From Aaron McGruder To Fat Tony: How Super Deluxe Served As A Platform For Black Creatives
Recently, an old video of Tubesteak — a satirical rap persona played by Boondocks artist and writer Carl Jones — has resurfaced on social media and since gone viral, the video showing Jones and several friends dissing Aaron McGruder to comedic effect.
The video’s return is timely considering it has ties to Super Deluxe, the online comedy network that explored multiple facets of internet culture — often to brilliant and hilarious result — through its numerous web series, has been shut down.
Founded in 2007 as a digital comedy website, Super Deluxe’s launch included digital shorts by comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, Maria Bamford and others, before becoming a part of Adult Swim’s website a year later. In late 2015, Super Deluxe was relaunched as a network and production studio, creating everything from animation and comedic shorts to music videos and political satire.
But even in its various incarnations, Super Deluxe always remained a platform for alternative black comedy. Recently, an old video of Tubesteak — a satirical rap persona played by Boondocks artist and writer Carl Jones — has resurfaced on social media and since gone viral, the video showing Jones and several friends dissing Aaron McGruder to comedic effect.
son I’m laughing like an idiot right now LMAOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/skoSXvQXdx
— druwop/point guard. (@kwakuspeaks) October 24, 2018
Tubesteak was one of many characters in McGruder’s 2008 series The Super Rumble Mixshow, which came about following the success of The Boondocks. Mixshow was supposed to be for Super Deluxe prior to it being merged with Adult Swim (early sketches were uploaded to the now-defunct Boondocks Bootleg website). Similar to the animated television series, Mixshow employed the same satirical humor on a variety sketch show, the live-action series providing comedic commentary on early Worldstar culture, religion, and more.
“I like the idea of it just being direct to the people. There’s no pitching, no studio meetings, no disapprovals — it’s just do whatever you want. And we can stay up to date with current events because it’s live action,” McGruder said in an interview with Okayplayer in 2008.
“We were trying to blur the lines between reality and sketch, do something that felt real but wasn’t like your traditional sketch,” Jones said in an interview with Junkie Monkeys in 2014.
In that same interview he talked about the inspiration behind Tubesteak:
“The name Tubesteak meant ‘internet beef’ basically — it was just a character that hated things for all the wrong reasons…When I watched Worldstar and listened to these interviews of all these rappers they took so much pride in doing fucked up shit…There was just so much stuff at the time, this was around the time when Worldstar just started to kind of bubble and I was just so infatuated with it and being able to see all of this stuff. I just wanted to say something about the state of Hip Hop and all of that, so that’s where that character came from.”
The Mixshow also introduced Black Jesus, a character that went on to have their own show on Adult Swim.
Following its return in 2015, Super Deluxe started to release videos daily on social media and YouTube later that year, with many of them featuring black talent.
There was this wildly popular video that captured the dread of trying to kill a spider (and the deadly consequences that can come if you lie to your partner about taking out the trash).
This one about the anxiety and awkwardness that comes when you receive a text message from an unsaved number.
And this one that showed viewers how to make crochet braids.
Some black talent even had their own series like Cat’s Y Tho. The show found Cat answering some of life’s most miscellaneous questions like “Why does your body jolt as you’re falling asleep?” and “Why your heart doesn’t get tired?”
Following a 15-episode run of Y Tho, Cat went on to be the host of Memesplaining, where she discussed everything from nihilist memes to why Facebook memes are the worst.
Writer Dave Schilling also had his own series called Cinemacope, where he reviewed films such as Logan, Coco, and The Dark Tower. One of Schilling’s most popular reviews was of The Emoji Movie, where he declared it a “terrible film” and a “shittier version of The Lego Movie.”
There was also Xtra Sauce with Victor Pope, Jr., and AnimeFit 9000 with Caleon Fox. The former found Pope trying everything from White Castle crab cake sliders to Little Caesar’s stuffed crust pizza, while the latter blended anime nerd culture with fitness culture, Fox’s absurd requests to pick up the Z Sword like Dragon Ball Z‘s Gohan or to punch like One Punch Man‘s Saitama balanced with real workout routines from fitness expert Kaden “The Abomination” Vu.
Kiera Please‘s Food Land functioned similarly to Pope’s Xtra Sauce. In her series, Please assisted professional chefs in making everything from hummus out of McDonald’s french fries to baked chicken coated with almonds and Cheez-Its.
There was also Jay Versace‘s shortlived Jay! A Talk Show, a parody on ’90s-era black talk shows that only had one episode.
But one of the more notable series to be led by a black person was surely Fat Tony‘s Thrift Haul. The show pits two people against each other in a Goodwill as they craft a certain look that Tony has asked for. Sometimes participants have to pick out a wardrobe resembling that of a SoundCloud rapper. Other times, they have to choose the best outfit for a first date.
The show featured a number of black people and people of color as guests including Hannibal Buress, Rosario Dawson, Buddy, Jak Knight, and Zack Fox.
Tony’s Thrift Haul had some imitators, most notably Buzzfeed’s Thrift Challenge, which he’s called out on more than one occasion.
buzzfeed sucks for making a weak imitation of Thrift Haul we do it best at @superdeluxe
— Fat Tony – Anthony Obi (@fattonyrap) August 23, 2018
“I have seen it and I think it’s extremely wack,” Tony said of the Buzzfeed show in a previous interview with Okayplayer. “I’ve heard that Buzzfeed has a reputation for copying people’s shows. They’ve got a habit of looking at other channels and making their own versions of these shows. But you can’t fully copy the original thing because what we do is way tighter. It features more people of color and more queer people. You can’t take our show, dilute it, and expect it to go right. All in all, fuck ’em.”
A lot of internet culture is created by black people. Not a day goes by where a meme made by someone black goes viral and more often than not the creator doesn’t get the credit they rightfully deserve. Super Deluxe offered black creatives a platform to bring their ideas to life and be the face of it too, and now that it’s gone the internet will be a little less fun and a lot less weird.