, and they’re all working on a new movie together with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, in which they star as employees of a hotel that gets taken over by terrorists.
So you’d think it’d be easy to tell when the guys are in their on- or off-screen personas. But the show’s set in Van Nuys is surprisingly effective at blurring the reality-fiction line. The office, for one, is perpetually in character. The exterior boasts an official TelAmeriCorp sign and the cubicles inside are littered with corporate slogan-bearing brochures, posters, and printouts.
Then there’s the guys. Gathered around a table in the TelAmeriCorp break room, the trio don’t quite seem like they’ve switched “off” performance mode yet: Anderson remains the sweet, gooey center of the group; DeVine lasts five minutes before he’s challenged someone to a pushup contest; and Holm talks like an aspiring DJ who’s just “keeping it real” (he’s played one on the show, in an episode that involved sexually stimulating a woman in labor, at her request).
They riff off each other, creating sitcom-ready scenarios mid-conversation. #FreetheNipple comes up, since Adam learned a valuable lesson about women’s rights in this season’s first episode. Holm nods sagely: “Free the nipple. And I mean that in the most mature, nonsexual way.”
“Just free ‘em,” says Anderson. “On Instagram, on Facebook, wherever. At McDonald’s.”
“In fact, at McDonald’s, I’ll buy any woman a Big Mac if her boobs are bigger than mine,” Holm proposes. “And you know what? She better bring it, ‘cause I got some heft dogs.”
The exchange feels like your average Workaholics plotline: Bro-centric and almost blatantly offensive, until you realize the guys are actually the butt of their own joke. “You’re like, ‘Oh man, if somebody smart had said that just now, I’d be pissed. But these guys are just so ignorant,” says Kyle Newacheck, who co-created, directs, and produces the show with Anderson, Holm, and DeVine, along with co-starring as Karl, the gang’s hobo-friendly weed dealer.
“We’re innocently idiotic,” says Holm. “You should feel bad for us, a little bit.”
The U.S. Coast Guard, apparently, begs to differ. A recent plot put Ders at a local college career fair, where he made enemies out of a squad of Coast Guard recruiters. “You really shouldn’t make jokes about the military like that,” one warns him, to no avail. The men chase Ders down, pour a Big Gulp-sized serving of Mountain Dew: Code Red all over his butthole and make a dog lick it. “That’s not good, that’s not good, that’s not…bad?” Ders whines. Later, the same Coast Guard recruiters are shown lining up to take part in a porno being shot on campus.
By Workaholics standards, the gag was pretty run of the mill—Ders alone had vomit and runny shit water dumped all over him last season, and the porn gag was used as part of a larger plot to teach a lesson about feminism to Adam.
But the Coast Guard’s chairman of the sexual assault prevention council, judge advocate general, and director of governmental and public affairs released a statement condemning the episode anyway, writing, “While the episode’s storyline about military recruiters may have intended to present a humorous and self-deprecating look at service rivalries, the portrayal of military members lining up to take part in a pornographic film, participating in a vile hazing incident which included both an illegal criminal act of sexual assault and the involvement of a dog, was reprehensible.”
The guys themselves seem unperturbed by the kerfuffle. “We’re super pumped,” DeVine says, jokingly adding, “I’m willing to battle any Coast Guard member to a push-up contest, right now. So if you’ve got a problem with me, come down to Van Nuys and we’ll battle to the death—in a nonviolent way.”
As Anderson later puts it, the guys’ fictional selves are just too stupid to know any better. “If we’re doing something evil, it’s completely by a dumb mistake,” he says. “We just weren’t raised right, you know? We don’t have the brains.”
It’s strange to think of Workaholics as a veteran show, given its loud-and-proud immaturity. But five seasons in, the guys are already thinking of ways to bring the show “back to its roots.”
“We’re trying to keep [the action] in the office and the house, and do more character-based problems,” Newacheck says. “Like the guys had to pay rent in last week’s episode—that’s a classic problem for our characters. [We’re trying to do] more of that, instead of necessarily going off to be a birthday clown, like last season.”
There’s also the question of how the characters will—or, more likely, won’t—age out of their endless adolescence, even as fine lines begin appearing on the actors’ faces. The obvious solution, of course, is to make fun of the contrast.
“The longer it goes and the older we get, the funnier it gets,” Anderson says. “It really becomes…I don’t know if ‘sad’ is the word, but we definitely have to get pretty creative with how we don’t achieve in life.”
“What I think would be a really fun thing to do—and who knows if this will happen—but to do a few more seasons of Workaholics, call it quits for like ten, fifteen years, and come back when we’re all in our forties looking old,” DeVine laughs. “Adam’s two hundred and twenty pounds, Blake’s fully bald, and Ders straight up has tits.”
Holm also foresees a bleak future for his character—minus the breasts. “Ders is married and divorced [in ten years], so back living with the guys,” he says. “They jacked up the price, so he’s paying the whole rent. And he started a black swim team in Watts. It’s like White Shadow 2.”
“I would just like to go until the final hair falls off Blake’s head,” Holm adds. “You know like the Eddie Murphy movie where he’s got a thousand words and the leaves fall with every word?”
Anderson nods. “We’ll continue when it’s gone off top, but once the sides fall off, it’s a wrap.”
Workaholics’ audience, meanwhile, has also remained forever young. The show currently averages 2 million total viewers and is a favorite among bros in the coveted 18-34 age range (it’s the no. 1 cable show in its timeslot in that demographic, as well as among men 18-24). The show has also amassed a loyal livetweet following, and a roster of dream guest stars for the guys: Jack Black, Ben Stiller, and Dolph Lundgren all make cameos this season (Anderson is still holding out hope to book Kurt Russell for a Captain Ron remake). They even earned an Emmy nomination in 2013—sure, it was for Best Stunt Coordination and Anderson went on record saying he’d stick the award up his ass, but hey, a nomination nonetheless!
Not bad for four best friends who helped pioneer the leap from YouTube viral stardom to cable TV mainstay. (The production company, Mail Order Comedy, is named after the sketch comedy troupe that earned them Comedy Central’s attention in 2010.) And after five seasons of grueling 14-hour production days, they still genuinely enjoy each others’ company—an achievement reflected in their characters.
“They’re really loyal to each other,” DeVine says. “They fight a lot with each other, there’s a lot of bickering, but they get along so well with each other. You know at the end of the day, no matter what happens, they’re gonna be best friends.”
Holm sums it up: “No bro left behind!”