Netflix’s new original series, The Characters, gives eight up-and-coming stand-up comedians one half-hour episode to turn into their own personal hall of mirrors. Each episode obeys its own rules, and the only limits are seemingly the imaginations of the comics at hand, as each comedian is allowed to introduce as many characters as appeals to them. It’s an eight-episode, 32-character, hard comedy-for-comedy’s-sake blitz, and MTV has entered the kaleidoscope to let you know what characters and which comics are left standing.
1. Denise St. Roy (Kate Berlant)
Genius, legend, superstar. Denise would describe her own sketch as a brutal satire of the commercial art structure, and who am I to disagree? The Sprite sponsorship. “Art” with a “hard T.” The giant Snuggie scarf. Not talking about her process, getting offended by references to her Judaism, delivering brutal in-class art critiques. “I’d like to raise a glass to all the people in the room and the world who don’t identify as artists, and the true horror of that.”
2. Paul Downs (Paul Downs)
Paul circling the dressing room to shoot a giant line of coke was the single biggest laugh of this series for me.
3. Vicki with a V (John Early)
Amazing in every way. This is every woman who has ever freaked me out at my small-town hair salon if she became a stand-up comedian.
4. John Early singing "Ave Maria" over the credits (John Early): *100 emoji*
5. Todd Tyson Chicklet (Lauren Lapkus)
Todd gives me anxiety because he reminds me too much of early high school. This probably means Todd is perfect.
6. Homeless man who weaponizes Game of Thrones spoilers (Natasha Rothwell)
I think people who get mad about spoilers are babies, so this guy and I would get along swimmingly.
7. Gray-haired lady with a giant bus carry-on who cries to a sad movie and then falls asleep (Lauren Lapkus)
Me in 20 years when I get on the bus, so I'm not judging.
8. Riley, actress with stage mom (John Early)
It’s the attention to detail that takes this into uncanny valley territory. The hair, the sleeves, the lack of neck … haunting.
9. Doctor and chigger expert (Natasha Rothwell)
“You can’t go around shootin’ chiggers, just 'cause you scared.”
10. John, who lip-synchs smugly to Xscape’s “Who Can I Run To” (John Early)
The show’s best meditation on how badly white people want to be black (a surprisingly common theme?), but Early watered down the lip-synch with crumbling stage gags. Still, good stuff.
11. Rachel Ross, under-30 gallery curator (Kate Berlant)
Oh, man, Rachel is accurate. The voice, the insecurity, the devotion to feminist idols. “Je t’aime Denise, je t’aime.”
12. Guy who doesn’t want to role-play as a black man during sex (Paul Downs)
Oh hey, a funny joke told by a white person about racism. Take note, Henry Zebrowski.
13. Jaspar Cooch, host of Big Trucks (Paul Downs)
Maybe the most lovingly portrayed character on this whole show. I was into it.
14. Morley, the military brat, family sexual abuse survivor, and office laughingstock (Tim Robinson)
Bar none, the saddest character. Love ya, Morley, hope you make it through this rough time.
15. Mike McClintock, blind investigator (Paul Downs)
I, too, lead with my sense of taste.
16. Tinesha, the candy monster 12-year-old, let loose on the office (Natasha Rothwell)
Tinesha’s advice is a real mixed bag. Good call on the zinc-free antiperspirant, but I’m not here for “Lean In” or Sheryl Sandberg, and no one can make me.
17. Dad who sings country songs for his baby daughter and might be in love with her future husband, Jeff (Tim Robinson)
I’m genuinely amazed it took seven full episodes for someone to give me some dad humor. Coulda been gayer. I mean, why get Jeff on a motorcycle if you’re not going to go all the way?
18. Jerpjerp Aranatuskya (Paul Downs)
Shoutout to MTV Europe and not answering questions about your gender.
19. Man buying a gun as he describes murdering people in cold blood over a minor disagreement (Tim Robinson)
20. Pamela, Chuckie’s crank-addicted mom (Lauren Lapkus)
Great voice, bad hair. “I’m 'boutta getcha dirty ass wet!”
21. Sam, dude who get his head burnt in a salon hair dryer (Dr. Brown)
Dr. Brown’s episode and all three of his characters are recorded in one long take. What hath Birdman wrought?
22. Hipster plumber (Dr. Brown)
OK, so the one-take thing is impressive tbh, and Brown pushes it to paradoxically surreal heights but also, like … tell a joke, maybe?
23. Dude who took one Russian class and now wants to befriend all Russians (Dr. Brown)
Dr. Brown’s characters are the least differentiated conceptually, but as all hipster boys could tell you, THAT’S THE POINT. (Dr. Brown’s triptych of hipster boy characters are all pleasant though, I like them.)
24. Natasha Rothwell (Natasha Rothwell)
The “Basic Bitch” rap is fun, but I can’t get too excited about it, because only basics defend being basic. However, Natasha is generously here to teach us the important lesson that when you get your own TV show you can use it as an excuse to make out with Tyson Beckford. N.O.T.E.D.
25. Stage-show Paul Downs (Paul Downs)
Paul blew his budget on Big Trucks and blind investigating and made up for it with this approximation of the reason I dread live comedy ... but, you know, in a charming way.
26. Tampa Bay wrestler Fighting Jake Fletcher (Tim Robinson)
Will never be a world-class wrestler, but has it in him to be a world-class wrestling announcer.
27. Ex-camp kid, current youth pastor (John Early)
Looks like Brad from Home Improvement, small-talks like a serial killer between hits.
28. Whitney Peeps (Lauren Lapkus)
Points deducted only because Whitney Peeps would never, ever be a pop star. Second-generation reality star on Bravo? Sure. Pop star on any level? Nah. She would 100 percent go to Dave & Buster’s (Dick & Boner’s) though.
29. Jacob, the executive at the Bible pitch meeting (Paul Downs)
I get that the punchline here is about meddling suits with no artistic integrity, but honestly, the Bible would be improved with some of these suggestions.
30. Bamanda, the sad stripper (Lauren Lapkus)
Sad strippers are a tired joke, but I laughed at her lap dance convulsions.
31. Dude on cross dying beside Jesus (Henry Zebrowski)
More Bible humor! Not going to lie, I totally thought about this scenario in Sunday school, so this had a passing appeal.
32. Etsy hoop earring maker (Natasha Rothwell)
My favorite of Natasha Rothwell's fellow jury members.
33. Old lady jury member (Natasha Rothwell)
But I feel like I’ve seen this joke before.
34. Jamaican nanny (Natasha Rocthwell)
And this one.
35. John, the gay narcissist at his own engagement party (John Early)
I have never been more grateful to be blessed with white gay friends who know better.
36. Bryan St. Roy (Kate Berlant)
I never played softball, but Bryan is true to every man I know who ever coached a middle school girls soccer team. I don’t get how he relates to Denise though?
37. Sammy Paradise (Tim Robinson)
I laughed but I’m also the audience for Rat Pack humor.
38. Peppers Cheddar (Henry Zebrowski)
I was onboard for this sketch about a pilot who crashed every celebrity plane until Aaliyah showed up as a man in drag.
39. Lou Bradley (Kate Berlant)
I think Lou is an outsider art fetish joke, but the payoff is kinda weak.
40. Lola Lonely (Lauren Lapkus)
Cries in a movie for five seconds. I would probably not watch that movie?
41. Internet meme girl (Kate Berlant)
Is she supposed to be a YouTube celebrity? Why is she on Denise St. Roy’s TV?
42. Mark Grubman, baby kisser (Paul Downs)
I wonder if Paul Downs knows that baby personally. Otherwise wow. Very docile baby.
43. Pointer Brother #1 (Tim Robinson)
By the time I was eight episodes and nearly 50 characters into this show, I was considering if I hate comedy. I don’t hate comedy or even this character, but this was the sketch that made me consider it.
44. Henry Zebrowski (Henry Zebrowski)
Henry Zebrowki portrays himself as the kind of dude who canvases for Bernie until Bernie loses the Democratic primary. And then he votes for Trump.
45. Food cart owner (Henry Zebrowski)
46. Grogg The Caveman (Henry Zebrowski)
Horny caveman with entitlement issues. Nope. Incidentally, Zebrowski is the first of the comedians to not play with gender in his segment, and I’ll be real, I don’t know if I can trust a man who when given a completely open canvas, still can’t imagine himself as a woman?
47. Patrick, the naked dude on a date (Henry Zebrowski)
The joke is that he’s inappropriately naked. Naked really has a limit for me on how funny it can be. I mean congratulations, you’re naked?
48. Jamji (Henry Zebrowski)
Dicks getting sucked by an octopus, makes AIDS jokes, self-aware racism. Nope.
49. Riff-Raff, the intellectually disabled happy version of Henry Zebrowski who gets killed by aliens (Henry Zebrowski)
There is nothing less appealing than a straight white man who thinks his anger is interesting. Not enough no in the universe for how much of a no this is or me.