In 1902, British author Rudyard Kipling, the guy who wrote The Jungle Book, published the Just So Stories; a series of short stories of highly fantastic nature, such as how the rhino got his wrinkly skin, how the camel got his hump, the leopard his spots, et cetera. You get the idea. One of them, "The Elephant's Child" does the same with the elephant and their trunks. Frankly, it's kind of a messed up story. The protagonist wanders around the savanna, asking his relatives a myriad of questions from why hippos eyes are red and why melons taste the way they do. Their responses? Spankings. Lots and lots of spankings for being an elephant's child of the most 'satiable curiosity. What one could easily take away from this that it's bad to ask questions, especially if no one cares. This kind of thing permeates various sorts of media that the pursuit of knowledge, when deemed trivial, is not to be tolerated. From the Know-it-all Kid from "The Polar Express" to Sheldon Cooper in "The Big Bang Theory", God save if you if you have trivial knowledge to share or should you wish to seek it out. No one will care, and you will be deemed a social outcast.
Which is exactly why "Adam Ruins Everything" is such a great new show.
Meet Adam Conover, a comedian from College Humor, who now has his own prime time show on TRUtv. The show's setup is brilliant: some poor soul is just minding their own business, enjoying life one way or another, when Adam abruptly pops in, feeling the need to just comment on the situation at hand. Not in a mean-spirited or nasty way, but with a need to inform. Much like in "Bill Nye the Science Guy", Adam then leads the target through a series of skits and demonstrations explaining why things are the way they are. But unlike Nye, Adam isn't trying to inform us about science, he's teaching us about social norms and other bits of collective common knowledge that we, as a society, have come to accept as truth. Among other things on the show, we have learned:
1. How the founding fathers weren't the kind, benevolent pure democratic advocates we've imagined them to be.
2. Why we can't buy cars the same way we can buy everything else.
3. Why summer vacation is actually a terrible, terrible idea.
4. That tipping at restaurants is an equally dumb concept.
5. What a lady's hymen actually does (And more importantly, doesn't).
6. Why maybe you SHOULD tell your co-workers how much you earn.
7. Where the term "halitosis" actually came from.
8. Why video games have almost always been marketed directly to boys.
9. Why diamond rings have become the default wedding proposal gift and why they're really worthless.
10. And most important to this Disneyphile, how Mickey Mouse has ruined the nation's copyright law.
For all intents and purposes, let's say these are the kind of questions that do make you think. That's the show's hook. These aren't pointless bits of trivia: these are legitimate and deeply concerning concepts designed to make us re-think the world around us. These revelations come to the target, much to their chagrin, which is where most of the comedy comes from. The target is begrudgingly put through Adam's lessons, not wanting to put up with Adam's abrasive teaching style, yet unable to let go of these nagging questions he poses. Whether it's a kid who just wants to enjoy his summer vacation, or a woman who just wants to vote. Or a woman trapped in her own bathroom, or a teen who just wants his first car; his target is put through all sorts of mental torment, forced to learn everything Adam has to teach. This is where the show gets its abrasive title. Adam's teaching usually puts a damper on their day, to the point where as the program nears the end, the target all but gives up on humanity. Their blissful ignorance is shattered by a smug, abrasive hipster who reveals that there are more deceptive marketing gimmicks and falsehoods and old wives' tales than they had ever been led to believe. Then the show turns on a dime.
Adam uses his last few minutes of airtime to explain that things aren't as bad as they seem. As if to put forth a redemptive PSA, he ends the show on an uplifting note. I could spell it out here, but then I'd be robbing you of the experience of this awesome show.
Adam isn't as whimsical as Bill Nye or as enigmatic as Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He's not as charismatic as David Attenborough, nor as approachable as the Kratt brothers. But none of that matters because that's not what he's trying to be. His shtick is to be abrasive and annoying, and yet that alone makes him endearing. He's clearly not bullsh*tting us. He's blatantly honest, and perhaps best of all, he cites his sources from real, credible publications. It'd be easy to write him off as just some hipster comedian shilling out half-baked theories and half-truths, but aside from all the sources that pop up in the upper right corner of the screen when he addresses a statistic, he frequently brings around a professor, scientist, or researcher who seem to be more than happy to comment on Adam's behalf.
"Adam Ruins Everything" is more than just a show about tidbits and factoids that can make good conversation. It's thought provoking. It's engaging. It's meant to redirect your perception of the world not as a means to upset or insult, but to educate, and help you improve the world around you. There's a lot to learn, and if you are in the right spirit and frame of mind, you may learn some pretty cool things.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the Elephant's Child's curiosity gets him his trunk, which he uses to abuse all the relatives who spanked him. It's...cathartic, to say the least.
"Adam Ruins Everything" airs new episodes on TRUtv, 10 p.m. ET/9 CT. Check your local listings for details. For more information about Adam and his show, visit his website at http://www.trutv.com/shows/adam-ruins-everything/index.html