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Objects in mirror aren't as funny as they appear

January 17, 2007|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer

It is not the least of life's mysteries why people who are remarkably funny in one instance may be less so in another, but that this does indeed happen is demonstrated by "The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show," premiering tonight on Comedy Central. It stars David (Gruber) Allen, the old hippie / rock singer / manque guidance counselor Jeff Rosso on "Freaks and Geeks," and David Koechner, the sports reporter in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" and traveling sales rep Todd Packer on the American version of "The Office." These people have made me laugh.

It is not an impenetrable mystery, I suppose -- writing and production and the aptness of the casting are the obvious culprits when comedy goes wrong, though in this case much or most or all of the blame must revert to the comedians themselves, who are the executive producers of this series, featuring characters they have created, a mild-mannered, um, naked trucker (Allen, pretty well unclothed behind a strategically, ever-present guitar) and his cheerfully sociopathic redneck friend and shotgun-rider (Koechner).

"The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show" (henceforth "TNTTBS") is funny in parts, which may be funny enough for some. But they must be plucked from a show that never quite gets going the way it should, never gathers satisfying speed but instead struggles like an overloaded semi on a mountain grade. Moving back and forth between filmed skits and segments taped before the suggestion of a live audience, "TNTTBS" interferes with itself; rhythmically, it gets in its own way.

That the laughter sounds canned (whether it is or not) and has been mixed into the soundtrack at a relatively low volume underscores the impression of a show working too hard with too little payback. It may just be a problem of venue: I can see that this act might fly better in the low lights and clubby conviviality of a drinks-serving nightclub like Cafe Largo, where it originally took shape (with later performances at the Comedy Central Stage at the Hudson Theater in Hollywood), than it does under the bright lights of television.

As the unbridled T-Bones, Koechner -- who sports an excellent set of mutton chops and the most aggressive comb-over since Zero Mostel's -- gets the better deal here: more action, the best lines.

But Allen, who can be deep and strange himself, is unfortunately just the straight man here, a repertoire of shoulders shrugged, eyebrows raised and hands thrown up at his partner's addled antics. It probably doesn't help matters that, where Koechner can flail to his heart's content, Allen is restricted in his movements by the need to keep that guitar front and center. At the same time, his nakedness is the show's most radical element -- for better or worse, it is authentically disturbing. I wanted to fetch him a robe.


`The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show'

Where: Comedy Central

When: 10:30 tonight

Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)

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