Konnichiwa, you magnificent bastards
By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor
It is harder than ever nowadays to get noticed in the swirling singularity of middling content that is the internet. No matter what topic you choose to focus your vlog, web series, or YouTube show on, you’ll be competing against hundreds—if not thousands—of content creators looking to dominate the same field, many of whom are trying to connect with the same pool of viewers through their humanity and charisma. And yet, one show has found millions of subscribers by being as alienating and anti-charismatic as possible.
The Filthy Frank Show, the brainchild of George “Joji” Miller, can loosely be described as a semi-improvised variety show involving alternative, offensive, and often plainly disgusting situation comedy. Any attempt at further summary would fall utterly short of the madness contained therein.
The show features a staggering cast of bizarre characters, many of whom are played by Miller himself. The eponymous Filthy Frank looms over them all as “the embodiment of everything a person should not be.” He rooms with whackos like Pink Guy—a Gollum-like, jumpsuit wearing rapper who speaks in gibberish—and Salamander Man, who apparently is the best ass-flute player in the world.
These characters never develop, at all. They are expressions of pure mania whose sole uniting purpose is to satirize current trends, upping the ante for gross content with each upload. Their exploits include playing the Batsu Game (that is, eating a raw squid found in the sewer), holding a cabbage-eating race where the loser is pelted in the groin by fireworks, cooking a bathtub full of Ramen noodles and then bathing in it, betting on illegal underground crayfish races, and starting the Harlem Shake craze. Yes, this is where it came from.
The show always produces its best anti-humour when it takes its nonsense into the real world, recording the candid reactions of ordinary people. One of Miller’s most popular videos featured Frank and Pink Guy satirizing YouTube prank videos by insulting people in public, then lamely justifying their actions by stating “it’s just a prank, bro.” Aside from the obvious message that pranks are only really funny to the prankers, watching confused civilians get roped into Frank’s skits is some delicious schadenfreude.
The Filthy Frank Show, of course, receives a ludicrous amount of hate, but the way it weaponizes that hate as new content is nothing short of brilliant. The show is endlessly controversial, which perhaps is why it has become so popular to begin with; not because its production values are high, or because it has anything particularly interesting to say, but because it is so completely outrageous that it is impossible not to have an opinion about it once you’ve seen it.
It would be easy to dismiss the show as being reliant on shock value. Certainly, it won’t appeal to everyone, but there is a sense that Miller is getting at something a little deeper than simple oddity. Frank and the rest seem to live off the dark, slimy things that crawl inside the human mind; perhaps, through them, we can confront the most hideous parts of ourselves, and laugh at the cruel absurdity of life.
Or maybe it’s just a weird YouTube show where a guy makes cake out of human hair.
Yeah, that’s probably it.