The setup of Trevor Moore’s The Story of Our Times is a novel one: take the style of an internet comedy music video, extend the intro into a full framing narrative you can check back in on, and create a long-form musical film. Great. I dig it. Here’s how it’s constructed: after a night of getting stoned and surfing the internet, his girlfriend reminds him they need to go to brunch with her horrible friends and some guy who does CrossFit. Each interval in this process spins off into a song. Cool. Lean. To the point. Let’s do this.
The early efforts are extremely promising. Moore excels at packing as many jokes into his motormouth verses as he can, and reliably escalates the premises of these sketches faster and more compellingly than you initially expect. When he pours energy drinks and coke on his laptop, the self-aware computer very quickly draws the attention of a race of giant Kaiju gods that have kept humans in a simulation to see if they are ready to join the galaxy. Things generally go that big that fast, and it works to help the through line of the special from feeling skimpy.
When he turns his sights on our present moment, things get a lot dicier. Moore, as an alumnus of the stalwart mid 2000’s sketch comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U’ Know, is no stranger to the hellscape that the modern internet has become. His variations on this theme—specifically, a song that highlights the disparity between Tesla’s accomplishments and some kid who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars off a YouTube channel called “Statutory Vape,” and a retelling of the Kardashians’ history in the style of an epic ballad—are the special’s most satisfactory and successful moments. His need to turn that satirical edge towards everything soon becomes a problem.
“Candice, I’m not sexist. What are you talking about?” Moore, at one point, says to his cartoonishly frigid girlfriend whose various slights and insistences have served as inspiration for each song in the special so far. One of several anthems that closes the special implores all of us, regardless of whether we think “this bathroom is only for people born girls” or “there should be no guns left in the world,” should just “shut the fuck up” because a meteor is coming and we should realize arguing is pointless. I don’t doubt that this comes from a place of genuine frustration, but frustration with what? That he has to listen to people complain? He has the other characters call him out as a white dude taking this stance, but he seems to think that’s a completely unfair point. Like there’s nothing to the idea that some people don’t want to shut the fuck up and wait for an asteroid to hit them.
When he communicates this worldview to his brunch companions, they call him a Nazi and leave. They’re too limited to see that caring is…bullshit? Or at least that’s really how it comes across. So despite Moore’s attempts to include internet shitlords as the objects of his derision—as when his self-aware computer becomes a men’s rights activist or he has to insist that he, Trevor Moore, doesn’t think Sandy Hook was a hoax (yes, that happens)—it comes across as weirdly shitlord-sympathetic. He doesn’t seem to get that these Bo Burnham rallying cries are a lot less rallying when they’re directed at people he’d like to see get bullied more, like someone who self-identifies as the planet Mercury (okay, I kind of see your po—) and is proud that they’re gender-fluid and obese (why, why would you include that). It’s very hard to walk away from this special fist-pumping in self-satisfaction the way it would seem Moore wants you to, and it’s a shame that you’re instead left with this bad of a taste in your mouth.
Trevor Moore’s The Story of Our Times is available through Comedy Central.
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and comedian. You’d be doing him a real solid by following him on Twitter @grahamtechler or on Instagram @obvious_new_yorker. A real solid.